Don't feed the ducks, sign says

Barb Sweet
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Memorial Unversity trying to control rats at Burton's Pond

Memorial University has erected signs around Burton's Pond warning people not to feed the ducks. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Memorial University is attempting to put a stop to people feeding ducks at Burton's Pond.

Signs have been put up at the pond, part of the St. John's campus.

Spokesman Dave Sorensen said the move was made to help control the rat population around the pond.

The university figures the wild ducks can fend for themselves, but the domestic ducks are not great flyers.

Burton's Pond is close to the residences and the university's daycare centre.

"As part of the university's ongoing work to reduce the number of rodents in the area, and after consulting with the university's pest control provider, Orkin, signs have been posted at the pond requesting people to refrain from feeding the ducks," Sorensen said.

"Controlling the amount of bird food leftovers around the pond was seen as a better method of discouraging rodents than altering the natural environment by the removal of grass and shrubs."

Sorensen said someone brought domestic ducks into the pond - the university is not sure when - and so MUN is hoping whoever dropped them off will come take them back. Or else it's looking for someone willing to take the domestic ducks. MUN hasn't reached out to the city yet about relocating them to a park.

Bird expert and MUN professor Bill Montevecchi said the wild ducks will be OK - the ones that may take food from people will just fly on to Quidi Vidi Lake or Bowring Park.

"I guess because the pond is so close to residences and the daycare, somebody must have seen some rats," he speculated.

He said people have been raising concerns on campus about the fate of the ducks.

Wild ducks feed on vegetation and, in some cases, small fish and crustaceans - some of the unique ducks that frequent Burton's Pond are diver ducks. Those ducks aren't tempted by the feed and breadcrumbs people bring to the pond.

But the domestic ones may have to be caught and caged to be relocated if the situation becomes desperate, Montevecchi said.

"That crowd of fat domestic ones might be bothered," he said.

"There are some really lunky ones."

He said there's also a possibility the ducks could start walking out onto roads.

But Montevecchi said it's better for the university to make the move now before winter really sets in.

He said overall, his greatest concern is that wild ducks get the protection they need. There are ducks on the pond native to Europe and the U.S. as well as Iceland and Norway.

Montevecchi noted the university has put concrete walls on part of the pond and that's a departure from nature.

"As a matter of fact, before my time, Burton's Pond, before the city was developed, was quite a nice natural pond. Now we've kind of cemented it in on both sides," he said.

He noted that ponds can get overwhelmed with domestic ducks when they are being fed.

Now that there are signs up - whether or not people will obey them - he said the situation should be watched for repercussions to the duck population, especially the domestic ones that tend to eat anything and come roaring over to humans who might have feed.

"I don't think there's a crisis," said Montevecchi, who admitted to feeding the ducks himself in the past.

"We'll have to see how it plays out."

He said trying to find a natural solution to fighting the rodent population is a good way to go. While the ducks have been there for years, it could be rodents are more noticeable given the mild weather lately, he said.

Organizations: Burton's

Geographic location: St. John's, Quidi Vidi Lake, Bowring Park Europe U.S. Iceland Norway

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Recent comments

  • Lee
    February 04, 2013 - 10:22

    honestly, I walk past Burton's pond every day and see a large rat about 2-3 times a week. and the ducks are over populated there

  • Brian
    December 04, 2012 - 07:43

    The ducks aren't a problem for the child care centre, seeing as they don't fly anywhere. The gulls and pigeons though.. This is not a new thing, the rats have always been there. Indeed, in my MUN days we'd frequently watch the ducklings grow up and occasionally disappear to the rats. The ducks don't need to be fed, atleast before much of the pond freezes over, no - but trying to stop the duck feeding though won't work very well - people, particularly with kids, are going to feed them the same as they'd feed them anywhere. The signs should rather read "Don't feed the rats" - which highlights both the fact that there are a lot of rats and they eat the food there, too. As an aside, I once saw a vulture in Burton's Pond. Not sure how it got there or where it went after.

  • John Lewis
    December 02, 2012 - 22:04

    The ducks badly want food and complain loudly at this time of year. As for Prof. Montevecchi, where exactly does he live? Mars? The ducks are all over the roads at mating and nesting time. Local drivers are well used to them. It is quite something to see a duck (or two) stop the traffic on Elizabeth, or even better on the intersection of Elizabeth and Allendale, while they waddle across!

  • Dumpters - Not Ducks
    December 02, 2012 - 20:19

    Look around the pond and see the real problem - the dumpsters. Each residence building has an open dumpster for household garbage. With such a high concentration of people, you can just imagine the mounds of trash around the pond. Often times the dumpsters sit flowing over into the parking lots. The dumpsters are not emptied enough. Students often litter around the area, more so when they are coming from George Street with a half eaten pizza. All of this makes for one big rodent buffet! I am sure the ducks do a very good job cleaning up all the duck food left behind as you rarely see any on the ground around there or the other lakes. However, the ducks do not bother the dumpsters and leave those for the rodents.

  • billy bob thorton from N.F
    December 02, 2012 - 14:51

    go away timmy boy the ducks don't hurt anyone nor do the elderlt shit in one hand and a wish in the other.But next week when your mom and dad are there feeding them you'll look and say how cute it's a Kodak moment.Don't be a hipocrite about elderly people they drive beter than half of the young ones .anyway Timmy you have a good day now ya here me salty ole' troutt!

    • Tim Jamison
      December 03, 2012 - 13:33

      Are you intoxicated or is that how you speak to people normally? Again, I don't feed ducks. Ducks feed me so stop feeding them so they'll come back to my blind. I don't know how to continue responding to you because your comment is so incoherent. You obviously speed read what I said. Try paying attention before you insert your foot in your mouth

  • Gordon Gekko
    December 02, 2012 - 13:46

    Scrooge is right on. Lets gather up all those ducks and organize a big roast dinner for the city's poor and homeless. Two birds with one stone, pun intended.

  • mike
    December 02, 2012 - 13:38

    this will do nothing to help the rat population but it will definitely help the ducks... you fatty mallards need to get off the bird seed and go get some exercise!! sure some will move on but most will still be there and some people will still feed them! no big deal, everyone benefits, why is everyone getting their underwear in a knot over it? its just as sign...

  • mr. scrooge
    December 02, 2012 - 12:01

    maybe you should look at more serious issues in the province like foodbanks, poverty, crime, homelessness, so on before you worry about ducks. whats coming next? UNBELIEVABLE !

  • Burton's Pond Hockey Player
    December 02, 2012 - 11:47

    I grew up playing hockey on that pond long before mun had residences there. Burton's Pond is sacred and historic and should not be altered in any way. Ducks a problem? Since when? Rodents maybe are a problem but I don't see that many people feeding ducks.

  • KR
    December 02, 2012 - 09:56

    If rats are are a problem, set traps. To stop feeding the ducks will only get the rats to go elsewhere to feed and breed.

  • Gary
    December 02, 2012 - 09:56

    The new guideline needs to be backed up with fines. The rats around Burton's Pond are enormous, the ducks won't move if a person walks up to them, and the pigeons who swoop down on anyone feeding the ducks make a terrible mess at the MUN Childcare Centre. Meanwhile, on Long Pond, unfed waterfowl are doing just fine and pigeons are nowhere to be seen.

  • Tim Jamison
    December 02, 2012 - 09:40

    There should be a city-wide duck feeding ban, with fines attached. When you feed a duck, you teach it that you provide food. This causes it to seek you. Their seeking you causes them to get ran over by cars and causes car accidents when bad drivers swerve to avoid them. Feeding them also makes them defecate copiously in our areas that we all walk in. This causes slip and fall accidents among the elderly. Yes, I did see that happen once. The elderly get injured, we all pay to fix their broken bones. I've also been told that eating pure carbohydrates is extremely bad for a duck's health, but that's second hand information and I can't back it up without doing research that I just don't have time for, but it makes sense seeing as they eat things that are on the bottom of ponds, like bugs and frogs and tiny fish. There is no Wonderbread at the bottom of ponds. However, I will honestly state that I also want all of you to stop feeding the ducks so they'll all come back to the wetlands and back to my blind in larger numbers. Ducks are delicious

  • Duffy
    December 02, 2012 - 09:17

    Over educated and no common sense. The ducks are use to human contact and will starve if not fed in the winter. I know this is way out on a limb but maybe a few enclosed Rat Bait Stations. Radical Huh ? I don't have a million letters behind my name and don't make $100,000 off the government for a few hours work a day - but maybe this will work ?

  • John Smith
    December 02, 2012 - 08:52

    have you seen those ducks eat bird food....the rats don't have a chance....they gobble up every last and all... no way that is causing an issue with rats...stupid...

  • Rod Lyver
    December 02, 2012 - 08:51

    The ducks have become a problem? Why now?In the early eighties when I was at Mun the ducks were there then. They sometimes walked on the road and would come next to you to feed.