homepage logo

Highland City to partner with local animal rescues to stop duck culling

By Ashtyn Asay - | May 16, 2022

Courtesy Adison Smith

Adison Smith, founder of Wasatch Wanderers, center, poses with Erin Wells, assistant city administrator for Highland, and Mayor Kurt Ostler.

Each year, domestic ducks are bought at feed stores for adorable Easter gifts before being abandoned in local ponds when they become too complicated to care for.

Dumping ducks is not only illegal according to Utah Code, it also has dire consequences for both ducks and ponds alike.

Because domestic ducks are too big to fly and ill-equipped to forage for food in the wild, many of them succumb to the elements mere weeks after being released. Those that survive breed and wreak havoc on local water quality, causing surges in E. coli levels.

Once a duck has been released into a local pond, the owner has unintentionally shifted responsibility for the animal onto the city government responsible for maintaining the pond.

In the past, Highland, like many other Utah cities, has turned to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to remove the ducks in the Highland Glen Park pond with a method called culling, a grim and expensive process in which domestic ducks are extracted from bodies of water and killed.

However, this spring will be different. Highland City will begin partnering with local rescues Wasatch Wanderers and Puddle Ducks Rescue in order to remove and rehome the domestic ducks at Highland Glen.

According to Adison Smith, the founder of Wasatch Wanderers, the culling of ducks at Highland Glen Park had previously been a point of frustration for her organization until a productive meeting with Highland City officials earlier this month.

“There doesn’t need to be this contention or these harsh feelings when we want what’s best for the ducks and they want to save city money, and us rescuing these ducks does that for them,” she said. “I think we’re kind of on the same page now.”

According to Kurt Ostler, Highland City mayor, this shift away from duck culling can be attributed to the efforts of Wasatch Wanderers and other local rescues.

“Highland City did not go seek them out, they came and sought out Highland City. So it was really residents getting involved, seeing a need and (being) willing to step up,” he said. “You have to have things come to your attention and see that there’s another option. Because someone can say, ‘Hey, we don’t want you killing the ducks,’ but you’re going, ‘OK, what’s some of our other options?'”

According to Ostler, it is only possible for the city to end duck culling at Highland Glen Park while community members and rescues are willing to step up and take responsibility for rehoming the animals.

“If we don’t have the resources, where would we go? What are we going to do if we don’t have a resource such as Wasatch Wanderers to help us with adoption?” he said. “I don’t know if we have city employees that would go catch these ducks and try to go find a home; it’s really these organizations that are helping us.”

The city also intends to put up educational signage at Highland Glen Park in order to inform residents of the impact that duck dumping can have on the environment and the animals themselves.

At a May 3 Highland City Council meeting, Wasatch Wanderers presented a Humane Long Island International Duck Defender Award to Highland City to thank staff members for their efforts.

“Wasatch Wanderers appreciates your city setting an example to so many others about forward-thinking methods using educational signage to deter animal abandonment and humane resources for removal and rehoming when necessary,” Smith said during the meeting. “This story took on national viewers and supporters and Duck Defenders wanted to show their gratitude for your choice to not kill the ducks and make positive changes for these animals. Thank you so much.”

Although it will take Smith and fellow rescuers time to remove the close to 20 abandoned domestic ducks from Highland Glen and get them ready for adoption, at the time of this article 70 other ducks were available for adoption at Wasatch Wanderers.

Those interested in adopting a rescued duck can reach out to wasatchwaterfowl@gmail.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/wasatchwanderersutah/ for more information.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)