Hand-Fed Ducks Not Flying South for Winter
At Cuddy Park, ducks linger by the hundreds getting handouts
ANCHORAGE - Don’t feed the ducks! That’s the message Fish and Game wants to spread as more and more ducks are wintering-over in Anchorage. But feeding ducks is a tradition many people treasure, not to mention a chance for Alaska kids to get up close to wildlife.
“We don’t feed the moose or the bears,” said a young mom whose toddler was enjoying throwing bites of bread to the ducks at Cuddy Park in Midtown. “It’s nice to be able to feed the birds.”
But Fish and Game says determined duck feeders may be causing problems for the birds they love. There are at least a thousand ducks that have crowded into the pond at Cuddy Park which still has open water. They don’t appear to be leaving any time soon.
“They are getting free handouts and they have open water, so why leave?” said Fish and Game biologist Mike Petrula.
Petrula says it’s not illegal to feed the ducks, but it is discouraged. The well-fed birds get used to people and their vehicles, causing traffic jams in the park parking lot when they don’t feel like moving. Cherie Northern with the Anchorage Waterways Council said there’s another concern: ducks can be dirty.
“When you have this concentration of wildlife and birds in one area they are going to go to the bathroom in the water. That increases the fecal coli form which contaminates the water all the way downstream,” said Northern.
Northern said the pond, which is man-made, connects to the city’s Fish Creek water system and contaminants can flow throughout its shallow waters. But, she said, ducks are just a small part of a much bigger problem when it comes to stream pollution.
Biologists said as long as people continue to feed the birds they will stick around.