Ducklings keep getting stuck in fish ladder at Sullivans Pond

‘Ducklings in the river can’t be Dartmouth’s cat-up-a-tree call for the fire department’

The ducklings were staying close to their mother and away from the fish gate on Friday morning. (Emma Davie/CBC)
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Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency is calling it Duckgate.

Baby ducks have been getting stuck in a fish ladder at Dartmouth’s Sullivans Pond — and people are calling Station 13 on King Street to come to the rescue.

“Ducklings in the river can’t be Dartmouth’s cat-up-a-tree call for the fire department all the time,” said Coun. Sam Austin.

Firefighters from Station 13 attempt to help ducklings caught in the fish gate at Sullivans Pond last month.(Submitted by Stephanie Keddy)

The fish ladder provides a pathway for fish to travel easily to other bodies of water. It’s also a beautiful addition for those who frequent the park.

“Through practice you discover your design flaws and one of the pieces in the fish ladder that no one thought about fully is what would happen to ducklings when they get to the other side,” Austin said.

He said the lip of the fish ladder is too high for the ducks to hop over, plus there is a strong current. “It’s perfect for fish, but it’s too strong for ducklings,” said Austin.

The ducklings appear to be unable to get back out of the fish gate once they’ve gone into it. (Submitted by Stephanie Keddy)

But while passersby are calling with concerns about the ducks, it’s the people that the city and fire department are worried about.

“We’ve witnessed the ducks going down over the slide,” said Chuck Bezanson, a Halifax Fire assistant chief. “I think it’s almost like a fun park for them and they come running right back up.

“So, we respond because we’re more concerned residents will try to rescue the ducks and maybe … hurt themselves in the process.”

Bezanson said the fire department has been in touch with Hope for Wildlife to try to find a solution because it can’t be left up to the firefighters.

“Anytime that you take a firefighter and occupy him with a non-essential duty, you run the risk that the firefighter won’t be available to respond to someone when they do need them for a life-safety type of event,” he said.

Coun. Sam Austin says the city is looking at possible solutions to make the fish gate more duck friendly.(Robert Short/CBC)

A spokesperson for Halifax Water said potential solutions are being reviewed.

Austin said it’s still in the early stages, but he doesn’t think netting would work because debris from the river would get caught.

He said someone would have to regularly check to make sure it wasn’t clogged. But he said retrofitting may be an option.

“It’s not an easy fix because it’s already built,” Austin said.

The city and the fire department are urging citizens to stay out of the water.

“We all love the ducklings, but do not go in the river yourself,” Austin said. “The fire department is the appropriate one to call.”

Bezanson said the department isn’t worried about the ducklings — their mother, or Mother Nature, will figure it out.

But for now the firefighters are taking the calls like water off a duck’s back.

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