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Adoption FAQ

Rescuing Domestic Ducks And Geese In Your Area

So you've found some abandoned domestic waterfowl in trouble and you want to help, but don't know where to begin...

Who will catch the birds?

Unfortunately, there aren't many organizations who will actually participate in a rescue unless the duck or goose is already trapped, injured or suffering. And even then, it can be extremely difficult finding a rescuer, fireperson, animal control person or wildlife rehabber to assist you (but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try!). Most animal shelters don't have waterfowl rescuers at their disposal and will require that you take care of that part yourself and then bring the duck or goose to them afterwards.

Alerting someone else of the situation is a start, but rarely enough to truly help the animal escape the trouble they're in. This means, if you really want to help a duck or goose in trouble you're probably going to have to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Rescuing animals can be challenging. It requires determination, preparedness and patience, but that doesn't mean you can't do it; in fact, many people before you have dedicated themselves to the task and successfully rescued abandoned ducks and geese in their area. You can do it too!

The good news is taking part in an animal rescue is an extremely rewarding and life-changing experience. Don't deny yourself this wonderful opportunity just because it may be a little difficult. The more challenging the rescue, the more rewarding the rescue experience!

Who can take the birds after they're rescued?

There aren't many shelters equipped to handle domestic waterfowl and many of them are full. You can Click Here for help finding a shelter near you (and remember to donate!).

You may not be able to find a shelter near you. In this case, you'll have to find a safe and loving home for your rescues all on your own. Don't let that stop you! You can do it!

You may even find that you have to set up a temporary home for the ducks or geese in your own backyard until you can find a safe, new home for them. We know of quite a few people who've done this (and even a few who decided to keep their rescues after all!)

So now what?

Now that you've come to the realization that you are the only advocate these poor abandoned ducks and geese have, it's time to act the part!

Are the birds healthy or injured?

If you see injuries of any kind, you are going to want to find a vet who can treat the birds as soon as you have captured them. Not all avian vets handle ducks and geese. In fact, it can be very difficult to find a willing and experienced vet to lend a hand. It can be even more difficult to find a vet willing to offer free services, but it can't hurt to ask, so start calling.  Visit our Vet Finder to see if we have any vet listings in your area.

Who owns the property?

We always advise that you get written permission from the property owner or park foreman prior to your rescue. If you are doing a rescue in a public area, you should always notify the police ahead of time. Let them know you have written permission and the date and time of your rescue. If you don't do it, someone will most likely call the police and you will be interrupted. You risk losing valuable time explaining yourself when you could be rescuing ducks and geese.

How do you ask a Park Foreman for permission?

This is what we say: 

"I noticed that there are two domestic ducks dropped off on ____ Pond in ____ Park. These were most likely pets who were dropped off and abandoned. They are non-flying and when the other birds migrate in the Fall, these ducks will be left behind and will most likely die over the course of winter. Even worse, if any other irresponsible pet owners see them, it could inspire them to drop off their pets as well. You could end up with a real problem on your hands if we don't remove them quickly. We would like permission to come in and safely remove the ducks from this public place and deliver them to a safe and loving home."

This line of reasoning has always worked for us; in fact, we usually get full support of the park foreman and the assistance of their staff. Remember when the rescue is over to send a thank you card to the park foreman for their assistance.

Are the birds on land or water?

Water Rescues

Most commonly, the ducks or geese are on water. Will you be able to lure them up on land for the rescue, or will you need to capture them on the water? If the birds are skittish and too shy to come up on land, you will need to find water rescue gear. If you can find someone with a sit-down Jetski , this is your best option. It has no propeller and is safe to use and maneuverable enough to catch a duck or goose. Ducks and geese are quick on water and do a lot of diving and dodging.

If you don't have access to a Jetski or boat, you can ask the local fire dept for assistance, or if it is a public pond, the park foreman may have access to a boat, canoe or kayak. You can also call and ask your local wildlife rehabbers if they know anyone who can lend a water vehicle.

A Jetski can safely keep up with the antics of ducks and geese who don't realize a rescue is in their best interests. In fact, cautiously tiring them out is a common first step before actually making capture attempts. Do not chase them at a high speed, just a slow and steady pace. You will start to notice that they dive less frequently, or when they dive, they don't swim nearly as far away from you. These are key signs that you are ready to get out your "butterfly" net and start working on their safe capture. You can either try catching the duck or goose with a net, or you can safely drive them on shore and do a land rescue.

Land Rescues

If you are doing a land rescue, you can set up a net pen on shore. Purchase deer netting and secure it into place using bamboo posts. Set up a "U" shaped net on shore. Lure the ducks into the pen with food (best time to rescue is around 8 a.m. when the ducks are hungry). Try to get them as far into the pen as you can. Have volunteers come into the pen and together you can corner and catch the duck or goose.

Ducks and geese will try to escape the net and get back to the water--their instincts tell them "water is safe." If a duck takes "flight" (they can get lift of 1-3 feet off the ground) get between them and the water. They can't steer once they are in the air, so if you get directly in front of them, you can catch them. It's almost like catching a football.

Safe Catching

Reach out to catch a duck like you would catch a cat, put your hands over the back of their body. Their wings are strong so hold them in firmly (but carefully) with your thumbs. As soon as you catch them, sit over them and hold them in place using your legs while someone else brings you a pet carrier and places it directly in front of you. Then ease the duck carefully forward and into the carrier.

If you need to, you can catch a duck by the base of the neck--just don't squeeze. Hold on just enough to keep them in place until you can get your arms around them.

Remember ducks don't have teeth, so about the worst injury you will get is a pinch or a toe nail scratch. So don't panic during your rescue.

NEVER CATCH A DUCK OR GOOSE BY THE WINGS OR LEGS or you may break bones or dislocate joints.

Ducks and geese often fall for a "fake left and grab right" capturing tactic. Use this to your advantage.

We love it when we hear there is an aggressive goose that needs capturing. An aggressive goose won't run away--it will come right for us. It is remarkably easy to move faster than a goose and grab them gently by the bill and close it. Then at the same time, scoop the goose up with your other hand--coming from behind them and reaching between their legs. A goose's beating wings can cause FAR more damage than its biting bill. You will need a partner to help hold the wings in place while you carry the goose to its pet carrier. Most geese will not flap their wings once they are up in the air and don't have proper leverage, so try to clench the bill gently closed and lift the goose up as quickly as possible to keep the goose under control.

For more information CLICK HERE.

More than one try...

It is not uncommon to miss some or all of the ducks/geese on the first rescue. You want to try to avoid leaving only one duck behind UNLESS it is a life or death situation.

You can use captured ducks in pet carriers as lures to get their mates off the water--this is especially effective with geese who mate for life. If you can, try to capture hens first because drakes and ganders will often come off the water more easily if their ladies are in pet carriers on shore, calling to them. Boys fall for this trick more readily than girls.

If your first rescue attempt was not successful, and it is not an emergency situation, take a break for a few days and just show up at the site with food. Ducks and geese thrive on routine. Get them back into one and rebuild trust with food. Floating duck food or round cat kibble (no hairball, urinary tract, or special formulas) are recommended healthy food options during a rescue. Try to avoid unhealthy snacks unless you absolutely need to.

Stop the cycle of abandonment

Contact your local paper and put up posters to raise awareness regarding the issue. If you don't get this message out to the public, you may find yourself in the middle of an abandonment cycle. You don't want to rescue the birds only to have new ones dropped off into the same situation.

If you are not in need of public assistance or support for your rescue, we highly advise sending letters to the editor AFTER the rescue is complete. It is not uncommon for other irresponsible pet owners to hear you are removing animals from an area, and decide to throw their unwanted pets into the mix to solve their problem and add to yours.

If you are in need of volunteers or rescue gear, going to the papers first may be your only option.

Bitter cold

We often get contacted regarding ducks and geese in situations where it is freezing cold and the birds are in danger of frost bite, predation, starvation or acts of cruelty. If you are outside of Connecticut--our range, we cannot be of direct assistance. You will need to be these animal's advocates utilizing the information above and throughout our website.

You will need to be the one to find them new homes, arrange for their rescue and vet care. Help the animals, raise awareness and stop the cycle of abandonment.

Other sources of help

You can sometimes find local assistance by joining Yahoo chat forum "Petducksrus." It is fast, easy and free to join. Lots of pet duck and goose lovers keep in touch through this forum and you may be able to find some local volunteers or homes via this forum.

We have compiled a list of other domestic waterfowl rescuers; CLICK HERE to view the list and see if any of them are in your area and able to offer assistance.

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