"Duck Rescue 101"
For over thirty years, members of the Green Bay Duck Hunters Association have operated a duck rescue program. It began in 1985 by two founding members, Ted Thyrion and Milt Geyer, to whom this program is dedicated, who volunteered numerous hours and miles to "rescue" the ducklings.
Currently working under the direction of the Green Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, members monitor nesting ducks in high-risk locations such as parking lots, business and residential areas. Duck rescues occur as hens and ducklings find themselves trapped in swimming pools, back yards, in traffic and down in storm sewers. GBDHA members are on call with the Brown County Communications Center (920) 391-7450 and the
to respond to such incidents. More than 13,000 ducks to date have been "rescued" by this program and the numbers grow every year.
In the case of a hen found nesting in a high-risk location, a member will contact the property owner and evaluate the location. They will then monitor the progress of the hen and may install a small fence to contain the brood for safety.
During this time, observation at a distance is encouraged but do not interfere with the natural progress. Nesting hens will take care of their own food and water needs. They can be seen leaving the nest during early morning or evening hours to feed, water and exercise. Placing any water or food near the nest will attract predators which can be harmful to the brood. Some of the predators include crows, cats, raccoons, opossums and squirrels.
The closer to the hatch date, about 28 days after the last egg is laid, the more protective the hen will be. In the extreme case of a disturbed hen or abandoned nest, eggs may be collected and incubated at the sanctuary. In most cases the hen will nest again and raise a second brood but not always in the same place. It is not uncommon that a returning hen may nest in the same location or within a few feet of it.
In the case of a brood trapped or in traffic, keeping them together is important. This can be accomplished by simply "herding" them, from a distance, away from trouble or into a confined area. In the events ducklings drop into a storm sewer or are otherwise trapped, the hen will stay nearby, trying to coax the others into coming along. By staying up on the curb, she can be safe until all are reunited.
A box type trap with remote control is used to catch and contain the ducks. After trapping them, a blanket will be laid over the trap to calm them. The hen and ducklings are then transported to a wetlands area for release into the wild. Locations vary so as to disperse the groups. In partnership with the Wisconsin DNR and the US Fish & Wildlife Bird Banding Program, past hen mallards have been banded and the hatch data forwarded for study. Several of those banded hens have returned year after year.
You may wonder why we have taken this on. Our commitment is to conservation and stewardship efforts aimed at conserving our resources for all. In fact, under the direction of Joe Loehlein and Tim Braunel, this program has been awarded the WI Wildlife Federation's "Conservationist" award for 2010, the Brown County Conservation Alliance's "Conservationist" award, featured in Field & Stream Magazine's "Heroes of Conservation" and received a special recognition as a volunteer group award by the WI DNR. You can observe our other projects and view waterfowl and wildlife at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary on East Shore Drive and at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve on County Highway J in Suamico.
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