Duck hunt: City trapping park’s lakeside birds

Officials say non-native ducks only ones removed; Marco resident maintains native ducks also gone

Article Highlights

  • “If you’ve ever been chased by a (Muscovy) duck, you know how mean they can get.” Lisa Douglass, City Public Information Coordinator
  • “Maybe they (city officials) just don’t like ugly ducks on the lake. It’s ridiculous.” Marge Merklinghaus, seasonal Marco resident
Contractors hired by the city use a large cage to trap and remove the ducks at Marco's Mackle Park.

Marge Merklinghaus, EAGLEi Contributor

Contractors hired by the city use a large cage to trap and remove the ducks at Marco's Mackle Park.

New Jersey resident Marge Merklinghaus, who winters on Marco Island, saved an injured duck, left, from Mackle Park last year and found a partner for it. She took care of them in New Jersey and brought the ducks back down to Marco's Mackle Park this winter to live. The city has now removed the ducks and she is not sure if they are dead or alive.

Marge Merklinghaus, EAGLEi Contributor

New Jersey resident Marge Merklinghaus, who winters on Marco Island, saved an injured duck, left, from Mackle Park last year and found a partner for it. She took care of them in New Jersey and brought the ducks back down to Marco's Mackle Park this winter to live. The city has now removed the ducks and she is not sure if they are dead or alive.

— City officials are ducking away from the allegation that any native mallards were removed from Marco’s Mackle Park.

Seasonal Island resident Marge Merklinghaus maintains that she witnessed duck hunters trapping at least three varieties of ducks, including native species, and putting them into large cages.

“They took all the ducks, even the mallards, that were there. Being that I love ducks, I’m really upset,” Merklinghaus said.

City Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie reported Tuesday that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was investigating Marco’s Parks and Recreation Department for allegedly removing mallards and other native ducks from the park.

However, FWC spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro maintained Wednesday that it’s not the case.

Ferraro said that while some mallards are federally protected, those removed by the city were hybrids and therefore are not illegal to remove.

“These are exotic ducks, they are not protected under any state laws, you do not need a permit to trap them, and once trapped, they must be euthanized humanely,” she said

City officials did not confirm if the ducks have been killed after their removal. Merklinghaus believes they were taken to a nearby preserve.

“I just want the ducks back,” she said.

City Public Information Coordinator Lisa Douglass said only exotic Muscovy ducks were removed due to their aggressive behavior toward other ducks and park-goers.

“If you’ve ever been chased by a (Muscovy) duck, you know how mean they can get,” Douglass said.

She issued a prepared statement on Wednesday regarding the brewing controversy about which ducks were being removed and why.

“Only Muscovy Ducks are being trapped – the white domestic ducks and native mallards have been retained,” she wrote in the statement.

Merklinghaus said she wasn’t pleased with the statement.

“Now, I don’t know what to do... They’re changing their story,” she said.

The city hired two licensed trappers, Dame’s Animal Arrest & Pest Control, Inc. and Chris Harlow Trapping, to capture the non-native Muscovy ducks and remove them alive from the park, Douglass reported. So far, 12 Muscovy ducks were removed, she added.

Merklinghaus, who frequents the park almost daily to visit the ducks near the lake, said she witnessed the removal of mallards and at least six Pekin ducks, including brown and white ducks and a one-eyed Pekin.

FWC officials report that Pekin ducks are also a non-native species and are legal to remove.

“The mallard with a half of a beak was taken and everyone fed him bread... This is what I’m most upset about,” Merklinghaus said.

She added that as of Wednesday there were only two white Pekin and several male Muscovy, which are the most aggressive, remaining. Without the females, she says, the fighting is getting worse.

Last year, Merklinghaus said she rescued a couple-day-old, injured Muscovy duckling from Mackle Park that was abandoned in a nest. She took the duckling to her home in New Jersey and raised it.

“I needed to get another duck to keep him company. So, I took a baby out of a mother’s nest. It sounds disgusting, but I needed something,” she said.

When returning to Marco Island she brought both ducks to Mackle Park so they could live together on the lake. Merklinghaus offered to clean up after all the ducks and help Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk in anyway she could to help with the duck population.

She felt he went behind her back when deciding to remove them without notifying her or the public.

“Maybe they just don’t like ugly ducks on the lake. It’s ridiculous” she exclaimed.

Milk didn’t return phone calls or emails from this reporter, instead the city issued a prepared statement Wednesday.

Muscovy ducks were removed for fighting with other ducks, being aggressive toward people and pets, and because of their excessive population, which caused a dramatic decrease in the population of native ducks at the park, Douglass reported.

The excessive droppings are unattractive, contaminate water and present a significant hazard to the health of humans and pets, she added.

“Non-native Muscovy ducks are often responsible for the spread of several serious diseases to native ducks, and may also interbreed with native ducks, muddying the gene pools of those species and potentially decreasing their capacity to adapt, resist disease, and persist,” she stated in the prepared release.

Parks and Recreation Department employees reported receiving numerous complaints about the aggressive behavior as well as odor and health concerns caused by duck droppings.

“Now that Canine Cove is open, these droppings also cause a risk to our canine visitors,” Douglass said.

Recent pathway improvements and ducks killed during fighting sessions causing some native ducks to flee, also contributed to the decision to remove them, she reported.

“The city’s focus is and always will be to protect the health and welfare of all park visitors while maintaining a native animal habitat and safe park environment for all visitors.

“Removal of the non-native, aggressive Muscovy ducks should allow the native duck population to return and flourish in a balanced environment,” Douglass wrote in the statement.

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Comments » 13

islandgma writes:

Same thing as the trees that were cut down. Do those of you that are making these decisions realize that there are folks that live here all year long? Furthermore, there are some of us that do not own dogs and like to enjoy the park with all it's wildlife and natural beauty. Please - stop fixing things that are not broken and give us one season of peace from the trucks and all this nonsense. Why do you feel the constant need to have something dug up, cut down, or taken away. Dealing with the bridge will be bad enough. If you feel the need to keep changing things why did you move here in the first place? Instead of making the conveniences of "back home" why don't you enjoy what is or go back.

dc5799 writes:

What happened to all the turtles that were removed? Nothing said about that.

RayPray writes:

“Now that Canine Cove is open, these dropping also cause a risk to our canine visitors,” Douglass said."

I'll take the Muscovy ducks over the filthy, noisy, pampered constipated island pooches any day!

marcochoosehs writes:

This quack job lady needs to go back to New Jersey and bring her beloved ducks with her! Is she willing to embrace the cost associated with the transmission of their bacteria to humans? Ms. Richie needs to investigate her decision to remove an egg from a nest without permission! Leave the city out of it; they are striving to make a safe, clean environment for the Islanders and guests!People in glass houses should not throw stones....

marco97 writes:

There is so much BS in the article, I live on the park and have young children and we have never seen an aggressive duck and we see them all the time or used too. Excessive droppings? give me a break my kids have never stepped in duck dropping but have stepped in dog crap. I would rather have the ducks in the park then the dogs, at least the ducks never bit anyone sending them to the hospital for rabies shots.
Brian Milk does not know how to run a park, why don't you just pave everything and be done with it so us who live here year round can get a break from the construction.

ohbrther writes:

Here we go again, too many city officials with nothing better to do then pick on the wildlife on the island, whats next, the burrowing owls, morning doves, oh wait, the little sandpipers....lets just remove all birds so no one will be bothered by them.
And I have never seen a duck attack anyone unless someone was terrorizing it, and then just to protect itself and usually they try to fly away. Gee are the big bad city officials afraid of a duck???? Give me a break!

ajm3s writes:

If government could control the life cycle of a fruit fly they would under the guise of what is in the best interest of............science or perhaps safety, or........? Lisa do not take it personally, but I was never attacked by a Muskovy duck, is this a personal issue that the Muscovy duck does not want you here? Lisa Douglass is a former DEP employee who is in my humble opinion, is lacking in the skills to understand how nature works. Human interaction brought Muscovy ducks to the lake. Remove the humans. Now that is a dilemma of unintended consequences. God and I did not even address the poop.

Government recommendation: form a committee and create a fee to support the committee to oversee the distribution of the fees to pay for the services to remove the ducks and poop. God that poop.

kazbahone writes:

This park was built for people especially children to enjoy nature. Not anymore. Evidently dogs are more important than kids. Trees get in the way and nature
(ducks turtles) have bacteria which is unsafe for the dogs. It's ok for kids to be exposed to giant piles of Dog crap...no health issues there. Oh yes...dogs don't bite people either
This is all so sad.

Fossil writes:

Let's take a survey of citizens to identify their dislikes and likes in our community. I'll bet you that we can find enough people to justify rounding up a few city employees just because they don't like them. Hell we can take them off the island in cages and drop them off in some sanctuary in the glade somewhere. Someone important complained about these ducks and now they are gone. What a shame, I too used to enjoy watching them.

Ned269 writes:

Write a note to Duck Haven. I have
DrQuack615@aol.com

Ned269 writes:

in response to Fossil:

Let's take a survey of citizens to identify their dislikes and likes in our community. I'll bet you that we can find enough people to justify rounding up a few city employees just because they don't like them. Hell we can take them off the island in cages and drop them off in some sanctuary in the glade somewhere. Someone important complained about these ducks and now they are gone. What a shame, I too used to enjoy watching them.

Where do I sign up?
Our own little game of "Survivor"
What a hoot
You "quack" me up Fossil
I personally don't appreciate the city's "transmission of bacteria" to our Island.
What's next a Dome over the Island?
If you want to start talking about "transmission of bacteria"
How about the blasted mosquitos? I can get on that bandwagon.

ajm3s writes:

This quote is very familiar from Lisa Douglass:
“Non-native Muscovy ducks are often responsible for the spread of several serious diseases to native ducks, and may also interbreed with native ducks, muddying the gene pools of those species and potentially decreasing their capacity to adapt, resist disease, and persist,” she stated in the prepared release.

You can find in article from University of Florida. Go to site under paragraph heading "Ecological Impacts":

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw299

Yankee writes:

Well I'm not surprised that the city has gone and screwed up again! They remove ducks for no decent reason yet when my sister in law called about an alligator in Marco Lake a few years ago, she was told there was nothing the city could do. I suppose she wasn't a prominent enough figure on this island otherwise there would have been a trapper there the following day.

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