By Gabriele Holtermann
Do not dump domestic ducks in New York City parks — or any other animals for that matter. This was the message NYC Urban Park Rangers and activists of the rescue organization “They All Want to Live” had for New York City residents in Flushing on Friday, Dec. 11.
The rangers and activists came to the rescue of 11 domestic ducks that were illegally dumped in a pond in Flushing’s Bowne Park sometime in the middle of November. Edita Birnkrant, the executive director of NYCLASS, and Mary Beth Artz, a New York state wildlife rehabilitator, suspect that a street vendor who tried to sell ducks outside Maple playground in Flushing dumped the group of waterfowl in the pond.
With locals looking on and under the watchful eye of the wild geese that call the pond home, the rescue operation was a surprisingly quick affair. The team comprised of park rangers in canoes and volunteers — some of them wearing water waders braving the cold pond water — corralled the ducks to safe shores. Once the ducks were steered to a pen that was set up on the edge of the pond, they were captured with nets and put in pet carriers.
Unlike wild geese and ducks, domesticated ducks cannot survive in the wild. Unable to fly because of their large bodies and small wings, the Bowne Park ducks were in danger of succumbing to either the elements, predators or starving to death once the mercury dips below 32 degrees and the pond freezes over.
Artz, who has been rescuing ducks for years, has noticed an increase in illegal duck dumping in the past eight months and thinks the COVID-19 pandemic might be the cause.
“We have been doing duck rescue nonstop for the last eight months since the pandemic started,” Artz said. “We have been doing it for many years, but this year particular, because people have been home, you can buy ducklings online. They ship them through the mail, and people pick them up at the post office. Once the novelty of the ducklings, the fuzzy, cute stage wears off, they are incredibly hard to take care of in an apartment or home.”
“I don’t think it’s malicious,” Artz continued. “They don’t realize that [the ducks] are domestic and can’t survive in the wild like the mallard. So, they think that it’s a good thing that they are doing by dumping them to be free in a pond. It’s a death sentence.”
Bonny McGuire, director at NYC Urban Park Rangers, agreed.
“It definitely happened pre-pandemic, but we have seen a slight uptick since the pandemic happened,” McGuire said.
McGuire took the opportunity to reminded New Yorkers that domestic animals do not belong in public parks.
“If you have a pet of any kind, a snake, a dog, a cat, a turtle, a duck, don’t take them to the park. It’s not a place for them,” she said. “It won’t be good for them or the environment.”
The rescued ducks were taken to Goose Pond Mountain, an animal sanctuary in Goshen, New York, where they will be as “happy as a duck in New York” living in a predator-proof enclosure with kiddie pools in the summer.