Jimmy Masters and Patti Gilbert stand by the pond beside TowneBank on Harbour View Boulevard as geese consider making a dash across the road. With waterfowl and other critters living in the pond getting killed by motorists, Masters and Gilbert are urging the city to install warning signs.
Jimmy Masters and Patti Gilbert stand by the pond beside TowneBank on Harbour View Boulevard as geese consider making a dash across the road. With waterfowl and other critters living in the pond getting killed by motorists, Masters and Gilbert are urging the city to install warning signs.

Archived Story

Road runs a-fowl of wildlife

Published 11:25pm Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nature and progress are colliding head-on in one part of North Suffolk, and nature is losing.

From the window of his first-floor office, Jimmy Masters has a bird’s-eye view of the uneven match-up.

Since last summer, the TowneBank financial advisor has witnessed baby geese mown down by a car and an otter frolicking in the pond next to Harbour View Financial Center one minute and dead on Harbour View Boulevard the next.

Once part of a creek flowing into the Nansemond River, Masters says, the pond is home to a variety or critters.

“It’s amazing how much is out here,” he said. “The otters are just unbelievable. We had coyotes living across the street — I think they are long gone now.”

TowneBank wildlife admirers, whose ranks include sales assistant Patti Gilbert, also report Hooded Mergansers, ring-neck ducks, cormorants, egrets, blue herons and ospreys. A bald eagle was spotted perched atop the bank’s drive-in booths.

But, mere feet from the picturesque pond habitat, four-lane Harbour View Boulevard is a fatal hazard.

Masters described what he saw happen to the geese last summer: “At least three families of geese nested and had babies. They grouped together, and there were nine babies and five adults.

“They crossed to go over to the golf course. I was sitting looking out the window — it was about 10:30 (a.m.), a drizzly day — and we saw a car coming.

“It never slowed down, and it didn’t stop after it hit them. It just drove over four of the baby geese.”

The babies, about 14 inches tall, would have stood out on the straight stretch of road for any driver paying attention, Masters says, especially with no other traffic around.

“We were all screaming when we saw it,” he said. “It was horrible. I saw that vision for days.”

Masters said he was about to go down and remove the dead when, “from out of nowhere,” a city employee arrived in a pickup truck and did the job.

The otter incident occurred only last week. Masters saw an otter emerge from one of the pond’s storm drains. “Then I came back from a meeting and it’s dead on the road,” he said.

Also last summer, Masters said, a mallard was out on the pond with nine babies when one of the little ones went exploring down one of the drains.

“It was down there chirping and, literally, one-by-one all nine babies went down the drain,” he said.

He reported the incident to Harbour View Associates, which manages the commercial subdivision, before a waders-clad man from ACME Animal Control in Norfolk came to the rescue.

“He ultimately saved them all and put them back in the pond, and covered the drain with chicken wire,” Masters said.

According to Masters’ inquiries, it would be the city of Suffolk’s responsibility to install signs or flashing lights, such as are seen in many other parts of Hampton Roads, to warn motorists of wildlife.

“I left a couple of messages with the city, and someone called me back one time and never called me again,” he said.

“It’s going to happen again this summer. … They will be on the nest within three weeks, and they’re going to be crossing the road.”

Suffolk officials did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the matter.

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