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There's trouble in Muscovy City

As spring hatchings escalate a duck influx, Kenneth City ponders relocation strategies.

By ANNE LINDBERG
Published May 13, 2007


KENNETH CITY - Some in this town think the late director Alfred Hitchcock was onto something with his movie The Birds. But it's not seagulls that are threatening to take over Kenneth City, it's Muscovy ducks that are wreaking havoc across the town.

"Our town is overrun with them, " Kenneth City Mayor Muriel Whitman said Thursday. "People complain constantly."

If Whitman had any doubts about the severity of the duck influx, they were removed one recent morning when she opened her front door. Staring at her were 30 pairs of eyes, belonging to members of a flock of young Muscovies looking for a handout.

Instead of breakfast, they got a new home. In Myakka City, 58 miles away from Kenneth City.

The duck relocation came courtesy of a friend of a Kenneth City resident.

"He puts them in the lake. He doesn't eat them, " Whitman said. The relocated ducks are apparently happy, she said, because "I don't think any of those have returned."

Kenneth City's duck population began growing after someone began feeding them.

Whitman said she understood the feeder would cook chicken for them.

It's against town rules to feed wild ducks because they are a nuisance, so the chicken dinners are no more.

"I just thought if they would quit feeding them, they would go back to their habitat, " Whitman said.

But the ducks seem to think Kenneth City's a great place to live and bring up a family. They wander around town rooting in yards for bugs and other tasty delicacies. They've even managed to uproot one of the gardens at the Town Hall and have nibbled the tops off the flowers there.

Flower feasting is only one reason Muscovies are considered a nuisance, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Muscovy excrement is "pretty good medium for bacteria, more so than other ducks, " Morse said. Their excrement is also acidic and tends to eat away at surfaces it comes in contact with.

Muscovies are neither native to Florida nor are they wild ducks. Under state law, they are not supposed to be released into the wild, Morse said. And there lies a curious rule: If a Muscovy is on your front lawn, you're the owner. You can do with it what you will as long as it is humane and done in compliance with the laws of the county.

Each county has different rules, Morse said.

So, the Muscovy on the front lawn could become a pet or dinner. Or it could be sent away permanently by calling a trapper. Morse said that last is the preferred method of disposal.

Whitman said town officials investigated the possibility of paying someone to relocate the ducks.

That's a tactic Pinellas Park uses at Freedom Lake Park when the duck population gets out of hand.

But that would not work, she said, because the duck trapper charges $50 per head. That could be expensive, considering Kenneth City's small budget and the large number of ducks involved.

Whitman said she does not want them hurt or killed, so declaring open season on them is out of the question.

"If they can find someplace to relocate them, good, " she said.

Whitman does not see an end anytime soon to Kenneth City's duck problem. After all, it is spring and little ducks are hatching everywhere.

"They multiply so fast, " Whitman said. "They're cute when they're little. ... But when they get big, they're obnoxious."

If the town ever solves its duck dilemma, there's another fowl issue that could hatch into a bigger one.

Geese.

One of the town residents has geese on his property. The geese like to cross the road. And they believe they have the right of way.

"They're stubborn, " Whitman said. "I have to wait for every one of them to pass."

Duck chronicles

Ducks have been causing a ruckus across South Pinellas since the beginning of the year. Here are some of the most recent incidents.

. Pinellas Park - Condominium owner Tracy Thomas was found guilty for the second time of "harboring" ducks. Thomas was accused of harboring ducks because she allegedly left her garage door ajar, which allowed the fowl to waddle in at will to eat and sleep.

. St. Petersburg - City officials are exploring the possibility of tranquilizing and removing at least 50 of the 100 or so Muscovies that hang around Fossil Park. (They might want to consult Pinellas Park before proceeding. When Pinellas Park last tried that tactic, duck lovers snatched up the drugged ducks and hid them before the trapper could get to them.)

. Seminole - The discovery of dead fish and ducks at a city park helped prompt council member Dan Hester to suggest the city should pass an ordinance to protect the wildlife.