Egg-sterminate!

PUBLISHED: 13:04 06 April 2006 | UPDATED: 11:39 04 May 2010

HUNDREDS of Muscovy duck eggs could be destroyed to cope with a breeding bonanza that is causing traffic problems and rat infestation. East Cambs District Council has launched a duck hotline which it hopes will encourage people living near the river in

HUNDREDS of Muscovy duck eggs could be destroyed to cope with a "breeding bonanza" that is causing traffic problems and rat infestation.

East Cambs District Council has launched a duck hotline which it hopes will encourage people living near the river in Ely to call and report nesting sites in their gardens. Environmental health officers will then carry out a programme of oiling the bird's eggs to prevent the embryos from forming.

They say the measures are necessary to curb an explosion in the number of ducks in recent years and hope to halve the number of birds over the coming years. The fertile eggs will be reduced with the application of medicinal paraffin oil, which the RSPCA has said is the most humane way to control bird numbers.

Principal environmental health officer Liz Knox told the Ely Standard: "People are getting fed up with the amount of fouling that's happening, and these complaints have increased two to three-fold this year."

The district council claims the birds represent a hazard for road users and are causing rat infestation where people are leaving bread for them.

"The last two winters have been mild and this has brought about a duck breeding bonanza," environmental health officer Claire Finlayson said.

"We now have to bring the duck population down to a manageable size by reducing the number of fertile eggs."

Officers say the numbers of Muscovy ducks at the riverside has increased four-fold in two years, and that this over-population could lead to the animals becoming unhealthy and diseased.

An RSPCA spokesperson said the organisation supported the process of oiling the eggs, provided that the correct oil was used.

"The shells of the eggs are permeable and allow oxygen through - medicinal paraffin seals the shell so the oxygen doesn't get through and the embryo doesn't develop."

"The legal status of Muscovy ducks is a bit of a grey area as they aren't covered by the general licence to kill or take certain species to prevent serious damage or disease. So the question arises as to whether the district council has a special licence from Defra to control these ducks."

A spokesman for the district council assured the Ely Standard that the authority has the necessary paperwork.

Local bird enthusiast John Geraghty, of Annesdale, said that while he understood that the bird population must be reduced he questioned the district council's methods.

"It is too late to oil the eggs," he said. "There are already mothers and babies around Ely."

Mr Geraghty also said he did not expect the council's duck hotline to be successful because many residents in Ely are fond of the ducks.

A snap survey of residents revealed that many residents have positive feelings towards the ducks.

"The ducks don't bother me at all," Castelhythe resident Mary Waterfall said. "They're not the most beautiful of animals but they are learning not to hold up the traffic."

Melanie Gow, also of Castelhythe, said: "I think the ducks are at a nice level now and I don't think they are a problem - they're quite unusual.

Duck breeder Michael Tuck, of Annesdale, said he had lived with the ducks for 30 years and said he did not think they were a nuisance.

"They've got to control them but the ducks are a feature of Ely," he said. "They do make a mess," he said, but so do the crows in the area.

One resident said he has heard rumours that the district council would soon cull the birds in a clandestine operation overnight, without alerting residents, but the district council has categorically stated that the rumour is untrue.

"We all love to see the ducks in Ely," Liz Knox said.

"But we have seen a reduction in the different types of wildfowl because of the Muscovy ducks - we are aiming to manage the duck population in the long-term."

INFO: To report ducks nesting in a garden, contact the council on 01353 616284.

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