It wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t the most well-oiled machine, but a team of more than a dozen volunteers, got the job done nonetheless – braving seemingly-bottomless mud, snapping turtle-infested water, and the constant threat of downpours to rescue seven ducks, several turtles, and more than 330 pounds of fish from Friends Pond in Forest Hill on May 14.
In advance of a six-month project that will see Friends Pond drained, graded, and completely recontoured and rebuilt, the Susquehannock Wildlife Society organized and coordinated, in conjuction with the Harford County Departments of Parks and Recreation and Public Works and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the effort to rescue the reptiles and waterfowl, and make sure the fish which weren’t able to be saved, didn’t go to waste.
Susquehannock Wildlife Society members arrived at the pond at 6 a.m. to assess the situation and capture the ducks before too many people arrived. Two hours later, after some coaxing and feeding, some sprinting and kayaking, some cursing and splashing, the domestic ducks (four Pekin and one Swedish) were all safely contained in pet carriers and out of the way of the impending fish salvage. All seven domestic ducks were relocated to a Churchville farm pond and are doing well.
Several turtles (large snapping turtles and painted turtles) were moved out of the soon-to-be-waterless pond and carried over the berm and silt fencing to the stream on the other side.
The unsung heroes of the day were Comer Construction worker Ron Huber and his son, Daniel. The father and son team showed up early in the morning, ostensibly just to check that the pump hadn’t become clogged. But before long, both father and son had joined the rescue effort – Daniel helped wrangle and catch the ducks, while Ron fired up his excavation equipment to speed up the pond drainage by uncovering a blocked pipe. Ron later left the scene and returned with pallets and other materials, which were used to create a makeshift dock allowing volunteers to reach the water’s edge without being mired in the mud.
Also showing up early and lending an arm and a leg were brothers Tom and Chris Shueler. The Shuelers are owners of a manmade ornamental lined pond which was pre-approved by DNR as a release point for the large koi. But the brothers went the extra mile to help – Tom arrived before sunrise to help round-up the ducks and Chris literally took a plunge into the pond at one point to help round up the fish. Both left muddy and happy.
At the end of the day, thousands of fish had been removed from the pond by some combination of net, hand, and kayak and loaded into coolers on the shore. By order of DNR, the fish could not be relocated or released into another natural body of water. Rather than go to waste, however, Kathy Woods and volunteers from Phoenix Wildlife Center picked up the fish, which will be fed to the numerous bald eagles, osprey, and other fish-eating wildlife being rehabilitated at the center.
Species identified included:
– Multiple species of sunfish, mostly green – none over 3 inches
– Brown bullhead catfish – 4 to 8 inches, average size – 5 inches
– Four large bullhead and channel catfish – 12, 7.5, 5, and 4 pounds, actual weights
– Golden shiners
– Two rainbow trout
– Four koi – approximately 20 to 25 inches
– Two common carp – 16 and 14 pounds, actual weights.
– 30 other goldfish (comets, shubunkins) – all approximately 8 inches
Total approximate weight of recovered fish, not including the four koi was 333.5 pounds
The Susquehannock Wildlife Society would like to thank the Hubers, the Shuelers, Kathy Woods and her volunteers from Phoenix Wildlife Society, the officials from Harford County Parks and Recreation and Public Works and DNR, as well as all the other volunteers who showed up to lend a hand.
If you’d like to volunteer for future rescue efforts or sign up for wildlife news, please visit http://www.suskywildlife.org
Photography by Scott McDaniel