Amei Francesco-Folsom arrived home on a Thursday afternoon to find blood all over the streets in her Palm Springs, Fla., neighborhood. Her husband, Greg, informed her the blood was from neighborhood ducks and she subsequently called her town’s maintenance department to have it cleaned.
However, she soon discovered it wasn’t there by accident. The Lakewood residential community is removing ducks — violently.
In late-November, men dressed in dark blue, carrying guns and orange buckets started walking through the neighborhood. They work for Allstar Animal Removal, a licensed wildlife removal company contracted by the homeowners association. It is not clear what type of guns were used.
Their job is pretty straightforward: shoot and remove the Muscovy ducks — a nonnative species from Central and South America with black and white feathers and red waddles.
“I came home and saw blood everywhere,” Francesco-Folsom, who has lived in Lakewood since 2003, said. “I’m beyond upset about this situation.”
It’s unclear why the development felt the need to kill the ducks although there had apparently been complaints.
“They explained to us that people were complaining of their kids slipping on (duck) poop in the playground and on the sidewalks,” homeowner Aaron Nagler told The Palm Beach Post. “As a resident of Lakewood it bothered me to see two guys chasing a duck around with one holding what appeared to be a rifle in his hand.”
According to Nagler, Francesco-Folsom and her mother-in-law, Lenore Folsom Slimbock, who owns the Folsom family’s Lakewood property, residents were not notified about the plans to kill the ducks.
“For a few members to make this kind of decision without notifying the residents was totally unfair,” Francesco-Folsom said. “I want this to stop. These innocent animals do not harm or bother anyone.”
The Palm Beach Post reached out to GRS Management, the Lakewood property managers, as well as homeowners association president Larry Barnhart for comment, but have not heard back as of publication time.
Nagler took a video of two of the Allstar Animal Removal employees trailing a duck waddling down a sidewalk.
“It’s the only way we can guarantee they don’t come back,” one Allstar employee responded after being asked if they were going to kill the ducks.
But Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, disagrees.
“The removal and killing of ducks is not a long-term solution for ‘problems’ posted by Muscovy ducks, nor is it humane,” Atwood told The Palm Beach Post in an email. “Round-up efforts can terrorize these gentle birds. Birds are often injured in the process.”
The Palm Beach Post reached out to Allstar Animal Removal for comment but have not heard back as of publication time.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Muscovy ducks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty act, but a control order issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supersedes that protection. The control order (USFWS 50 CFR 21.54) allows Muscovy ducks, their nests and eggs located within areas outside their natural range — including Florida — to be controlled. Further, the ducks can legally be killed by a firearm, on private property during daylight hours, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states.
But even though Nagler understands the legality behind the killings, he doesn’t agree with the process.
“I think the way it was done was inhumane and unprofessional,” Nagler said. “We can’t have guys running around the neighborhood with a gun in hand shooting ducks.”
Atwood says Nagler’s right — there is another way.
“The most humane way to reduce a duck population, or to keep Muscovy ducks from reaching nuisance numbers, is to remove newly laid eggs,” he said. Atwood told The Post that the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida would “be happy to work with the Lakewood HOA to institute an egg collection plan.”
Another long term solution Atwood suggested is a feeding ban.
“If properly enforced, including erecting signs alerting residents to the rule and the reasons behind it, could also help reduce the population and prevent complaints of nuisance ducks,” he said.
PETA Associate Director Sarah Preston agreed.
“Shooting or otherwise violently removing ducks is a misguided approach to addressing any perceived problem,” Preston told The Palm Beach Post. “The only effective, permanent way to keep waterfowl away from areas where they’re not wanted is to make the habitat unattractive or inaccessible to them through a reduced food supply or with repellents, deterrents, fencing, or other humane strategies.”
Nagler posted his video to a private Lake Worth neighborhood group on Facebook, where it quickly garnered over 400 comments from locals. Like Francesco-Folsom and Nagler, some residents were distressed, while others recognized the methodology.
“This is a way better alternative to them getting run over in the Publix Shopping Plaza which I have seen many many times,” one user commented. “There [are] muscovies running rampant, pooping all over everything, blocking the road, making the outside of the house smell awful,” said another.
One group-member opted to compare the actual birds to another non-native species — snowbirds. “Yankees are invasive and a nuisance too,” they wrote. “Population of Floridians is dwindling and being replaced with snowbirds. I don’t see them being rounded up and removed.”
According to one of the employees recorded in Nagler’s video, the duck removal process will take about a month. “It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “We’ll be here off and on, you’ll see us around.”