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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: August 8, 2003
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

FEEDING MIGRATORY WATERFOWL HARMFUL TO BIRDS AND ENVIRONMENT; DEM EXPANDS BAN ON PRACTICE

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife has adopted regulations banning the feeding of migratory wildfowl throughout the state. The regulations expand the previous ban, which was limited to state parks and management areas. The regulations, which take effect on August 27, were discussed at a public hearing in June.

"While many people have fond memories of feeding bread to ducks in the park, the practice unfortunately has harmful effects," said Lori Gibson, DEM supervising wildlife biologist. "As is often the case when humans interact with wildlife, problems often arise when humans feed waterfowl. The birds become more tame than wild, and they begin to rely on humans as a food source. And, a diet of bread can also be fatal to waterfowl. When they gorge themselves on bread they stop eating their natural foods, which are more nutritious, and so they become malnourished."

Gibson outlined several other problems that can occur:

  • Concentrations of waterfowl near highways and airports have the potential to cause fatal interactions with cars and airplanes.


  • Large numbers of waterfowl flock to a limited supply of handouts, resulting in overcrowding for less nutritious, unnatural foods and the spread of fatal diseases among the flock.


  • Waterfowl become more susceptible to attack by domestic dogs and harassment by children and others who see them as a nuisance.


  • Flocks of birds can become nuisances, causing damage to parks, golf courses and other recreational areas by defecating on the grass.
Birds can also become a water quality issue because of the high levels of fecal coliform and nitrogen in their waste. A successful "Don't Feed the Birds" program has been operating for several years at DEM's World War II Veterans Memorial Park in Woonsocket, where flocks of birds had previously caused water quality problems.

DEM's Division of Water Resources has developed an informational brochure that explains the dangers to both the birds and to the environment from feeding the waterfowl. The brochure points out that high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the water cause beach closures and the prohibition of shellfishing in certain areas. This pollution directly affects the enjoyment of local waters and impairs the livelihood of local shellfishermen.

The brochure can be found on DEM's website, www.dem.ri.gov, by clicking on "Publications", then "Brochures/Fact Sheets". Brochures are also available by calling DEM's Office of Technical and Customer Assistance at 222-6822. For questions about waterfowl, contact DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife Great Swamp field office at 789-0281. Water quality concerns can be directed to DEM's Office of Water Resources at 222-3961.

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