As a two-year North Bergen resident, I have enjoyed running laps around the lake in the James Braddock Park. That is, until recently. This past summer, I have been maneuvering around a virtual minefield of bird droppings. This problem seems to be getting worse. Each time I go for a run, at least one group of visitors is feeding the pigeons, geese and ducks. Among many problems that this creates, the birds are defecating all over the lake's walkway. With such a dry August, the droppings are drying, smearing and accumulating on the path. Disgusting? That's the point.
Feeding birds only increases their dependence on humans. Park visitors are making it unnecessary for birds to find their own food. Bird overpopulation can lead to the spread of mites and parasites between them. An easy food source will also promote unnatural migration patterns. With an increase in pigeons and geese at the park, I wonder if these are the visitors the park was intended to host.
Theoretically no, because red-lettered signs posted along the lake read: Protect Your Health: Do Not Feed Wildlife: $100 fine: It's Against the Law: Park Ordinance #213-5-1982. Despite the signs, visitors continuously feed the birds. Most often, they are giving birds stale, refined carbohydrates that they feel guilty about throwing away. What many do not understand is that they are feeding more than birds. Consider the families that toss fistfuls of stale bread onto the lake path, snap a few shots of their children playing with the birds and then walk away. The extra bread can easily attract rats and mice. How many people want a picture of their toddler feeding a raggedy gray rat - its sharp teeth shining in the flash of the camera?
Pigeons carry a number of infectious diseases such as salmonella, tuberculosis and orinthosis and are a source of allergens, which cause respiratory problems and skin reactions. Humans are exposed to these diseases when we come in contact with pigeon droppings, bird dandruff or feathers. All three are in no short supply at the lake. Just look around the path or in the water the next time you take a walk.
In two years I have not seen anyone receive a ticket, or a warning, for feeding wildlife - though I have lost track of the number of people violating the park ordinance. If no one is there to stop them, is there any incentive for people to stop feeding the birds? Maybe the police department is simply too busy. We are a big city after all. But then again, the Sheriff is visible in the park nearly every day. Officers sometimes ride their patrol cars right on the lake path. I even saw the Sheriff take a stroll on foot around the lake during the week of August 17th. Did he see the same families feeding the wildlife that evening that I did?
If no one is going to enforce or adhere to a rule that is clearly posted this problem will only get worse. Don't get me wrong - I do not dislike birds. I have no problem with wildlife existing alongside humans. I take issue when humans interfere with the natural habits of animals for a little family fun.