The Case Against the Public Feeding of Waterfowl in Milford

City and state officials say there's more harm than good when the public feeds waterfowl.

A sign by the Milford Duck Pond by City Hall. Credit: Jason Bagley
A sign by the Milford Duck Pond by City Hall. Credit: Jason Bagley

The message on the brochure is clear: DO NOT FEED WATERFOWL. You Can Help Waterfowl by NOT FEEDING Them! 

The signs next to the water are equally as unambiguous: DO NOT FEED THE GEESE.

But the reality is, about a year after the start of a campaign to deter the feeding of waterfowl at the Milford Duck Pond, people are out there nearly every day doing just that.

“The wildlife does better when they learn to forage food on their own,” says Deepa Joseph, deputy director of health at the Milford Health Department.

Joseph noted a brochure available at the health department that goes into detail about the negative effects of feeding waterfowl.

“Feeding waterfowl low quality foods, such as bread, chips or popcorn, does not provide the birds with the necessary nutrients they need for survival,” the brochure from the state Department of Environmental Protection reads. “Feeding often results in dietary deficiencies in wild birds.”

The brochure also warns that feeding areas are often insanitary and harbor diseases like avian influenza or bird flu, which is transmissible to humans.

A book called “The Soggy Truth” was released last October and presents to Milford youngsters the potentially harmful effects of feeding waterfowl. Milford resident Ron Berlen wrote the book and it has been shared at preschools and daycares in the city, Joseph said.

“The thought was start educating at a young age,” she said.

The book is part of a larger initiative called The Soggy Truth Project.

A message on the project’s website reads, “If children knew that bread was bad for birds, would they still want to feed it to them? We think the answer is clearly ‘no way!’ We would like to see the birds eating what is natural, healthy and abundantly available.”

Jason Bagley (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Comment left on the Milford Patch Facebook page: "Yes let's stop children from doing another activity! Wonder why kids do bad things now a days.....hmmmm" https://www.facebook.com/MilfordCTPatch
tlkensington August 07, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Oh God geese articles usually bring lots of comments. Feeding geese is bad, especially the Canada Geese. More and more are not migrating like they should. I think we should start fining idiots who feed these waterfowl.
Pam August 08, 2013 at 07:56 AM
Ron Berlen's book should be given to the parents/grandparents who bring the pre-schoolers to feed the geese!
D.S. August 08, 2013 at 08:18 AM
If this is such a big deal, why not put out healthy food for kids to feed the geese? Has anyone figured out the expense to the city and what the advantages would be?
xplor August 08, 2013 at 08:27 AM
It's about time! The Patch should look into having the water tested like my veterinarian did 30 years ago. The water is totally unsanitary and dumps into the harbor, and subsequently into Long Island Sound. Plus, the geese would go South in the winter. Stratford made it illegal to feed the wildlife at their boat launching ramp a long time ago.
Mark Lofthouse August 08, 2013 at 08:52 AM
The reason nothing has been done, is because no one at any leadership level in Milford wants to pull the trigger (no pun intended) on creating a city ordinance that prohibits feeding of water fowl. At issue is, it might generate bad press for those looking to get elected. What a sad state of affairs when our elected officials neglect their duty to govern and guide our city along the right path, for fear some in our community will disagree with them. A city ordinance is needed today, yet we hear nothing. The ponds are a mess and unhealthy for humans do to the infestation of geese that should have long since moved along on their migration. Milford has become their home vs. a stop-over point.
Mark Lofthouse August 08, 2013 at 08:54 AM
Correction - "due to"...
JE August 08, 2013 at 08:58 AM
Patch commenters do you bring your concerns to your alderman, your P&Z reps, etc? Or do you sit at your computer and post your complaints on Patch thinking one of them just might see it? If you think there is an issue, IMHO the thing to do is attach your name to an email or a phone call directly to the people who represent you and ask them to take action.
Mark Lofthouse August 08, 2013 at 09:31 AM
JE - years ago I approached the city with various options that took hours of research and at my own expense to address the issue of feeding water fowl and heard nothing. Likewise I pushed for the creation of the Eisenhower Park review committee and was privileged to spend 3+ years working with others to develop a plan to renovate the park. In the end, no one took action to implement the park plan or to even discuss it for that matter. I mailed a CD of these plans, twice, to all sitting Aldermen...not one took action. Same for my review and report on the status of the Wepawaug River erosion, and how rundown the Duck Ponds look. I provided ideas and option....again....nothing. Not even a reply saying they received the material. So the answer would be "YES", I put my money, time and effort where my mouth is. Can you say the same?
Oscar August 08, 2013 at 10:19 AM
Become an educated resident. Then you can inform others as to why it is not in the animals best interest to feed them. In fact it is not a good idea to feed any wild animals. Why not bring a camera down to take pictures instead. This is an activity that children and adults can enjoy without harming the waterfowl. You can research the pictures with the children and learn more about the waterfowl. I believe if the children knew the harm they were causing they wouldn't mind not being able to feed them. http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7001.html
Brandon August 08, 2013 at 11:13 AM
Don't feed the wild animals this nutrition lacking food, but it's ok for people eat it. Maybe we should learn a lesson from this and put the wheat down. :)
Ron Berlen August 08, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Exactly right Oscar. Thank you.
Nick Veccharelli August 08, 2013 at 12:27 PM
For many years the past political administrations did not want to address this problem. The duck ponds are almost unusable due to the poop all over the place. I can remember as a kid going down the duck ponds and putting out a blanket to sit on and eat lunch. At least now there are signs asking people to help in making these areas more useable for our citizens. I for one don’t want to see the birds hurt but if we could just stop feeding them nature would take care of the problem on its own. I want to thank Mayor Blake for at least attempting to address this situation and trying to educate the public, this way no one gets hurt. Both the birds and the people can again enjoy the beautiful duck ponds the way nature meant it to be. Nick Veccharelli
JE August 08, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Yes I can Mr. Lofthouse. Maybe you should run for Alderman..
Mark Lofthouse August 08, 2013 at 12:31 PM
This issue has not properly been addressed for year and to simply put up a sign, among all the other signs, asking not to feed the geese is as effective as the signs that ask to pick up after your pets. Paper Tigers will not solve this issue.
Mark Lofthouse August 08, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Maybe I will JE...maybe I will... If I knew who "JE" was, it would be easier to reference your accomplishments in the community.
JE August 08, 2013 at 01:35 PM
It's Jon Edger, my friends call me JE. I never said I had accomplishments in the community for you to "reference" and am certainly not looking to toot my own horn. I said when I see something I don't like I contact the people who would address it and would hope others do the same, rather than simply posting on a blog. I find direct communication is much more effective.
Mark Lofthouse August 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Hi Jon. I have tried for years, on many issues, in a direct fashion, but find a lack of enthusiasm on the part of those that have the ability to directly affect matters that need to be addressed.
Tyler Lewis August 08, 2013 at 02:29 PM
I have to agree with Mr Lofthouse on this, over the last 2 years I was asked by the Rec director if I would help with my daughters Goose trained and bred Border Collies to help clear some of our fields around town,I said I would do it for free just to keep them in shape.The next time we talked I said we were ready to go and work the dogs and then I said could you make sure that the other departments know so I would not get trouble with someone over it he said good idea the first call went to the Animal Control that ended with yes if I had them leashed,the first thing came to me was how could anybody hold onto 2 Border Collies that run probably up to 20 mph in all directions while holding them on leashes the director looked at me I at him and I said because of the leash laws that are in place. The next thing I said is I would talk to the mayors assistant and explain that I could offer our services for free and offer other suggestions also besides dog harassment,like plant placement around the ponds and some other suggestions he said it was a tough subject and blew me off .Guess what folks we have brought the dogs to Mountain Grove in Bridgeport and all are happy, at least common sense is somewhere to bad its not here.
MC August 08, 2013 at 03:01 PM
I was just about to speak about the same sort of thing. The office park I work at in Stamford has a couple dogs that come in and patrol the area chasing off the geese. When I started 3 years ago they were all over the place, as was their droppings, and now we rarely see them. No one here was going out to feed these geese so to say this is the reason they hang around is silly. They just don't have anyone to scare them away or along on their travels. The office park has a pond and plenty of always green grass. As much as people feed them, they really eat grass. The numbers far exceed the supply of bread heals and extra hamburger rolls to sustain them all. If we're really upset with bread...put a couple vending machines with better food offerings and restrict it to certain areas.
JT August 08, 2013 at 03:22 PM
I would feed them, to the homeless. They are invasive and have turned a wonderful community resource into the bottom of a birdcage. If any other town in Connecticut had the two duck ponds they would be works of art. The walls need repair and repointing , the geese need to be disposed of, the lawns need to be aerated and seeded followed by pre-emegent in the spring. Debris needs to be removed and the island below the Town Hall waterfall needs rip rap. The sidewalks needed to be steam power-washed before some poor child ends up with a disease. Our taxes were raised just before the crash and never adjusted. The least we could do is get some rather simple work done by the City. A community show piece is a heartbreaking eye sore at this point and getting worse every day. This is right outside the windows of the Town Hall and right across the street from the Government Building. They have build wonderful facilities for them selves and left us to tip toe through sewage. Most of us in the real world work up to six days a week always more than 10 hours a day just to be able to pay our taxes. I think we have become the public servants and more than the geese have been raining debris on us.
Ray August 08, 2013 at 03:39 PM
I have an idea, go to this page, select Mayor's Office, and write your concerns to him. He will reply back in a timely manner, as I wrote him about concerns about all the blighted vacant properties. If enough of us ask for these concerns to be resolved, I'm sure they will. http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/Public_Documents/MilfordCT_WebDocs/comments
JT August 08, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Actually, the duck excrement is better looking than that monstrosity that is being built overlooking Milford Boat Works with the fake stone footing right in the middle of the historic district, towering over everything in sight. How horrifically are we being dis-served by our local government. Who on the zoning board was callous and disingenuous enough tho allow that to happen? I'll take duck crap any day!!
Lynwood Windsor August 09, 2013 at 09:40 AM
Don't feed them
roxana avila August 09, 2013 at 11:34 AM
ok. how about if a feeding station with bird food was set up. like at the zoo. the city would get some revenue, the birds would eat nutritionally and the public happy to be giving the right food. People will continue feeding the ducks. its just what they do to get close to nature and to have their children be at awe of the beautiful birds. the DO NOT FEED THE BIRD sign should be followed by volunteers who would monitor it daily. The volunteer could recomend the use of bird food and also being in charge of filling up the reservoir of seeds and cleaning up. Also the volunteers would feel a sense of acomplishmet by helping the enviroment, the public and the site. ok that is my thought. silly maybe but again this is only a comment.
tlkensington August 09, 2013 at 12:23 PM
No food. Don't feed the birds. If you want kids to get close to nature then go hike Eisenhower. There are rabbits, woodchucks, deer, and plenty of other wild animals. There are even ducks and geese at times. By feeding the birds you are encouraging them to not move on. They start to live where people feed them. Canada Geese should be migrating but now Milford has dozens downtown. I don't mind feeding the domestic geese downtown, but that's because they can't fly. They should, however, be fed in a controlled manner. Not fed slices of Wonder Bread. Also if you want kids to be in awe of birds then visit the Audubon. Some cool birds down there.
Bebe Gallo August 10, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Finally, one person mentioned the geese that can't fly! The white and brown geese are domestic species that were "dumped" here years ago. There are a number of volunteers, myself included, who feed w/ proper foods purchased w/ our own $. We have also provided vet care. Pls read "Inside Milford" magazine for far more info on "Milford's Other Geese". Also search Patch's archives. re: the Canada Geese, it is doubtful they will ever migrate...they do not know how, but if not fed huge amount of unheathy white bread, they will probably fly to other local environs to feed, which they did last winter, coming back "home" at night. I agree w/ Roxanna A's & MC's suggestion..it is doubtful that enough feed dispensed from coin-operated machines would supply enough to appeas the Canada's hunger & keep them here. It would, however, allow people to fulfill their desire for this activity w/ children, as well as provide an opportunity for eduction. JT, "thou dost not know of what you speak". Pre-emergents are POISON ... they should not be applied near any waterway, are a danger to wildlife, pets & humans. Get rid of all these birds? Waterfowl naturally inhabit waterways...we humans have thrown the balance off. Have trained dogs chase them? Can you have the dogs chase only the Canadas? Months ago, it was suggested those interested in this subject have a planning meeting...I was the only one to show up.


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