Duck death at Hastings Park pond blamed on fishing hook

A female mallard duck injured by an abandoned fishing hook last week at the Hastings Park pond has been euthanized.

PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance confirmed the duck was put down after staff at Burnaby-based WRA Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. had the bird X-rayed and deemed there was too much damage to its wing to save it.

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Balance said initially the PNE was told it was suspected the mallard was suffering from an ailment known as "wing droop," so rescue staff started the bird on a course of antibiotics and expected to it be released back into the wild after a couple of days.

Last week, Ballance told the Courier that in response to a message left on the city's 311 service line, PNE and park board staff managed to capture the mallard Wednesday and remove the hook. They transported the duck to the rescue facility.

Last week Sean McCann, a biology student living near Hastings Park, spotted the bird with a fish hook through its wing and contacted the Courier. At the time McCann suspected the wing was broken.

He said the stray hook is one of many he's seen at the park since the Urban Fishing Program launched this spring.

On May 23, the last of 900 sterilized rainbow trout were released into the Sanctuary pond. The program is a joint project between the PNE, the city and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.

In June, Mike Gass, outreach coordinator for the Victoria-based Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., said once the pond was stocked, fishing season was open to anyone 16 and older with a valid freshwater fishing licence.

This week, Gass said the society will continue to have ambassadors walk the area to educate anglers on the rules and regulations, as well as looking for any loose fishing line or other problems.

"We will also continue to deliver learn-to-fish programs at the park with a strong focus on conservation, targeting youth and their families that are new to fishing," Gass wrote in an email.

He added fishing is limited to the platform on the north end of the lake to help minimize any potential impact on other wildlife. As well, new permanent signs are being installed around the pond in areas where fishing is not permitted. Those signs are in addition to the "rules" sign already installed by the dock.

The Courier reported in June that the Hastings Park Conservancy, Friends of Hastings Park and some residents were unhappy with the fishing plan. A main concern was that abandoned fishhooks would endanger some of the hundreds of migrating birds that frequent the pond. There were also concerns the increased noise and human activity would be disruptive to ducks and other aquatic birds nesting on the secluded north end of the pond.

McCann suspects the duck became snagged on a fishhook and broke its wing attempting to free itself.

"This unfortunate bird is probably only one of many that have been or will be adversely affected by this change in the way the park is used," McCann wrote on his blog last week. "Hopefully this will help change some minds about having an unaccountable private entity control one of our public parks. Hastings Park is one of my favourite nearby places to go to see wildlife, and it would be a shame if injuries like this become the norm for the birds nesting and migrating through the park."

sthomas@vancourier.com

twitter.com/sthomas10

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