Dumped Domestic Ducks: Highland Glen
Highland Glen Park pond is a typical Utah fishing pond with an unfortunate problem of dumped domestic ducks. Let’s detail the many problems with dumped domestic ducks in public parks and ponds by using Highland Glen as an example.
I’ve labeled all the dumped domestic pet ducks in the photo above. Most of the birds here are dumped. There are domestic rouen, pekin, Indian runner, Swedish, cayuga, khaki, Appleyard, Ayelsbury, buff and muscovy ducks. These same breeds of domestic ducks are dumped at most every pond throughout Utah. You can tell a dumped domestic duck from a wild duck because it is 2-4x larger than a mallard and usually much more friendly. All white ducks in parks are dumped domestic pet ducks. Almost all dumped domestic pet ducks cannot fly.
Why is it wrong to dump ducks?
It’s illegal to dump domestic ducks and geese, against Utah code: Title 76 Chapter 9 Part 3 Section 301. It’s also cruel. These domestic ducks are bred to be so large they can’t fly much, if at all. They need food support and often start to starve in winter when weather turns cold, kids go back to school and no one comes to feed them. In some parks with regular visitors, they get enough handouts to survive. But even then, they’re subject to off-leash dogs, vulnerable to other predators and prone to foot and leg injuries (often from fishing line and hooks). The largest breeds get sick first, because they don’t get enough nutritious food to thrive.
Also, they don’t belong in the wild. They cause overpopulation, they breed with wild ducks to create more manky/half-mallards that take up resources of wild birds, contribute to poor water quality and erode the shoreline and native plants. This past month I visited 5 ponds between Ogden and Provo and counted well over 200+ dumped domestic ducks and geese. Most came running when I offered them scratch grains.
“What’s wrong with the ducks at Highland Glen? They look okay to me.”
Several times we’ve heard the ducks at Highland Glen are just fine. That’s not true. We first heard about this pond in 2016-2017 when a local resident saw two wild mallards that had been shot by arrows. The arrows had fallen off, but the tips were still sticking inside the bodies of the ducks. Both ducks were flighted and we could not catch them. It’s highly likely they died from infection. That same year, college kids dumped ducklings at the pond that they’d bought as a joke but could’t keep. We took them in. The next year more ducklings were dumped, and we took in several. The worst case was a beautiful young Indian runner duck who was very, very sick.
This poor duckling cried and cried until we could get it to the veterinarian the next day. We had no idea what was wrong until the vet took an x-ray.
Sadly the duckling had to be immediately euthanized to end its suffering.
We have also taken in three ducks from Highland Glen that had serious leg and foot injuries, most due to fishing line and hooks left behind by fishermen.
Maude was nearly scalped from overmating at the pond, which likely caused her leg injury too.
She was in a lot of pain when she arrived, and she required several weeks of treatment to recover.
Kenny was also rescued from Highland Glen with a serious leg injury. Both of these ducks required leg drains, weeks of recovery and rest. They were adopted out together to a safe forever pet home once they recovered.
Doogie is a new rescue from Highland Glen who is right now recovering from an infected toe caused by a fish hook.
His toe bone was eaten away by infection, which started higher up where his leg was pierced by a stray fish hook left behind by fishermen.
He has 10 days of a leg drain to flush out as much infection as possible. And then he’ll have antibiotic beads implanted to ensure the infection resolves completely. His vet bills so far total $686.09, for a duck someone dumped at a park like trash.
Two months ago, someone shot a dumped domestic pekin duck with an arrow at Highland Glen.
While she was lucky the arrow only pierced her wing, it broke the bone completely.
She spent a month in recovery at her foster home, which became her forever home.
Those are just a few of the dumped domestic ducks we’ve rescued from Highland Glen. The wild ducks also get sick and injured, like this mallard hen with a face abscess from a fish hook.
And this sick mallard drake with an eye injury and a leg injury.
You might think “it’s just mother nature” when these ducks get injured and die. But in the vast majority of cases, nature has nothing to do with it. It’s human negligence and carelessness. It’s completely preventable if people just stop dumping domestic pet ducks and start picking up their fishing line. That’s not mother nature. That’s just common sense and good wildlife stewardship.
“How can I help?”
You can help wild birds and the environment by encouraging people to never get ducks or other domestic birds unless they’re going to keep them for their entire life. Encourage people to rescue birds if they want them as pets. Make people aware that they can never dump domestic pets, even ducks, in the wild. And that domestic birds are a lot of work, and should never be given as gifts or pranks.
You can help the dumped domestic ducks by offering them scratch grains, cracked corn, bird seed or a flock feed. Never put feed in the water as it can contaminate the water quality. Don’t feed more than the birds can completely eat in 5 mins. Place food near the shoreline so they can get back to the safety of open water in case of off-leash dogs or other threats.
NOTE: Minimize the feed you share with wild birds. If you accidentally feed too many wild ducks it can cause overpopulation. Then they’re all at risk of being culled (killed). Several cities and private entities in Utah contract with USDA Wildlife Services to cull domestic dumped ducks each year, including here at Highland Glen. Isn’t that ironic? So many people think the ducks at Highland Glen are fine. Yet the city contracts with Wildlife Services to round them up and kill them every year.
Lastly, please don’t feed ducks bread. It lacks the nutrients they need to thrive, and it contributes to metabolic bone disease, slipped wing and impacted crop. It also hurts the water quality and contributes to algae blooms and botulism in warmer months. We all fed bread to ducks growing up. But now we know better.
Remember: Domestic ducks belong on farms and in yards with predator-proof pens. They make great pets. But they do not belong in our public parks. Here are a few success stories from Highland Glen. These are the lucky ones.
Kenny & Maude, dumped at Highland Glen, but now in a safe forever pet home.
Costello and Janis, dumped at Highland Glen, but now in their predator proof night pen.
Two pekin girls, dumped at Highland Glen, but now join their new beau Quackie Chan in a safe forever pet home.
Bobbi, dumped at Highland Glen, but now with drake Billy in a safe forever pet home.
Jeffinie, shot with an arrow at Highland Glen, rescued, recovered and safe now with other rescued ducks.
Special thanks to everyone who helps the dumped domestic ducks at Highland Glen. I’m sure there are many people I don’t know who help, but the helpers I know include Lynnel, Britta, Joanne, Kade, Shannon, the ACO who is there nearly every day and the city of Highland.