Please Don’t Feed the Ducks

Over the past few years, the mallard duck population on Ocracoke has grown to amazing proportions.

Everybody loves ducks, right? We make way for ducklings, we’re kind to our fine-feathered friends, we toss them stale bread, and watch them splash in puddles. We find their awkward waddling and raucous quack-quacking to be downright charming.

Up to a point. Ducks are cute in small numbers; big flocks leave big messes behind.

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Photo by Melinda Fodrie Sutton

Ocracoke’s harbor area, from the Anchorage Inn to Captain’s Landing, and down British Cemetery Road around to Back Road, has, for the last several years, been breeding a duck dynasty of semi-tame, no-longer-migrating mallards. Officials estimate there are about 300 daffy ducks in downtown Ocracoke.

They waddle and wade and hang out and look cute and poop. They poop a lot.

Chris Turner is the coastal regional wildlife biologist for thirteen counties (including Hyde) at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. He’d like to educate people with one important message: STOP FEEDING THE DUCKS.

“Tame ducks live a charmed life with no real predators,” he said. “Ocracoke is the perfect situation for a duck – food, lots of water, nothing to bother them.” Their numbers are likely to grow, he explained, unless we STOP FEEDING THEM.

The Ocracoke community held several meetings last winter and spring to discuss options to deal with the overbreeding waterfowl. There are Federal laws in place regarding birds and their capture, caging, rehabilitation, and release, which complicates the issue when we want to the ever growing duck population.

Carol Pahl leads the OCBA task force on dealing with ducks, and provides information at ocracokeducks.blogspot.com.

“The next step is to get signs up,” she said. Signs around the village will remind visitors not to feed the fowl. The county does have permission to euthanize up to 350 ducks, but, Carol says, no one really wants to do that. Think of it as a very, very last resort. The hope is that if people stop feeding them, the ducks will disperse on their own.

“I think it seems better, the ducks might be thinning out,” Carol said. “They seem to be spreading out around the village now that some of the feeding has stopped.”

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