Invasive duck species ruffles feathers in Metairie

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:17 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Many residents in Metairie are fed up with the amount of Muscovy ducks in the Pontchartrain Shores neighborhood and want to see them removed.

“They’re just aggravating you know,” said resident Charlie Cervini. “One day I come home and they had mess all over. I had to get out here and it took me half a day to clean it up.”

Cervini said that’s just half of it.

“A lady over there said there was one on her roof and on her car,” he says.

The population of these Muscovy ducks is growing and has been for several years.

“You see two over there, the next thing you know you see 15 babies in a few days,” he says.

Like Cervini, other residents are done with the ducks and are asking Jefferson Parish officials to step in and remove them.

“We’re talking hundreds of ducks. Ducks on lawns. A third of a pound of droppings per duck,” said councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken. “It’s a bad scenario for the health of our community. That’s what we’re trying to address. It’s not anything other than the health and safety of our residents and they’re asking for our help.”

Van Vrancken said under state and federal law, the Muscovy duck is considered invasive to Louisiana, but it’s also a protected species.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal control order on Muscovy ducks prohibits, in most cases, the possession of Muscovy ducks.

“The intent of this regulation is to limit production and releases of Muscovy ducks in locations in which the species is not native. This effort is in keeping with the Service’s other actions to reduce the spread of introduced species that compete with native species or harm habitats that they use. The control order does not allow the ducks to be retained for personal use or released in any other location or the wild. They may not be given to someone to release or hold in captivity. Additionally, Muscovy ducks also are subject to control efforts that the State of Louisiana deems necessary, as outlined by the information provided by LDWF.” -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialist

“You cannot relocate these ducks,” said Van Vrancken. “We don’t want them to spread to other areas where they’re not supposed to be. The only thing that can be done unfortunately is humane euthanization.”

But not everyone is happy with that solution. Some residents want to see the ducks removed but thriving somewhere else.

“I mean I wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to them but they need to be put somewhere by the lakefront or a park somewhere. Get them out the subdivision you know,” said Cervini.

The Jefferson Parish Council and the Pontchartrain Shores Civic Association have been working together on the issue.

Our office received a number of communications of suggestions and concerns about the invasive Muscovy Ducks. It's...

Posted by Jennifer Van Vrancken Council District 5 on Tuesday, April 19, 2022

“And we checked again with state and federal officials, ’is there any other option where we can relocate these ducks? Can they go to private property in a fenced area? Any other option?’ I have consistently gotten back from state and federal officials— ‘no. There is not another option for this variety of ducks,’” said Van Vrancken.

Wildlife officials said this specific species of ducks may seem harmless, but they’re actually a bad situation locally.

“They’re nonnative. They cause damage to the environment, some of them human health problems, and some of them cause issues to other wildlife,” said Jim LaCour, state wildlife veterinarian for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

LaCour said the Muscovy duck is recognized federally through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as a protected species only because it is indigenous to two counties in Texas.

“We as a state agency have minimal involvement in that. It’s really a federal law and was put in place because it is considered a migratory bird in a very small portion of the country,” he said.

While removal of the ducks hasn’t happened just yet, Van Vrancken said she has gotten some calls referring to a decrease in the number of ducks seen in Pontchartrain Shores.

“I don’t know if someone is removing them or moving them somewhere else without proper authority,” she said, but trapping of any kind has not started. “In fact, this has to go to the Civic Association. This would be if the Civic Association decides they can hire a trapper and move forward. To my knowledge, there has not been a trapper working on this but we have noticed the duck population is decreasing.”

She said the parish has pledged up to $50,000 in reimbursable public funds to help hire a licensed trapper, but the Pontchartrain Shores Civic Association has the final say. The association is expected to meet next month to discuss how to move forward and make a decision on whether or not to hire a trapper to remove the ducks.

“I will respect their decision whatever it is,” said Van Vrancken. “We’re just trying to figure out how do we help our residents who have really said this is a threat to our health, welfare, and quality of life.”

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