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Can Central Park drivers, ducks and geese coexist?

PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE–STAR
A family of geese crosses Carl D. Silver Parkway in Central Park. The growing population of ducks and geese in ponds in the Fredericksburg commercial center has raised safety concerns for both drivers trying to avoid the waterfowl and the birds themselves.

After learning that a goose had been hit on Tuesday near her Central Park office, Leila Kilgore wasn’t having any of it when, later in the day, drivers started honking at a family of geese that were meandering across the four-lane road in the Fredericksburg retail hub.

So she walked out of her office off Central Park Boulevard and stopped traffic until the geese were safe.

“We had a bad day out here,” said Kilgore, a personal injury lawyer with Kilgore & Smith.

The goose and duck populations have recently increased in Central Park with new additions to the families.

Kilgore said she has noticed other indicators of the increase in the waterfowl population.

“I’ve never seen so much goose poop around the office,” she said.

While Kilgore said she’s no tree-hugger, she thinks drivers need to have more respect for the ducks and geese that call the ponds in Central Park home.

“Literally, that few moments they have to wait,” she said of drivers, “it pisses them off.”

She said there should be more signs warning motorists of the waterfowl.

Tom Worthy, a game warden and animal control officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department, said there doesn’t seem to be a big problem of the waterfowl being hit by cars in Central Park. But he agrees there are things people can do to cut down on incidents.

Although Central Park is full of stores and restaurants, there also are eight ponds and other wildlife habitat for geese and ducks, as well as heron, cranes and foxes, Worthy said.

He estimates that there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of ducks and geese living in the area.

“For the amount of ducks and geese there, I think we’re kind of lucky” there aren’t more hit, Worthy said.

Some of the interactions are deadly for the waterfowl, but many aren’t.

Worthy responded to the Tuesday incident to check on the goose.

“The goose hit is OK,” he said. “It’s swimming in the pond next to Chuck E. Cheese’s. It’s a little disheveled, but living.”

The wildlife “have learned to adapt,” he added. “The problem lies with us, the people.”

He said there are things drivers, and people in general, can do to avoid mishaps with the waterfowl.

One regards feeding.

Too many people, he said, feed the birds in the parking lots or close to the road. Instead, he suggested simply throwing the food, often bread, into the ponds. It keeps the birds away from cars, and moist bread is easier to digest.

The other problem is speeding.

“If people could slow down, that would help more than anything,” he said. “Especially in the springtime, if people would just slow down.”

Worthy said police do their best to enforce the speed limits in Central Park, but they can’t be there around the clock.

Unfortunately, sometimes drivers can’t avoid the animals, he said.

As with wildlife situations on any other road, Worthy said, it often isn’t advisable to stop or swerve in order to avoid hitting the animals. That could lead to a serious crash and injuries to people.

“It is illegal to purposely run over wildlife, but human life comes first,” he said. “It’s not safe to slam on the brakes. That could cause a two- or three-car pileup.”

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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