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Illegally Dumped Domestic Ducks Saved From Certain Death at Rock Run

Two ducks that were dumped along a Forest Preserve trail.
Two Indian runner ducks and one pekin duck were found at Rock Run Preserve. (Photo by Chad Merda)

Three domestic ducklings that were illegally dumped feet away from the parking lot at Rock Run Preserve and likely would have died if left there have been given a second chance at life.

The ducks — two Indian runner ducks and one pekin duck — were spotted next to the trail on Monday morning. These non-native domesticated ducks do not fly, are estimated to be about a month old, and stayed in the same spot throughout the day. They didn't get there on their own.

Without any waterproof feathers, the ducklings could have become waterlogged and drowned in the pond, according to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. Additionally, they were quite literally sitting ducks and easily could have become an easy target for a predator.

There also are potential environmental implications when unwanted pets and other non-native animals are released in the preserves, which is strictly prohibited under General Use Ordinance No. 124.

"The primary concern with the release of exotic waterfowl would be the potential spread of exotic pathogens to native populations, and if they survive, they could potentially hybridize with wild mallards," said Chris Gutmann, the facility supervisor at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center. "For whatever reason, I've seen this a lot in forest preserves in general. Some people think they're doing the forest preserves a favor by 'stocking' them with ducks."

Regardless of the reason someone dumped the trio, District staff worked on relocating them. Normally, we refer people who find injured or orphaned animals to area wildlife centers and state-certified wildlife rehabilitators. In this case, because the ducks were found on District property, it was getting late in the day and the ducks were very young and in very close proximity to the trail, we believed it was imperative to get them out of the wild and into a setting suited to domesticated species.  

We were put in contact with Channahon Mayor Missey Moorman Schumacher, who has had some domestic ducks on her property and agreed to take them in once District staff captured them. 

Schumacher, who lives on a 5-acre parcel of land in Channahon, said she and her husband Dennis Bubinas love animals. "We have always been great for taking in orphans," she explained. Schumacher grew up on a 40-acre farm in Channahon with sheep, cattle, chicken, goats and ducks. She said the ducklings have a coop of their own for protection at night, and she will be putting up a fence to give them partial access to the pond in her yard during the day. Once the ducklings get their oil feathers, then they'll have full access to swim around to their heart's content.

Schumacher said she is looking forward to showing the ducklings to her three-year-old granddaughter, McKenzie. "She is going to be so excited," she commented.

"We are very appreciative of Missey’s quick response and her opening her home to the ducklings," said Cindy Cain, the Forest Preserve District’s public information officer. "We love knowing they are now safe and sound and not in jeopardy from the elements or predators."

Monday's discovery serves as yet another reminder that forest preserves should not serve as dumping grounds for animals. 

“An animal raised in captivity has not learned how to forage for food, how to hibernate or migrate, or what predatory cues to avoid, and this makes them less likely to survive after being released,” said Becky Blankenship, the Forest Preserve’s wildlife biologist. “On the other hand, the released animal may thrive in the wild as an invasive species, which can be detrimental to the ecosystem.

“For example, if someone doesn’t want their tank of goldfish anymore and dumps it into a pond, those goldfish will continue to eat, grow, and reproduce, leaving fewer resources to sustain the native populations,” Blankenship explained. “This decreases the biodiversity and quality of the pond.”

Invasive species can out-compete native species for food or shelter, and may even establish breeding populations, she added.

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