Calgary man Wayne Clarke said he found more than 50 dead ducks at Elliston Park in the southeast this past week.
The province is investigating after a Calgary man says he came across 50 dead ducks scattered in Elliston Park while walking his dog in the area.Wayne Clarke, who visits on the park almost daily with his wife to walk their dog, said he began to notice the problem about 10 days ago, when he found one dead duck.“I figured, ‘OK, it must have just froze,’” Clarke said. “The next day, we go for another walk around the lake and there’s like three dead birds.”He said they stayed home for the next few days due to extreme cold temperatures, but when they returned, the problem had multiplied. By then, there were easily around a dozen dead birds on the southeast park’s frozen storm water retention pond, which is located near the intersection of 68th Street and 17th Avenue S.E.“We couldn’t believe this,” said Clarke, who has frequented the park for years. “I’ve never seen this many birds killed, only one or two.”On his most recent visit, he estimated there were around 50 dead ducks, many of which had been scavenged.“I kind of got perturbed about it at that point. Why isn’t the city cleaning this up?” he said. “It’s a bloody mess. Scavengers have been there. We’ve seen magpies, crows, ravens, even seen a bald eagle, and the footprints are there for coyotes.“There’s blood everywhere. What used to be carcasses or full birds are now just bones and feathers. It’s really messy. It looks terrible.”It’s unclear what caused that many ducks to die in that spot. A spokesman for the City of Calgary said the city was seeking more information about what happened and working with wildlife authorities to clear the ducks that were found.Alberta Environment and Parks was also looking into the situation, a spokesman confirmed, as provincial biologists and wildlife officers investigated the situation on Wednesday.Senior wildlife biologist Brett Boukall said a team was collecting whole ducks from the area in order to further test the sample in a lab.“Is this starvation? Is this disease? We don’t know yet. That’s what we’re going to look into,” Boukall said.“We don’t have a lot of information about exactly what happened. What we do know based on sending some feelers is that it seems to be localized to Elliston Park and the reservoir there.”While the park is located near a landfill, Boukall said there’s no reason to suspect that as a possible factor just yet. He said it’s probably just a coincidence, “unless the ducks were actively feeding there.”It’s also not unusual for 50 birds to die in close proximity to one another in a short period of time during the winter, according to Boukall. He said “mortality events” can occur in duck populations during overwintering, the process for animals of seeking shelter from the cold and lack of food.“When they do overwinter and then they are exposed to the cold conditions that we’ve felt in this past month, these open water areas where they tend to collect become reduced and that leads to overcrowding,” he said.“When you have overcrowding situations, it can lead to possible starvation, extreme exposure and even disease resulting in mortalities.”He added cold temperatures may have also led to a “flash freeze up event,” where ducks were frozen into the ice.Boukall said all available information indicates there’s no hazard to anyone in the area. There’s also no reason to believe this will have a significant impact on the duck population at large.“In the past, we’ve seen throughout Alberta they can range anywhere from 50 to 100 of ducks that result from an overwinter mortality event,” said Boukall.“While 50 ducks at a small park is probably quite alarming, overall in the big picture, we have thousands to tens of thousands of ducks overwintering in Alberta and this is a relatively low or small event.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/SammyHudes