ARLINGTON – Arlington Parks and Recreation Department officials drained a pond but failed to contact animal services beforehand, leaving fish to flounder in the few inches of water that remain.
"I'm not happy with the way they're treating the poor animals out there," says Linda Lott, referencing the muddy remnant of the pond behind her. She typically reads her Bible in Randol Mill park –– she says she's turned her prayers to the animals who lived in the pond, much of which is now dry land.
"I'm sure the fish have already suffered tremendously," says Linda Yarbrough, a longtime Arlington resident and wildlife rescuer. "Many of them have died, but the egrets are eating them up as fast as they can."
Yarbrough wonders why no one was told the pond was going to be emptied and why efforts weren't taken to save the wildlife.
Arlington Parks and Rec drained the pond this week to fix a drainage system. Officials say when they pulled the plug, they thought it had more water.
"When they did get in to drain it, there was more siltation in the pond than anticipated," said asst. Parks and Recreation Director Matt Young, " That's why you see more exposed land than you do right now than what we would've like to have seen."
Young admits his department did not contact animal services in advance to make sure the wildlife would be protected.
"We didn't anticipate a problem," says Young, "We still really don't think that we have a severe problem."
Animal services is aware of the situation now. Animal rescuers have been rounding up birds that don't fly. They worry now about wildlife that remains on the cusp of a hard freeze Sunday and Monday nights.
"We may even end up with a few compromised mallards that are frozen in ice," says Yarbrough, "The suffering of wildlife is never appropriate at any time."
City officials say the don't anticipate cold weather to be a problem as many birds can fly away.
"The ground temperature in two feet of water is still so warm," said Young, referencing the fish, "They probably will not freeze."
A sign at the park says it's a code violation to harm or disturb wildlife. Animal rights activists hope the city will hold itself accountable.
The $80,000 project is expected to be complete sometime next week. The city says it will restock the pond with fish after it again fills with water.