BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Community members and wildlife officials are worried for wildlife, particularly birds, in Brigham City. They say someone, or even a group of people, is poaching wild birds in city limits, and are specifically targeting waterfowl in Rees Pioneer Park.
At Rees Pioneer Park visitors are greeted with a small pond that has a beautiful water fountain, a bridge for people to walk over and covered picnic tables near the edge of the water. Visitors will also be greeted by at least half a dozen species of waterfowl eager to snag a free lunch from a willing hand. Currently, one of the birds sticks out from the rest because a long metal dart sticks out of her face.
“To date, we know there has been at least four,” Adison Smith told ABC4.
Smith is the founder of Wasatch Wanderers. It is a rescue group that fosters abandoned and rescued animals. The rescue began in September of last year and has taken in 400 animals to date. Smith told ABC4 that three-fourths of those animals have been waterfowl.
Smith first learned of the ducks being darted at Rees Pioneer Park in early May. The duck previously mentioned has been at the pond since that time. It is a mallard hen which is a wild species of duck. Smith has tried catching the mallard hen for over a month in hopes of getting it medical care. She said the rescue was able to capture one of the darted ducks and successfully remove the dart from it.
However, Smith says “one went missing, she had a dart through her face as well, and then another one had to be put down.”
Smith said quail have been shot in Brigham City as well. There are a handful of posts on Brigham City community social media pages that mention this as well. Many people have used social media to express their concerns shared by Smith.
“It’s not just in the forest, or at a private pond or anything like that,” stated Smith. “This is in the middle of a city, in the middle of a park where there’s children playing, where there’s dogs playing, and it’s just not safe.”
One mother who was visiting the park with her young daughter echoed that sentiment tells ABC4 she didn’t want her daughter to see mistreated animals while visiting the pond to feed the ducks.
There are domestic species of waterfowl at the pond. However, the only ones to be shot so far are wild species. That means the crime against the animal falls under the jurisdiction of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
“The only thing we ask is that people be vigilant,” Mark Hadley told ABC4. “Let law enforcement know if you see something like this going on.”
Mark Hadley is the conservation outreach manager for DWR’s northern Utah region. He told ABC4 that DWR doesn’t take these types of abuses lightly and that the person, or people, involved may face poaching charges.
“The fine is typically about $690 but the judge could go up as high as $1000 if he or she chooses to do so.” He added that along with those fines, the person could also face jail time and lose hunting privileges for three years.
To make matters worse, Wasatch Wanderers is seeing an increase in ducklings being dropped off at ponds like Rees Pioneer Park in the wake of Easter. “Just this last week, Brigham City had 10 new duck dumps and they’re babies, so usually they only last a couple hours on the water before they die,” explained Smith.
Currently, to help spread a highly-contagious strain of bird flu, rehabilitation centers can’t take in injured waterfowl that could possibly infect other birds.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden would typically be the place that treats the ducks being targeted in Brigham City. However, they can’t take them in at this time due to bird flu. A representative with the center told ABC4 that over the last few weeks, they have seen an increase in non-lethal dart attacks on all species of birds. In fact, just recently, the center performed surgery on a quail that had been shot.
To date, Smith has tried to catch the mallard hen four times. While the rescue group will not be able to take it to a rehab center, they will get the bird medical attention. However, they can only foster domestic birds and will need to release the mallard as soon as the dart is removed.
“I think it’s worrisome that somebody’s using a weapon to hurt animals and that somebody has the desire to hurt animals and see them suffer,” added Smith.
Hadley echoed that sentiment saying he doesn’t understand why people choose to hurt animals for fun. He said anyone who sees a person (or people) shooting at the birds, or who may know who is responsible for the shootings in Brigham City, should first call their local police department. The police department can then contact DWR.
To learn more about Wasatch Wanderers, or to become a foster, visit their Facebook page.