UTAH (ABC4) — Summer hasn’t quite arrived just yet, but one animal rescue organization is already busy saving young ducks that are being illegally dumped in Utah waterways.
Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue spent the afternoon catching some of those ducks from Rees Pioneer Park in Brigham City and wanted to remind the public that dumping ducks is considered animal cruelty under Utah law.
Adison Smith and Kade Tyler are founders of Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue. The two spent part of the afternoon catching as many ducks as possible at Rees Pioneer Park in Brigham City, a park in which they’ve visited many times to rescue dozens of abandoned ducks.
“Not only is it illegal but it’s cruel,” Smith said. “They won’t survive.”
Smith told ABC4 that they rescued dozens of ducks from the pond last summer. However, they couldn’t keep up. By the end of the summer, she said there were about 40 domestic ducks that still needed to be rescued and, by the end of winter, about two-thirds of those ducks had died.
Now that things have warmed back up, she said young ducks are being released into the pond again.
One of the ducks the pair rescued Tuesday afternoon had sores on her head. Smith explained that the more ducks are dumped at the pond, the more aggressive the males become. They will mate with the females so often that they will die, and as the female population dwindles, the larger males move on to the smaller males.
As a result of this infighting, a handful of injured ducks that the rescue saved were so hurt they had to be euthanized. Smith urged the public to stop the practice of dumping ducks.
“It might seem like the perfect fairy tale of living at a pond, but it actually is a lot more than that and it is detrimental to their overall lifespan,” she added.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food interim state veterinarian, Dr. Amanda Price, agreed. She said, “We are leaving them out there to die.”
Dr. Price told ABC4 that domestic ducks can breed with wild ones. This can lead to a population boom and overpopulation. As the population grows, the ducks will continue to fight for resources. Domestic ducks, unlike their wild counterparts, cannot fly. This means they can’t leave in search of new food sources.
Not only that, but Dr. Price explained when domestic ducks are on ponds, lakes and other waterways there normally wouldn’t be waterfowl, they act as decoys and attract wild birds to the area as well.
This, she said, can be deadly as it promotes the spread of disease. This intermingling led to the death of incredible numbers of domestic birds last year.
“Including the commercial species, we had 2.2 million birds that we lost last year here in Utah due to bird flu. About 3,000 of those were backyard birds,” she said.
Smith said it’s easy to tell which ducks have been abandoned. They’re usually white and much bigger than their mallard counterparts.
“These animals don’t deserve to be thrown away like trash,” Smith stated.
Dumping domesticated ducks is illegal and is considered animal cruelty. Utah law states: “’Abandon’ means to intentionally deposit, leave, or drop off any live animal: without providing for the care of that animal, in accordance with accepted animal husbandry practices or customary farming practices; or in a situation where conditions present an immediate, direct, and serious threat to the life, safety, or health of the animal.”
Smith told ABC4 that as they continue to catch ducks at Pioneer Park, they’ve found that many of the ducks are just weeks old.
In fact, two of the five ducks she and Tyler rescued on Tuesday were estimated to be under eight weeks old. She said often, ducks are purchased at the big box stores nearby and dumped the same day.
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, those poor ducklings, they deserve a pond, they don’t deserve to be kept in this container,’” Smith said. “And so, they might purchase them just to let them go.”
However, she said this is the last thing someone should do.
“The consequences of that are deadly,” she said.
Wasatch Wanderers has worked with a handful of cities to place signs at public parks, ponds and other waterways to help educate the public about the dangers and negative effects of dumping domestic waterfowl. The rescuers hope that Brigham City will join the effort and work with them to place signs at Rees Pioneer Park.