No answers in duck deaths

WAILUA — Near the end of September, Kilauea resident and avid golfer Barbara Trombley visited Wailua Golf Course to feed some domestic ducks dumped in the area.

She plays the course twice a week and keeps an eye on the birds. During the last week in September she dropped by the ducks to feed them one morning and found most of them dead, some still dying.

“It was horrific. I didn’t even take any pictures,” Trombley said in a Monday interview with The Garden Island. “I feed those ducks on a regular basis and I think someone poisoned them the night before.”

Wailua Golf Course is managed by County of Kauai’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Officials from DOPR say they didn’t receive any reports about the incident, but confirmed 11 ducks were found dead between the 10th and 11th tee during the week of Sept. 23-27.

Officials said all the ducks were found during early morning hours.

“It appears to staff that the incidents are occurring in the late afternoon or night hours,” DOPR said in a statement to TGI. “From golf course staff, the ducks appeared to have physical injuries (broken wings). Proper protocol for non-endangered dead animals found on the golf course is to bury them. All the ducks were buried as they were found.”

Staff said no poisoning of the ducks was observed by golf course staff and the incident appears to be isolated.

There were two groups of ducks that frequented the area between the two tees on the golf course, a group of white domestic ducks and a group of black domestic ducks. Trombley says they weren’t aggressive and didn’t get in the way of play.

“They just cruise around,” she said.

She also expressed concerns that the ducks weren’t the only ones affected — endangered and native waterbirds frequent the area, as well.

Those species are monitored by the golf course management in conjunction with state wildlife agencies. Annual surveys are conducted by wildlife biologists and golf course staff. Supervisors perform continuous daily monitoring of known species on the course. State wildlife is notified if and when an endangered species is found on the course, according to DOPR.

One theory is the ducks came into contact with chemicals on the golf course, but County of Kauai says a strict policy is kept when it comes to fertilization and pesticide application. That policy has been “common practice” for the past 15 years, according to DOPR.

“No restricted use chemicals are applied at the golf course. All applications are compliant with the instructions on the labels,” DOPR staff said. “Chemicals (herbicides) are currently used for spot spraying and not applied on a broad scale.”

Shocked by the sight, Trombley wrote to TGI in a letter to the editor published after the event. In the letter, she details the event, shames the unknown person or persons that had a hand in it, and asks anyone who knows the perpetrator to talk some sense into them.

“I wrote that so if anyone knew who it was, they could tell them that it’s not cool,” Trombley said. “So that (people would) be aware and start talking and someone wouldn’t do that again.”

3 Comments
  1. Dawg2000 October 8, 2019 5:48 am Reply

    It’s avian botulism, guarantee. Ducks are especially susceptible, especially ducks hanging out next to a small warm pond where bacteria can breed easily. It causes paralysis and death a couple days later, which explains the ducks struggling to breathe almost dead on the side of the pond.


  2. Kauaidoug October 8, 2019 7:40 am Reply

    Has anyone thought to test the water? This is terrible.


  3. iKauai October 8, 2019 11:24 am Reply

    Barbara Trombley, have you notified DLNR about this? The reason I ask is on the north shore, in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge there has been an outbreak of avian botulism in the wetlands there with bird deaths attributed to that disease.


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