Saving ducklings from drowning in T.O. harbour, one dock at a time

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Concerns about ducklings drowning in Toronto harbour have lead to the installation of four so-called “duckling docks” at the bottom of Queen’s Quay.

PortsToronto put the four floating docks in the Portland, York, Yonge and Jarvis slips on June 18, after consulting with the Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC).

Andrew Wight, TWC’s rescue and release manager, said the action was taken after a “concerned citizen” reported seeing 15 dead floating ducklings, and that she rescued two others during a three-week period, between York and Bathurst Sts.

Young ducks aren’t fully waterproofed until their parents can coat them in oil or their own down grows in.

“We’ve had this fear of this being a potential problem,” said Wight.

“But this is the first year that we were getting reports that were proving our fears that people were seeing young ducklings that weren’t finding haul-out areas and were succumbing or coming close to drowning.”

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Wight said it’s a common problem “in any harbourfront of any city” with a seawall.

“And not just the babies. This is all the waterfowl down there. Of course, the adults have the ability to fly up onto the docks and go somewhere else, but these little guys, it’s up to swimming wherever they can go.”

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Wight said while some mamas and babies will go to Toronto Island, Ontario Place or Cherry Beach, they are also drawn to the inner harbour because of the algae that grows there.

“It is a pretty ideal spot,” said Wight. “Like it or not, feeding goes on, and it’s populated there so easy food.”

PortsToronto was quick to respond with the help of TWC to “provide an accessible floating rest area for young ducklings still growing their waterproof down,” the agency said in a statement.

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The four wooden planks are 30 centimetres wide and two-metres long with bevelled edges.

“The more, the better — it’s always going to be — but this is fantastic that they have started,” said Wright. “There’s four, let’s call them temporary (docks). But there are thoughts of maybe even looking into something more permanent and long-standing for next year.”

PortsToronto said while it’s only installing duckling docks in areas under the agency’s control, officials are “open to having discussions with waterfront partners that own and operate other areas along the waterfront to move or add docks.”

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