The Other Village Locals…the Ducks!

Annelise Straw
Photo taken this morning. The duck-feeding habit is a hard one to break.
Photo taken this morning. The duck-feeding habit is a hard one to break.

Ocracoke agrees to tolerate the non-migrating mallards.

At the OCBA Meeting held April 13th, our village resident ducks were the main topic of discussion.  After quickly deciding that “getting rid of the ducks” was the last resort, the assembly had the pleasure of conference calling Will Doerfer, special assistant Hyde County manager, to hear about the County’s involvement with finding a solution to the large amounts of Mallard Ducks that have found a comfortable home on the island. 

The population of the ducks has steadily increased over the past five years and the procreation rate is not declining (busy ducks!). Initially wanting to relocate the ducks, the Ocracoke Foundation was put in contact with Emily Gaydos, District Supervisor with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services of Wildlife Services, to obtain a permit allowing for the relocation of these cute, yet frisky fowl. While the permit to relocate the birds is still in the works, Mr. Doerfer did tell the assembly that he had two permits from the National Wildlife Service: one allowing 350 Mallards to be euthanized, and the other to oil and addle the eggs (for anyone unfamiliar to oiling and addling, like me… oiling is preventing oxygen from getting into the eggs, hindering them to hatch, and addling is testing for embryo development in the eggs). 

Ocracoke’s ducks have gained widespread support through an online petition that was started by a Manteo business owner.  More than 1,000 signees from Pennsylvania to South Carolina are in favor of a more humane solution. 

The island’s mission to relocate the ducks has to be part of a larger plan, one that involves community education, drive, and determination! As one attendee said, “This is a people problem, NOT a duck problem!”  The duck population has been booming because of the vast amount of people who are feeding the ducks.  It is unhealthy for the ducks when we feed them.  The phrase “a fed duck is a dead duck” was thrown around!  With the support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta, the option to relocate the ducks is still up for debate.  Some attendees expressed concern over the lack of an estimated duck count and the fact that we don’t really know how many ducks are on the island.  A solution was reached to divide and conquer the island on a Saturday morning to take inventory of our duck dynasty.

Mr. Doerfer presented three available solutions to the ducks issue:

  1. Use the 1-year permit that we have and euthanize 350 of the Mallard Ducks.
  2. Have a professional come and lethally trap the animals and prevent fertilization of the eggs.
  3. Allow the ducks to stay in place on the island while working to prevent new eggs through oiling and addling the eggs.  If we stop feeding the birds, the hope is that some will leave, looking for a new food source, and the flock will thin out along with the natural cycle of migration. 

The consensus of all attendees was to go with number three (we’ve gotten used being stopped on the road at a “duck crossing”).  With the enforcement of a “No Feeding” policy, community education, and active involvement from everyone on Ocracoke, we may be able to one day live in harmony with our resident quackers!

In Other OCBA News….

Cape Hatteras National Seashore superintendent Dave Hallac was with us at the meeting.  He expressed his excitement for the July 4th fireworks as well as a potential bonfire on the beach!

Happy 100th Birthday to the National Park Service! As it celebrates its centennial, the NPS hopes to start a live music event once a month to celebrate the arts with their initiative “Arts Afire”.

The boardwalk at lifeguard beach should be completed by Memorial Day. Yay!!

Mr. Hallac once again brought up the NPS parking lot.  It is to be used for day traffic only, unless you have obtained an overnight parking permit from the station.  Please remember to park your boat trailer somewhere else overnight! Never fear though, the lot will be available for use during heavy floods!! Phew!

Last but never least, the members discussed the island’s all-important response to North Carolina's recently-passed House Bill 2.  It came to the attention that visitors were sending concerned emails to hotel and business owners.  The community supports the diversity and welcomes everyone to the island.  Everyone agrees that the bill needs to be overturned.  The attendees voted on the recognition to not comply with the HB2 law, with no opposing votes.  An official statement on this is forthcoming.  


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