Community Association Management of Wetland Fish and Wildlife
By Senior Attorney, Erin Glover-Frey
I was out walking my dog last week, when I saw a pair of unfamiliar duck-like birds at a retention pond. They were tan and brown with a dark ring around their eyes and seemed thoroughly unafraid of me or my fearsome 8 pound dog. Google Lens told me they were Egyptian Geese. I’ve never seen an Egyptian Goose in Ormond Beach, so why not take a deeper dive into what they are and where they came from.
Egyptian Geese came from – duh – Egypt. They look like they are wearing Cleopatra’s eyeliner and figure in hieroglyphics from her era. They are well-established in South Florida and are already dividing homeowners in condos and HOAs down there on how to handle them. Some owners want to eliminate them from common area ponds while others have banded together to protect nesting pairs.
With so many community associations owning retention ponds, what is the best practice to manage native and non-native fish and wildlife species that may take up residence? Typical lawyer answer – it depends. Most fish and wildlife will be harmless, but some will not. Harm to the pond and harm to persons from a particular species can occur. A flock of Egyptian Geese can provide enough “fertilizer” to cause an unhealthy algal bloom in the pond and resultant fish kill. In one extreme case, an HOA had to pay a $5 million settlement to a Miramar woman who lost her leg to a water moccasin bite on HOA wetlands. With risks to persons and property posed by wetland wildlife, how does the association proceed?
Option 1 – Leave the concerning species be. This is generally only advisable after checking with Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) or your pond management company.
Option 2 – Fish it out. Often the problem species is a fish. Encourage (licensed) residents to fish out the overpopulated species. A kid’s fishing derby can be a great community-building event.
Option 3 – Restock with a beneficial species to crowd out the invader. FWC has great resources for how to restock ponds to eliminate certain undesirable fish species and the animals that prey on the undesirable fish.
Option 4 – Call in the experts. For alligators over 4 feet, you can call FWC to remove them. For those under 4 feet, call a trapper. FWC has trapper resources for alligators and other species. Some birds may be protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (as of 2020, Canada Geese were protected but Egyptian Geese were not) and cannot be removed without a special permit. An expert will be able to advise on whether your problem species should stay or go.