PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - More than a dozen Canada geese basked in the Friday afternoon sun at picturesque I.G. Levy Park. But on Tuesday morning, it was a much less pleasant scene.
"Saw a couple of dead ducks and didn't think too much about it," said retired veterinarian, Dr. John Battley.
But then, Battley noticed the wind had moved even more dead animals.
"It had the ducks pushed up in one corner and there were about 25 or 30 of them. And then down that little canal there were a couple more dead and a couple very sick," said Battley. "I would say approximately 30 dead. And then approximately 15 more that were sick."
The City of Pascagoula says USDA was taking the ducks as part of a "random" testing program for bird flu with the assistance of local animal control.
"They came out with them to distribute some bread that had a sedative in it, to sedate the birds. And again, I'm investigating further to find out their additional actions," said Pascagoula Police Chief Kenny Johnson.
However, a USDA spokesperson Pam Boehland says the agency's actions had nothing at all to do with avian flu testing. Boehland says they were removing the geese and ducks at the request of the nearby Lakeshore Naval Facility, since droppings from the animals were creating a "health and safety" concern.
"Both our agencies have protocols and measures to investigate this and determine exactly what happened," said the Chief Johnson, who says it was the first he's heard about so many ducks winding up dead.
Was Dr. Battley certain the animals were dead?
"Absolutely dead. I think I can recognize a dead duck!" said the veterinarian.
The USDA spokesperson says they've been working on ways to remove the ducks and geese for the past three years, first using non-lethal means such as lasers to scare the birds away, before resorting to euthanizing the animals.