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Invasive ducks ruffle feathers in Oviedo

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The ducks are not lame on Oviedo Boulevard. 

In fact, they are plentiful. And aggressive. And causing headaches for residents.

“They are very mean,” Oviedo resident Nancy Evans said during public comment at the Jan. 17 Oviedo City Council meeting. “They will go after you. We can’t do anything.”

A large team of Muscovy ducks has made itself at home in Oviedo, congregating in a retention pond, sidewalks and streets near and around the intersection of Oviedo Boulevard and Windy Pine Way.

Muscovy ducks, known for the red bumps along their faces, are a non-native species to Florida – their native range spans from South America to Texas – and are considered a nuisance species in the area. They are often illegally released by individuals who may have kept them “for ornamental purposes or as pets,” according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website. The ducks breed quickly, causing populations of them to expand rapidly. The releasing of Muscovy ducks is prohibited by Florida statute and federal regulations.

Evans, who has lived in the area for more than five years, and whose front door faces Oviedo Boulevard, said she began seeing one or two Muscovy ducks about three years ago.

“It’s now over 50 sometimes when we sit and count,” she said. “The feces is every 6 to 12 inches.

“It’s pretty bad,” she added. “It’s just really unsanitary at this point. It affects the aquatic center, all the apartments, our single-family homes, and it’s just gotten to the point where we can smell it wafting into the house.”

The excrement and smell are not the only issues the Oviedo Boulevard ducks have caused. There are traffic and safety concerns, as well.

Evans said she has seen the ducks blocking the street, leading to drivers honking their horns and stopping their cars to try to move them, blocking traffic in the process.

“The ducks don’t move. They are mean,” Evans said. “It’s becoming one of these things where you don’t know which way to walk in the street, and at what moment. I really would hate to see somebody get hurt.”

Assistant City Manager Patrick Kelly concurs with the sentiment.

“We don’t want to see unsafe conditions,” he said.

On a recent walk around the area, Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek saw some of the ducks sitting underneath a truck.

“I see how that could be disconcerting, if you come to a place that you think is urban, and you park, and then you’re not sure if you can leave because the ducks have decided to take a nap under your vehicle,” Sladek said.

Feeding discouraged

Known for being territorial, Muscovy ducks can also become aggressive, especially if they are accustomed to being fed by humans.

“Some people love them, some people don’t,” Sladek said. “I see people stop in the middle of the road and feed them corn, and ducks are not supposed to eat corn. So I wish people would not do that, because they are trained now that if they stay right there near that pond, somebody’s going to come and hand them a big pile of corn.”

The Muscovy duck diet normally consists of grass, snails, insects and other small plants and critters.

On her personal Facebook page, Sladek created a video about the duck issue after the Council meeting.

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Possible solutions

Passersby continuing to feed the ducks have left residents like Evans searching for answers. The City Council was alerted to the issue over the summer, and residents hope some changes can be made.

To begin mitigating the issue, Kelly said the city has posted notices on social media and in newsletters. However, the messages have not been seen or heeded by everyone. 

Because of that, Kelly said that the city has ordered do-not-feed-the-ducks signs that will be placed on site, and City Manager Bryan Cobb added that they are working on a duck-removal plan.

Removal of an invasive species cannot be done by the Wildlife Commission, but instead by a professional nuisance wildlife trapper. Since it is illegal to catch-and-release the ducks to another area, they may be humanely euthanized after being caught.

Before official removal of the ducks, there are hopes that the city’s messages begin to take hold.

“We’re hopeful that if we educate the public as to the negative effects of feeding the animals, they’ll go back into the wild and continue to live their lives,” Kelly said. “Please don’t feed them. They are causing a public nuisance right now with the fecal matter [and traffic issues]. Please try to be understanding of the threats of non-native species to our native waterfowl.”

Watch the full meeting here: 

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