Don’t feed the ducks in Pearland; feds say property owners can shoot them

This will ruffle some feathers

PEARLAND, Texas – The city of Pearland is encouraging residents to temporarily become duck hunters to help decrease the growing Muscovy duck population.

Muscovy duck, known for their red, warty-spotted faces and varying black, white and brown plumage, are becoming a nuisance for the city, especially the West Oaks and Westwood Village neighborhoods.

Despite Pearland being a bird sanctuary, a federal control order says landowners and homeowner's associations can eliminate the duck as seen fit within legal parameters. The order also says the public has the authority to rid Muscovy duck nests, eggs and hybrids on their property without the requirement of a permit.

The Federal Order permits the destruction of the ducks. The destruction is not mandated unless the duck is captured and not released.

Here's what HOAs and landowners can do:

- Capture the Muscovy ducks - Kill the Muscovy ducks - Hire an agent to capture or kill the ducks - If the duck is not killed, it must be transported to Hidalgo, Starr or Zapata County. These three counties are the only counties in Texas and the U.S. where the duck may not be destroyed and can be released.

Note that in Pearland city limits, the discharge of a firearm is generally illegal. If a duck is destroyed where use of a firearm is permissible, the person doing so much use nontoxic shot or nontoxic bullets. Once the duck is captured and killed, they must be disposed of through burial or incineration.

Here's what HOAs, landowners, residents, visitors and agents cannot do:

- To capture, destruct, harass the duck at a place or on a property they do not own - The agent has not received permission from the HOA/landowner - Keep, consume, sell or offer to sell the duck, or release the duck in another location with the exception of releasing in Hidalgo, Starr or Zapata County. - Participate in the take of a native species - The take of a duck other than a Muscovy can lead to charges. HOAs, landowners and their agents must be certain they are destroying the Muscovy species. Accidental takings can damage native populations.

In the event of an accidental take of another species, the accidental take must be reported to the Fish and Wildlife Service or Ecological Services Office for the state/location for the occurrence.

Those who do not find an issue with the ducks are still prohibited from feeding them, including Muscovy ducks. Feeding the ducks can result in criminal charges or civil penalties.

The city's Animal Services department will not be involved in the capture or killing of the Muscovy ducks. The job to do so would fall outside Animal Services' mission and could require a substantial amount of public resources.

Animal Services said will also continue to investigate cases of animal cruelty and unlawful animal killings, including those involving the Muscovy ducks.

What residents are saying

“It’s getting worse again,” said Blake Wunder, who lives in the Westwood Village area of Pearland, where hundreds of Muscovy have been found in recent years.

“There would be 12 ducks at a time going at just my trash,” Wunder said. “Not just at my house, but throughout the neighborhood.”

After trying to get rid of the ducks in other ways, Wunder consulted with the city attorney and police chief and decided to buy a BB gun rifle.

“I started a couple of years ago using a BB gun to try to eliminate them myself while they’re actually at my trash at my property,” he said.

The federal law says you must either burn or bury Muscovy ducks that you kill. Wunder burns them.

“I don’t take pleasure in it. I wish I didn’t have to,” Wunder said.

The proud owner of three cats and a dog, Wunder described himself as an animal lover.

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