The return of spring is just around the corner and with it comes the return of the ducks that have migrated south for the winter. Birders look forward to feeding our fine feathered friends and providing them environments to lay their eggs and hatch their ducklings. However, health experts say, “Keep ducks out of your pools and the area around them. And don’t feed them.”
The environmental health specialists for the City of Anaheim definitively state that our pools and spas are NOT the places for ducks. Jeffery Warren in the Environmental Health Division of the Food & Pool Protection Program is adamantly against encouraging Donald Duck and his relatives to avail themselves of any pool or spa. He told Cardinal that “the main concern about having ducks or any animal in the pool is the fecal contamination. With any fecal accident, the concern is Cryptosporidium—the pathogen linked to causing disease.”
The pathogen in duck feces has a shell around it, enabling it to live for days. The chlorine in our pools does not permeate the shell or nullify the bacteria. This creates a new problem for Associations. Pools must be cleaned in a very specific way after being contaminated by ducks. Many times, they have to be drained first. Due to California’s historic drought, swimming pools that are drained cannot be refilled. Those cute webbed-footed waddlers can cause your pool to be eliminated from the summer fun list this season.
In fact, the Orange County Department of Health can simply shut your pool down by declaring it unsafe for human activity. And this applies to the pool decking as well. Pool maintenance companies are responsible for suggesting products such as “Duck Off,” signs, and shiny objects that are deterrents to ducks that are looking for a place to land, but they are not responsible for residents who feed and encourage them to stick around. In addition, the duck feces and feathers that are deposited on the pool decking is not the responsibility of your pool maintenance company. Associations have to hire a company that specializes in decking maintenance to clean and maintain those areas. Obviously, this adds an expense for homeowners and residents.
“Another issue that is common at pools is that ducks are a protected species of bird and cannot be physically moved,” said Warren. It is much easier to discourage ducks from taking up residence in an area than it is rid the area of the ducks after they have been fed and nurtured by well-meaning people. “Many pool operators place items in or around the pool to discourage ducks from congregating in the pool,” said Warren.
By feeding the ducks, we are derailing their natural abilities to hunt for and gather food. We are interfering with and disabling their instincts. They stop looking for ponds and lakes, and simply forget how to feed themselves from the natural food sources these environments provide. In addition, many times the food residents provide in an effort to “help” the ducks is actually very bad for them to ingest.
As ducks are migratory birds, they map out their routes south and back every year. They will remember which pools and ponds to return to for food and shelter year after year. In addition, they tell all their friends about all the great places to stay and your duck population will swell each year. This creates an even bigger problem as ducks are protected in the state of California and cannot be moved once they take up residence.