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Fancy a new Easter pet? Take care of it, Utah group pleads

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Mar 31, 2023

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

Adison Smith of the Wasatch Wanderers tries to capture a domestic duck among the wild ones at Beus Pond Park in Ogden on Feb. 17, 2022. The group captures domestic ducks living in the wild so they can instead be placed in homes.

SYRACUSE — Each year as Easter approaches, many people are struck with the urge to purchase a baby duck. But if you’re not willing to commit yourself to the animals for years and years, consider moving on to something else.

Utah’s nature parks and ponds have been a dumping ground for unwanted farm animals, such as ducks, geese, rabbits, turtles and fish. Not only is it illegal to do so, it is also detrimental to the animal.

“These animals aren’t props. They’re not Easter gifts and they’re not toys,” said Adison Smith. “They are living beings who need care, shelter, food and water. People need to commit to these animals when they get them. Some of them can live eight to 10 years and sometimes even up to 20 years.”

Smith is the president of Wasatch Wanderers Animal Rescue, a local nonprofit group that offers its services to cities and businesses alike to help aid domestic animals in need while providing educational opportunities. The group also works on getting foster families for the animals until they are adoptable.

“A lot of people aren’t educated about some of the animals,” Smith said. “People just think they can take them to a stream or pond and they’ll be fine, but they won’t be fine. These domestic animals can’t survive without humans.”

Domestic ducks and geese for example, cannot fly, Smith said, so they’re stuck where they’re abandoned. Domestic animals can pass on diseases to wild animals, deplete natural resources because they can’t migrate, and breed with each other, wreaking havoc on the natural ecosystem.

“Ducks are also really human-imprinted to the point where they think they are human and when they are abandoned, they want to be around humans and not other ducks,” Smith said. “So it can be hard to find them homes because they want to be inside with humans and when you take them out of that environment, they don’t know how to act and it really affects their overall health.”

The problem exists throughout the state and more recently at Jensen Nature Park in Syracuse. City officials recently posted several new signs at the park to remind people that it’s illegal to dump pet animals. It also states that rescues are overwhelmed and desperate to find homes for animals already in foster care and those dumped in ponds.

“Dumping these animals comes with a jail sentence and a $500 fine,” Smith said. “It’s illegal to abandon them and I don’t think a lot of people realize this. While people think it might be the right thing to do, ducklings will survive maybe a couple of hours while adult ducks will eventually freeze, starve to death or be killed by predators. We just rescued some ducks out of a pond in Bountiful who were actually frozen to the water. We had to go in and remove them immediately. They definitely would have died.”

Since the group formed nearly two years ago, 600 dumped waterfowl and over 100 roosters have been rescued.

“We were just up in a tree rescuing roosters last night,” Smith said. “It’s not realistic to dump these animals into the wild and expect them to act like wild animals. That’s like abandoning a dog and expecting it to act like a wolf.”

Smith said she wants people to realize the dangers of dumping, the fact that it’s illegal and the horrifying outcome it can cause.

“It’s important for fishermen to clean up their equipment. We’ve had to pull fishing lines out of these animals and we’re currently trying to catch a goose with a hook in its face that has since become infected,” Smith said. “People can help by cleaning up parks and ponds, cleaning up after themselves and reporting any dumping they see going on. This is such a problem, especially in Utah, and our government isn’t doing a thing about it. It’s almost like nobody cares.”

For more information about the group, go to wasatchwanderers.org. You can also find them on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.


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