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Waterfowl death under investigation

November 06, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - She called them her boys.

Tamara Roush still was crying hours after learning Friday that 28 ducks and geese that lived at Poor House Farm Park were killed. Roush, 40, of Martinsburg, was one of the many people who had forged an emotional connection with the waterfowl.

"They were friends of mine," said Roush, who fed the birds and picked up trash at the park that was, for her, a place to meditate and connect with nature.

The waterfowl did not die naturally, but a cause of death has not yet been determined, according to the officer investigating the case.

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Sgt. Tom Stuckey with the Division of Natural Resources said the bodies of the ducks and geese were sent to the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., to be examined. He said he had not heard of any results by Friday afternoon.

"From their appearance, it looks as though it wasn't a natural cause," Stuckey said.

A visitor to the park notified the DNR of the dead waterfowl Wednesday evening. When officers arrived at the park Thursday morning, they found 12 dead Canada geese, six dead wild mallards and 10 dead domestic ducks, Stuckey said.

A few were floating in the pond, and the bodies of the rest appeared to have been tossed into an adjacent wooded area, Stuckey said.

Visitors to the park often brought bread with them to feed to the ducks and geese. At a wedding at a gazebo by the pond a month ago, the waterfowl were uninvited, but welcomed, guests who honked their way through parts of the ceremony.

On Friday afternoon the park, which also is the site of walking trails and youth football and soccer fields, was quiet. The pond and its edges were deserted, save for three small ducks huddled together underneath a footbridge.

Roush said she never had seen those three ducks before and believed they likely were new.

When she first started visiting the park three years ago, there were three ducks there - two mallards and a white duck. They must have been among those killed because they did not come Friday when Roush called for them, she said.

This summer, a Chinese brown goose came to the park and laid eggs, with four ducklings full-grown the last time Roush saw them, she said. They, too, were gone Friday.

If anyone is arrested, Roush said she plans to attend the trial to see the face or faces of someone who could kill such creatures. She also plans to hold a vigil for the ducks and geese on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at the park.

"It was just a senseless act of cruelty that makes me ashamed to be a member of the human race," Roush said.

Dennis Barron, president of the board of directors for Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation, said the ducks and geese were not put there by park officials, but made their way to the pond naturally.

The number of waterfowl that called the park home grew since a spring-fed pond on the property was enlarged four or five years ago, said Barron, who has been on the board for 23 years.

"It's pretty disgusting," said Barron, who added he hopes those responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Barron said he's not sure whether Parks & Recreation will introduce any waterfowl to the park. It's likely no action will be taken until after winter, if at all, he said.

"I suspect the ducks and geese may naturally return," he said.

Anyone with information may call the Martinsburg Division of Natural Resources office at 304-267-0037.

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