A woman who found more than a dozen dead birds near a Maples-area pond isn't buying the city's explanation that they died from people feeding them "mouldy bread."
Albina Hurley said she and her seven-year-old daughter were walking Sunday at the corner of Keewatin Street and Adsum Drive when they discovered about eight dead birds scattered around the pond. She placed a 311 call to report it Monday.
They returned to find even more. By Tuesday afternoon, she counted 13 dead birds — mostly ducks and some geese — and could see what looked like remains of more.
"I just thought something's not right here. I don't know if they were poisoned or if something is wrong with the water," said Hurley.
She said she spoke Wednesday morning with a worker from the city's water and waste department who told her there were five or six dead birds per day at that pond at some points last year, but tests showed their deaths were from things they ingested.
"He (the city worker) said they'd go pick up the birds but that it's most likely not the water. It's from people feeding them stuff like mouldy bread," Hurley said, noting the worker brushed off her question about the birds being poisoned.
"I said to the guy, 'Is that how they die when they eat mouldy bread?' Some of them were already decaying and had maggots on them, some of them looked like they just died and we saw a few birds that just didn't look well."
She said she saw a bird on Tuesday that appeared to be a pigeon that was having trouble breathing as it sat on the grass.
"I went up to him and touched him on the back but he didn't move but was breathing really heavy. We came back a few minutes later and he had fallen over, and he was gone (dead)," she said.
"We saw a goose sitting beside another one (goose) because he passed away. That was just so heartbreaking. That must have been his mate and he wouldn't leave him."
The dead birds had been removed on Wednesday morning.
Ken Allen, a spokesman from the City of Winnipeg, said signs are posted at this pond and others to discourage feeding of waterfowl.
"There have been issues of bird mortality around this pond and other retention ponds in the past and in some cases these may be related to feeding of the waterfowl and the types of food which are being left for waterfowl. The City reports large die-offs of birds at ponds to Manitoba Sustainable Development. The Province would be able to provide more information on how they investigate disease related to bird die-offs," he said in an emailed statement.
A spokesman for Manitoba Sustainable Development said there was not yet enough information for a comment.
"The province is aware of the situation and is investigating," the spokesman stated in an email.
Hurley said she also discovered a Canada goose with a broken leg at the Keewatin-Adsum pond so she contacted Choo Rosenbloom, who operates the website www.lovecanadageese.com that she created with her late husband, Earl, to advocate for and protect Canada geese.
The two women caught the injured goose on Tuesday afternoon — it is now with Wildlife Haven where it is being treated — and together counted all the dead birds they could see.
"I'm very concerned because that's too many deaths in one pond," said Rosenbloom, who regularly visits ponds around the city to check on the geese. "Where I live, we have a pond about five times the size of that one and I've never seen 13 or 18 dead birds in one go. I walk the ponds a lot and it's quite common to see one or two dead birds but you get to 13, you have to wonder what's going on."
Rosenbloom said another concern is the numerous household waste items, such as milk cartons, food wrappers, plastics and construction waste such as bricks and wood planks, littering parts of the Keewatin-Adsum pond shoreline.
"Water and waste is blaming people feeding mouldy bread and junk on the deaths of these birds. Mouldy bread isn't going to kill them this fast," said Rosenbloom. "The pond is filthy, so it's pointing the finger at the city. The city hasn't been cleaning up. It's always easy to blame the people. That's the trashiest pond I've seen in the city."
Rosenbloom said she wants the province to test the water and perform a necropsy on one or more of the birds to find out what killed them.
Hurley said she is worried about what caused the deaths of the birds from safety and humanitarian standpoints.
"My daughter cried over the dead ones," Hurley said. "She wanted us to pick them up but I said we just couldn't. We don't know what happened to them."