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Researchers: Don't feed waterfowl at the park

Heading down to the local pond or lake with a loaf of bread to feed the ducks is a popular activity for families. But researchers say you shouldn't do it. Here's why.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Most Fridays I've been featuring a local park on Go Ask Mom. And a month or so ago, as I spoke with Cara McLeod of the Raleigh parks system, I mentioned a piece I was working on about Shelley Lake. Our conversation went sort of like this.

"There's Sertoma Arts Center. And the playground. And the greenway. And then people can walk down to the lake with some bread and feed the ducks," I said. "And ..."

And Cara set me straight. Don't feed the ducks, geese, or any other wild animal out there, she told me.

I kind of knew this already. I knew that feeding ducks bread isn't great for them. I'd done it a few times with my older daughter at Lake Johnson until an incident with a goose about her size at the time came up to her honking loudly and scaring both of us.

But last year, researchers at N.C. State University laid out all the reasons why feeding waterfowl is a bad idea in a pamphlet. Raleigh, Apex and Greensboro parks systems, along with the state wildlife commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture all were involved in its production.

You can find the pamphlet, printed in both English and Spanish, at Raleigh and Apex parks. Or you can find it on the web by clicking here.

To put it in layman's terms, feeding waterfowl bread or anything really just causes more poop, which makes the water and shore gross. The photo of a pile of poop the size of a hand in the pamphlet brought that bit home for me.

But you're actually hurting the ducks and geese, not helping them when you feed them, said Chris DePerno, assistant professor in fisheries and wildlife sciences at N.C. State's Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, who worked on the pamphlet. It makes the ducks and geese sick and could even kill them. It causes overpopulation. And it can make them more dependent on us and lead to aggressive behaviors.

None of that is a good thing.

They don't need our help finding food, DePerno told me.

DePerno and graduate student Liz Rutledge, who also worked on the pamphlet, talk more about why we shouldn't feed waterfowl in the video.

I guess I'll be turning my old bread into bread crumbs.

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