Harsh winter to blame for large dead duck problem on Grand Traverse Bay beaches

A harsh winter may be to blame for the large amounts of dead ducks being found on Grand Traverse Bay beaches.

The Department of Natural Resources says a harsh winter is to blame for the large amounts of dead ducks being found on Grand Traverse Bay beaches.

Officials from the Traverse City DNR office say most of the hundreds of migratory ducks found along the beach died out on the bay when the water was frozen and were washed ashore when it thawed.

Since there was essentially no open water, the ducks had no where to go, the DNR said.

"They have been caught out on the ice, many even trapped underneath the ice and now with the ice melting and coming off the bays, the ducks are starting to wash in on shore," said DNR Wildlife Technician, Timothy Lyon.

DNR officials said they tested the ducks for diseases but all tests came back negative, and that their cause of death was determined to be starvation.

"We didn't find any disease related issues, we didn't find any types of contamination issues, no lead poisoning," said Lyon. "We ran them for different types of metals...the outcomes were consistent with being malnourished."

Dead ducks have been seen on beaches along the bay for the past 8 weeks. Many also mistakenly landed in parking lots as the snow was melting. DNR officials say they tried to bring the ducks to any open water they could find.

The DNR also reports that because these ducks are diving ducks, their legs are more towards the back of their body. This means when the duck prepares to fly, it needs to do a type of "taxiing movement", but because the water was all frozen, it could not take off and was stuck in the water.

While hundreds have died, the DNR said there isn't much of an impact on the species at this time. However, if the next couple winters are as harsh as this one, the birds may change their migration pattern to fly further south during the winter.

There have also been reports of dead Mute Swans but the DNR says they have not found any dead Trumpeter Swans.