Webb Park advised visitors not to feed the ducks, other wildlife

Visitors to Rancho Bernardo’s Webb Park are being reminded not to feed the ducks and other birds because doing so is harmful to wildlife.

“It is bad for the animals who are supposed to be wild, bad for the park, the lake, everything,” said Ron Bamberger, president of the Bernardo Town Center Property Owners Association.

The association, which consists of businesses throughout the area that surrounds Webb Park, owns the private park and a man-made lake that is open to the public. It goes back as a community amenity to at least the 1970s.

Bamberger said there are signs posted around the lake saying not to feed the birds, but they have been ignored. While some people bring a small bag of bread crumbs or bird seed when they visit, one man has repeatedly brought 10-pound and larger bags of seed to the park, he said.

The man has been asked multiple times not to feed the birds, Bamberger said, and recently was sent a letter from the association’s attorney reiterating the danger such action poses to the wildlife. Additional legal action could be taken if the behavior continues, he said.

Birds and wildlife can be harmed in multiple ways when people feed them, according to officials from San Diego Humane Society’s Project Wildlife. Feeding them is also against state law.

Fred Addesso, Project Wildlife’s Care Center supervisor, said state officials do not want the public interfering with the natural behavior patterns of the creatures.

“Ducks, raccoons, it modifies their behavior and impairs their survival in the wild,” Addesso said.

Ducks and other wild birds have made Webb Park and its lake their home in Rancho Bernardo.

(Elizabeth Marie Himchak)

While many people see tossing out bread crumbs and bird seeds as harmless and even helpful, it is not.

“It is a bad idea on two different levels,” said Heather Schneider, health education outreach coordinator at Project Wildlife. “Ducks do not get the proper nutrients biologically. They need to eat what is in nature, not bread crumbs and bird seed.”

Feeding birds an improper diet can shorten their lifespans due to malnutrition, she said. The birds receive “empty carbs” and end up with gastrointestinal tract problems.

“It is important for wildlife to remain wild,” Schneider said. “People think it is cute and fun, but it is really harmful for the ducks.”

When birds and other wildlife start to rely on people for their food, they stop looking for it in nature as intended, she said.

“It also habituates them to humans, which is what we do not want wildlife to do,” Schneider said. “Ideally, you want to socially distance — six to 10 feet — not encourage them to approach.”

Schneider said there can also be a health risk to people. For example, avian flu can be passed on to humans. Right now, there are no known local cases in the bird population, she added.

Webb Lake has also become the home of turtles that were dropped off there by locals, something else they are not supposed to do, Bamberger said.

“It has become a place where people bring their unwanted pets,” he said. “The turtles there are not indigenous. A lot of them were brought in. We don’t want your pets either.”

Addesso said if people have a turtle they can no longer keep, the best course of action is to contact the San Diego Turtle and Tortoise Society. For details, visit sdturtle.org or call 619-593-2123.

“The community has demonstrated its love for Webb Park and Lake,” Bamberger said. “We want to keep it nice and we share that love.”

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