You can find the answer in vending machines at two locations in Ridge Ferry Park and another one at Heritage Park near the boat ramp.
Todd Howard with Vaulted Vending said neither bread nor popcorn are good for the critters, so he has developed a machine similar to gumball machines that he stocks with a 32-percent protein pellet.
“You put a quarter in it, turn it and get the pellets to feed the ducks and fish in the water,” said Todd Wofford, Rome parks supervisor.
Howard started the business in Pigeon Forge after watching people feed the ducks at the Old Mill there. Now he is working with more than 70 municipalities that agree the protein pellets are better for the wildlife.
“Bread, popcorn, any type of carbohydrates — a duck can’t break it down,” Howard said. “All it does is come back through them.”
The carbohydrates also create excessive sugars in a duck’s body, which can lead to a condition known as angel wing in which the last joint is twisted and the wing feathers are splayed.
“Once they get angel wing they can no longer fly,” Howard said. “The only place we’ve ever seen angel wing is in duck ponds. We never see it in the wild because they’ve never been exposed to bread.”
Chuck Waters, director of the DNR Wildlife Resources division office in Armuchee, said he generally believes that feeding wildlife is a bad idea, but protein pellets might be the lesser of two evils. “Feeding critters alters their behavior. That’s my main issue,” Waters said.
Wofford said his office is trying to convince city officials to let them put a machine at Lake Conasauga, for the geese in particular. Crews spend a considerable amount of time cleaning up bread wrappers, he said, and a feed machine would be good for both for the critters and his workers.
Jim Hakala, a fisheries biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said the pellets also could attract fish to the area.
“The quantity that they would be putting out there would not be harmful. I’m sure some fish will learn and hang around. I don’t see a problem there,” he said.
Wofford said Vaulted Vending paid for the installation of all three machines in Rome. Proceeds are being split between the company and the recreation department.