Ducks Threaten South Texas RV Park Residents
They don’t quack, but they’re messy and residents of Lakewood Village, a mobile home/RV park development on the west edge of Harlingen, Texas, say there are too many black-bellied whistling ducks in their pond this year.
Local wildlife authorities have given the residents no solutions to the duck over population problem, but urged them to be careful not to breathe dust from the duck feces, The Brownsville Herald reported.
Some RV park residents speculate that the ducks are attracted to the park’s pond because statewide drought conditions have limited other water sources for the birds.
"We have probably three times as much as we did last year," Ted Kogler, a Winter Texan who has lived at Lakewood for about 10 years, said. "There’s got to be 200 to 400 ducks out here. That’s way too many."
Many Harlingen residents love to watch whistling ducks swimming in the city lake, but the whistling duck population at Lakewood Village has greatly multiplied, Kogler said.
David Treviño of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said two of his staff members went to the RV park and reported to him that there was an abundance of droppings.
"It was pretty gross," Treviño said of his staffers’ report.
Not only do the ducks defecate around the pond, but he also blames the ducks for a flea infestation, Kogler said.
"If you walk in the grass, you’re going to get bit by a bunch of fleas," he said. "If you wear shortsand are working in the garden or something, you’re going to get all eaten up by fleas."
The whistling ducks have now been joined by Muscovy ducks," he said.
"We used to have a couple (Muscovy ducks), now there’s a family of five alone and there’s probably eight of them running around here."
He continued, "The ducks are terrible. We never used to have that many. Nobody’s feeding them. They say they’re protected, so I don’t know what you can do about them."
Although black-bellied whistling ducks are not on the endagered species list, they are protected by the federal Lacey Act, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said.
Hunting is not allowed in residential areas under any circumstances, but Texas Game Warden Santana Torres said whistling ducks fall in the "all other species" category and may be shot during duck season, which is from Nov. 5 to Nov. 27 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 29 in South Texas.
In the past, a couple of Lakewood residents did feed the ducks, but now residents of the community longer do so, but the ducks keep multiplying anyway, Kogler said.
Resident Gordon Rater estimates there are as many as 500 to 600 whistling ducks in Lakewood’s small pond.
"I don’t know what we can do," he said. "We’re not allowed to feed them. I just want to know if there’s a health problem from having so many."
The ducks are probably attracted to the lake by the drought affecting Texas and water is pumped into the pond and the lake, Rater said.
"Is there a health problem?" he asked. With 500 to 600 ducks, they must leave 25 to 30 pounds of bird poop a day," he said. "We like the whistling ducks, but there are too many in one area."
Treviño said people who clean the duck droppings could develop Histoplasmosis, a serious fungal infection of the lungs that could result in hospitalization or even death.
Persons who have become ill after cleaning up duck droppings should tell their doctor what they have been doing because the symptoms could be mistaken for less serious illness, Torres said.
The infection could start from breathing the dust raised by sweeping or washing the waste off decks, patios and sidewalks, Torres said.
A breathing mask rated to protect against fungus and goggles should be used by anyone who sweeps the droppings, Leo Gustafson, assistant manager of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Reguge, said.
Since ducks can carry viruses such as avian cholera or avian botulism, persons who notice a die-off of ducks should report it to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Gustafson said.