PONDS where ducklings have been falling to their death for years will now be surrounded by fine mesh in an attempt to save wildlife - but locals believe it isn’t enough to solve the problem.
Penistone resident Len Batty shared his concerns with the Penistone and District Wildlife Group over the weekend after he found, not for the first time, dead wildlife and ducklings floating in stilling ponds belonging to Yorkshire Water at Scout Dike reservoir.
Len reported he had found five dead ducklings on Saturday at the ponds just off Huddersfield Road - between Penistone and Ingbirchworth - with ‘perhaps a hundred more to come’.
When Penistone West Couns David Greenhough and Hannah Kitching visited the site on Tuesday, there were reportedly 11 dead ducklings found - as well as a number of amphibians.
Apparently dozens of ducklings, hedgehogs, amphibians and other wildlife have been known to be falling to their fate in the ponds for more than half a century - but until the past few years, local residents were able to easily access the site to perform regular rescues.
The stilling ponds are used by Yorkshire Water as part of their functioning reservoir which provides drinking water - and have been blocked off in recent years from public access.
A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “We understand this situation may be distressing and we are planning to install finer mesh fencing to prevent the ducks accessing that area of the reservoir.
“This is a functioning reservoir carrying out its intended purpose of storing drinking water for parts of South Yorkshire and managing flow of water further downstream.
“We are therefore unable to obstruct the spillway in any way as this could increase the risk of flooding.
“None of us want to see wildlife in distress, but it is important people do not risk their own safety by climbing gates and fences into restricted areas to perform their own rescues.
“Our teams regularly check the safety of our reservoirs and should they see wildlife in distress, will do what they can to protect them.”
Resident Len owns land nearby the site and has witnessed the tragedies year on year for more than a decade - rescuing the animals with ramps and nets before the ponds were gated off.
“The problem I see with the small mesh is that it may prevent ducklings going in the bottom - but they also come down the spillway from the reservoir making the work pointless,” he said.
“There is also the small amphibians along with a fair number of grass snakes who breed in this area, and mesh - I know from my own experience - may trap and kill them.
“The most sensible way forward is to use four small planks with flotation pads to allow creatures to escape when the water levels are down.
“This method, along with long landing nets, works extremely well.
“Despite Yorkshire Water’s claims that they will interfere with the water flow and cause flooding - this method has worked for ten years or more.
“I would like Yorkshire Water to follow this problem of drowning wildlife through to all its other stilling ponds nationally - as the hundreds that drown at Scout Dike are likely to only be the tip of the iceberg.”