Daisy Scouts spread message at ponds: ‘Don’t feed the birds’

Daisy Troop 30347, Milford

Daisy Troop 30347, Milford

MILFORD >> City officials have tried for years to educate the public not to feed the waterfowl and now a group of 6-year-olds in a Daisy Girl Scout troop is taking it to the next level.

As a community service project, Daisy Troop 30347 has purchased and, with troop parents, begun to install six clear mailboxes on the upper and lower duck ponds.

Troop leader James Barbara said the five-girl troop’s enthusiasm for the project is “heartwarming.”

The boxes will be filled with pamphlets from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, warning of the dangers to humans and waterfowl of feeding the ducks, geese and others.

Each week the girls will visit the duck ponds to replenish pamphlets and personally educate those who pull up with bags of white bread, popcorn, chips and often, children to assist.

Feeding bread and other “people food” to ducks and geese makes them gather quickly. And for some families, it is considered a nice activity, but it’s harmful to waterfowl.

According to the DEEP pamphlet, feeding low-quality food to waterfowl leads to:

• Malnourishment and nutrient deficiencies that lead to the development of deformed wings.

• A decrease in reproductive rates.

• An increased susceptibility to predation

• The loss of flight ability, lowered energy and lowered life expectancy.

• A weakening of the overall gene pool.

Most areas where the public feeding occurs cannot sustain the large concentration of birds that often gathers, leading to the accumulation of droppings and feathers, overgrazing of vegetation, soil erosion and unsanitary conditions, the DEEP says.

Barbara said the girls had choices, and unanimously voted for the project, which was quickly embraced by Mayor Benjamin G. Blake, who planned to kick off the campaign with the girls Wednesday evening at the City Hall Duck Pond.

Barbara said the troop spent about $200 on supplies, including special brackets, and that meant selling a lot of Girl Scout cookies, since they only keep 70 cents per box.

Blake said Sunday the city has tried all kinds of measures to discourage the feeding of waterfowl at the duck ponds and harbor area behind the library, including DEEP signs, early-education programs in schools, and press releases to spread the word through the media.

Officials have also tried to discourage geese from going on land with special fences and spray on the grass.

The geese leave a mess of droppings that in some areas is so heavy it is a human health hazard.

Food that’s not good for them still encourages them to come ashore.

Numerous organizations are working to restore wetlands to make them beneficial for waterfowl, the DEEP said.

“It is important for all of us to concentrate our efforts on these types of projects because habitat, not feeding, is what guarantees the future of waterfowl,” the DEEP said.

Also, the loss of a bird’s fear of humans often results in “dangerous and unpredictable behavior towards people,” it said.