Long Beach duck pond closure leaves birds in danger

The multi-million dollar renovation at Long Beach’s popular El Dorado Park Duck Pond is finally on its way. 

Fences are going up so the pond could be drained and the surface made safer for animals and humans.

There are plans to do many improvements, but one crossroad has been dealing with the ponds’ feathered residents. About 50 of the birds can’t fly. Some were injured by being tangled by the fishing line left by parkgoers. Others are dumped as domestic fowl, like Pekin and Muscovy, usually sold during Easter time as ducklings, and then dumped in local lakes and ponds.

Those animals were bred for meat and like chickens, their wings are too small and weak to support their weight. 

"My concern is that coyotes will come in, once the fence is up, and finish up those poor birds," says one of a small group of volunteers who are trying to capture and move the domestic foul, under the supervision of Long Beach Animal Services. 

The volunteers fear they will not have enough time to move the animals since the fence is supposed to be up by next week and the pond draining will begin. 

Adding to their concern is that California Fish and Wildlife is overseeing the project, specifically when it comes to removing the migratory birds, like some of the geese. 

The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the take – including the killing, capturing, selling, trading and transport – of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization from the Department of Interior US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

According to Frederick Rieman of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Long Beach did not get those permits in a timely manner. Rieman issued the following statement: 

"The Department of Fish and Wildlife granted the City of Long Beach their permit in 2016.  It’s unfortunate that the City did not implement the project until the their permit expired.  We are doing all we can at this time to support the City in moving forward with their project in a way that will be protective of the State’s wildlife". 

The permitting process is long and difficult but meant to protect wildlife, adds Rieman. 

Long Beach city officials say they do have an Environmental Company working on the permits, but we did put them in contact with permitted trained bird relocation specialists, who have been successful in other projects like this. 

Brent Dennis, the Director of Parks for the city is promising that he will work with the community saying that even after the fence is up, Animals Services will oversee the relocation of as many birds as possible, by working with the "many concerned and valuable volunteers who are willing to help relocate the birds, and other animals."

Other animals, like the many turtles, live in the lake. Like the ducks are dumped by owners who no longer want to keep them. They will die if the pond is emptied, so the plan is to move as many as possible to the parks nature center, and to begin an adopt a turtle program. 

As soon as we get those details we will pass them on. As to the birds, we know the residents and activists who first reached out to FOX 11 will keep us updated. It does seem that the city is trying to avoid what would be a nightmare for a city that is well known for being one of the most animal friendliest in the country. 

"We will keep our eye on this, and let’s hope that the agencies involved in this remain committed to "working together" as they tell us, and that the renovation of the duck pond works for all the ducks that live there.