Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fowl me once…

This specific story was actually from a year or two ago, but we inevitably get calls like this several times each winter. The caller was sure he had been watching a duck that was frozen in the ice near some reeds on the lake abutting his property. The Wildlife In Need Center does not have drivers on staff to rescue animals, we rely on the public and volunteers to bring animals to our center to provide care for them. We do our best to get volunteers when there is an animal in need, but sending a volunteer into water, even if it is frozen, is something we will not do for everyone's safety.

Several calls came into the office with no update on the duck and it was clear that there would be no convincing the gentleman that this was anything but an animal emergency. Eventually the individual ventured out onto the frozen water himself (which we absolutely never recommend). After a short trip, this gentleman called back, admittedly sheepish, and confirmed that indeed the “duck” had been an expensive decoy that must have gotten blown into the reeds or unearthed from the snow due to recent winds that week.

We absolutely want to help each and every animal, and ducks and geese could conceivably get frozen in the ice, but it almost never happens. They may choose to go to the middle of a frozen lake because they know they are safe from a number of predators out there and those that may still pose a threat can be seen from a distance. They often pull their feet up underneath themselves to keep warm when they are on the ice. We recommend if you see a bird on the frozen water that you suspect is hurt or stuck to first try these steps:

  • Try to get a closer look. If it is safe, walk to the water’s edge, or if that’s not close enough, track down a pair of binoculars or telescope to obtain a better picture of what you are looking at.

  • If you are unable to get a closer look, or if you do and are certain it is still potentially an animal in need, find some small stones or preferably a tennis ball or other softer item. Stand close to the shoreline and gently toss/roll/skip the item/s towards the animal. Aim to the side so that you don’t accidentally hit them though! This usually gets them to move so you can see they are free.

    If these techniques lead you to believe that this is an animal in need and that there is something wrong, contact your local rehabilitation center or humane society to alert them to the situation and discuss what options and next steps are available.

    We were very appreciative of this gentleman’s concern as well as his efforts to rescue this defenseless animal, but most of all we are happy to know that this story turned out to have a happy ending - because it was not a duck in need of our assistance.

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