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In Dunedin, a war is brewing over messy Muscovy ducks

DUNEDIN — From his back yard, next to his pot of dead impatiens, Clark Mattice watched his enemy waddle.

A Muscovy duck had flown onto his roof. A few dozen others sat plopped along the edge of his retention pond. These ducks, he said, had scared the herons away, had gobbled his anthuriums, had coated his dock with dung. He wanted them gone.

"Here, I'm going to show you how they fly," he said, hoisting himself onto the crook of a tree. He slung a twig at his roof and watched it thud off his gutter. The duck leapt in retreat and glided to the water.

"You see them everywhere," Mattice said, his eyes following the duck into the afternoon sun. "They're taking over."

Lazy Lake subdivision, some said, is under siege. Residents said the ducks stink up their yards, kill property values and, at a city meeting Monday, one woman said she feared they could transmit chlamydia.

But not all neighbors agree on a solution to, as Mattice called it, the "duck problem," or that there's even a problem at all. The ducks eat mosquito larvae and fertilize the yards, residents said. Why not just leave them alone?

"They each have their own personality," resident Trudy Koch said. "I talk to them. I say, 'You're safe here. You can stay.' "

In recent weeks, the disagreement has grown heated. Neighbors accused neighbors of feeding the ducks. They took photos of ducks sitting near doorsteps for evidence. They said residents were siccing dogs on the ducks or clobbering them with bats or shooting them with guns.

"Some of these people take it upon themselves to control the population," resident Steve Gaimari said Thursday, pacing his living room. "I live next to somebody who believes he can decide which ones live, which ones die."

Those who don't like the ducks have researched their options. The ducks are a nonnative nuisance, not protected wildlife, and, Mattice said, if the residents wanted they could trap the ducks and slit their throats or wring their necks, as long as it was quick and humane. He added, though, that nobody seemed too excited about that option.

They also learned that, if they smash the eggs, the ducks will just lay more. But that if they shake the eggs, the ducks will wait for the dead eggs to hatch. It would at least save residents from another brood, though nobody seemed to want to wait that long for things to change.

Resident Stacy Rush said the whole thing was ridiculous at best and animal cruelty at worst.

"Yes, the ducks poo-poo on your grass. Yes, the ducks poo-poo on your driveway," Rush said. "You rinse it off. You go on."

The city has stepped in, as it did when peacocks filled the Dunedin Cemetery two years back, and offered to help pay to relocate the ducks. Over the next six weeks, for about $25 a bird, trapper Vergil Morgan will grab, trap and ship the unharmed ducks to people who want them in Brandon and Inverness.

There's a little under 100 of the "cute little things," Morgan said Friday. He plans on leaving about a third.

The city will ask residents in Lazy Lake, which is off Lazy Lake Road, whether they'd like to chip in on the trapping cost.

"We're trying to keep both sides happy," said planning and development director Greg Rice. "I would hate to have to club a duck."

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

In Dunedin, a war is brewing over messy Muscovy ducks 03/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 13, 2010 1:20pm]
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