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Park Prohibits Feeding The Ducks At Lewis Wetzel Pond

By Staff | Sep 1, 2010

A sign on the gate into the pond area at Lewis Wetzel Park in New Martinsville asks visitors to refrain from feeding the ducks. Beginning today no one is allowed to feed the animals that should be migrating south for the winter. When they are fed, the water fowl have a tendency to remain at the park. (Photo by Amy Witschey)

The New Martinsville Parks and Recreation Commission is instituting a new policy concerning the waterfowl at Lewis Wetzel Park. Beginning Sept. 1, patrons will no longer be permitted to feed the ducks and geese that have gathered at the park and pond. Fall is the time for Canada geese and mallard ducks to migrate south for the winter. But in recent years, an abundance of food from the public has motivated the waterfowl to stay at the park all year. This disrupts the natural cycles that nature intended.

In addition, bread, cereal, and crackers are deficient in protein, calcium, and other nutrients. A steady diet of these foods is very harmful to the birds and causes damage to their bones.

Wild ducks and geese are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. It is illegal to harm the birds, their nests, or their offspring. It is also harmful to feed them.

The waterfowl droppings are also unsanitary on walkways, picnic sites, and grassy areas. The droppings pollute the lake, which affects fish and other wildlife. The wild mallard ducks are interbreeding with domestic ducks, creating unnatural hybrids. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is very concerned about the future of the wild mallard duck. Large groups of birds are more vulnerable to disease and parasite outbreaks.

Parks and Recreation Director Beverly Gibb said, “I have found a home for the domestic goose and ducks. These birds are unable to fly to a food source and must be fed during the colder months. I made sure they are going to a home that will provide them with all of the necessary water and food that is needed. I didn’t want them to end up in a cage in someone’s garage with their only access to water being from a butter tub.”

The number of ducks and geese has increased even over the past few weeks. “We started out with seven domestic ducks and we are now at 10. People get them as pets and once they grow and become really messy, they just drop them off at the pond. I have had people call and ask permission to leave ducks at the pond and I always tell them no. Others, for whatever reason, feel it is fine to just leave them there,” Gibb said.

Members of the Park Commission realize that there are many people in the community and surrounding area that enjoy visiting the pond and feeding the ducks. “We believe that people will understand that this is truly what is best for the birds and will respect this decision. Other area parks have implemented this same policy,” stated Gibb.

Brochures have been developed and will be distributed throughout the next few months explaining the issue. Signs have been posted at the pond.

While the domestic ducks will be leaving the pond very soon, it may take some time for the wild waterfowl to leave. “For some, this has been their home all of their lives. So, they will naturally want to stay, but once the food becomes scarce, they will move on,” added Gibb.

“I have had many people over the years tell me how much they enjoy feeding and watching the ducks at the pond. I know that there will be several upset over this, but I hope that once they realize why it is being done, they will understand,” said Gibb. “With any body of water, there is a possibility of visiting wild waterfowl. I have witnessed several types of ducks and birds at the pond. I believe we will still have the visitors, but the permanent residents will reduce over time.”

For additional information concerning this policy call 304-455-9130.