WEBER COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Adison Smith, a Weber County mom and president and co-founder of Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue, is the first to earn the title “Duck Defender” by winning the inaugural international award.

The award is reportedly the top accolade given by Duck Defenders, an international project from animal welfare charity, Humane Long Island. The award is given to those who make “significant progress” for waterfowl advocacy and rescue in North America.

Smith’s Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue’s very first rescue was reportedly saving the lives of 64 domestic ducks and geese abandoned at Weber State University in 2021. Later the same year, Wasatch Wanderers saved more than 50 waterfowl in Parowan. Through 2022, her work helped rehome 50 more waterfowl in Orem and 22 more in Payson.

According to Duck Defenders, Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue has saved over 400 fowl, adopting out more than 200 ducks and geese while advocating for prevention with signage teaching the public why it’s cruel and illegal to abandon domesticated ducks and geese.

“Receiving this award is such an honor,” said Smith. “In rescue, we work tirelessly and rarely get recognition for it. It’s very humbling work but worth it. To be recognized for the continuous effort against animal abandonment in a state that has so many abandoned waterfowl, this award is a light in what seems to be a never-ending fight.”

Smith expressed her gratitude to Humane Long Island, especially toward John Di Leonardo, anthrozoologist and president of Duck Defenders. Smith said Leonardo has been helpful with his advice, tips, and guidance even as the two work together on opposite sides of the country.

“Adison is the definition of an unsung hero, diving into lakes and speaking up at city meetings for Utah’s ducks while also being a mom to her own infant child,” said Leonardo. “Adison’s Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue is one of the most effective organizations advocating for waterfowl in North America, and it is my pleasure to award her with Duck Defenders’ highest honor.”

According to Duck Defenders, domestic ducks and geese have been domesticated through years of selective breeding, much like dogs, cats, and farmed animals. The years of breeding have left domesticated waterfowl to be very different from wild waterfowl. Waterfowl are typically bred for either egg or meat production, and through domestication have developed tiny wings, larger bodies, and typically have no form of camouflage.

“They typically cannot fly, and they can never migrate – literally sitting ducks for predators and cruel people when abandoned to the wild,” said Duck Defenders. “As winter approaches, they may starve, suffer from frostbite, or freeze to the ice.”