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Michigan ducks struggling with ice-covered lakes and rivers

Mar 3, 2015

Everyone knows this has been a brutally cold winter in Michigan.

The exceptionally cold winter weather of the past few weeks has caused the rivers and waters of the Great Lakes to freeze further into the center, similar to conditions experienced last year
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

And not just for people.

Polar cold temps have resulted in Michigan lakes and rivers icing over to record degrees. That’s left little open water for ducks to feed.

“With these large congregations of ducks in a small area, and a small amount of food, some of these ducks are becoming malnourished,” says Holly Vaughn, with the Department of Natural Resources.  

Vaughn says they are seeing an increase in the number of dead ducks washing up on shore. 

Many of the ducks congregating on these rivers and lakes are diving ducks, which rely on a diet of aquatic vegetation, mollusks and small fish.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

She warns that human intervention may actually be counterproductive.

“A lot of the ducks that are congregating in this water are ducks that don’t eat things like corn or bird seed or bread.  Those food items can actually harm them,” says Vaughn.  

Vaughn adds that people also risk injuring themselves by falling through thin ice.   

She says the duck population will rebound, as long as warmer temperatures are not too far off.