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A number of residents as well as members of the local Duck Buddies group report witnessing an alarming up tick in duck abuse by children frequenting Ashley Pond.
“Folks need to understand these ducks are protected by local ordinances and state and federal laws — abusing these ducks is just as bad as abusing a dog or a cat or a horse,” Duck Buddy member Pat Max said.
A local woman contacted the Monitor to describe a disturbing experience she encountered during a recent visit to the pond.
“I saw two children, a boy and a girl, throwing rocks as hard as they could at the ducks,” she said. “I told them I would call the police if they didn’t stop it.”
The problem seems to have accelerated during the after school hours in late spring.
“I’ve mostly seen the kids chasing the ducks, I haven’t seen any rock throwing,” Max said. “I’ve talked to the kids several times and explained that the ducks’ legs aren’t strong enough to run fast and are easily injured, which means they would have difficulty getting away from predators.”
Duck Buddy member Sallye Sibbitt is currently rehabilitating two ducks at her home. One of the ducks was limping from its injured legs, she said, adding that another person is caring for three female ducks and a small Wood duck at his home.
“What surprises me is the teenagers chasing the ducks … I just wish people would stop and think and employ a little kindness … ducks are there to be looked at and enjoyed but not to be chased,” Sibbitt said.
When questioned, the kids have told Max that they chase the ducks because it’s fun and they want to catch them and pet them. They do seem to feel bad and say they won’t do it anymore after she explains that they are harming the ducks and making them vulnerable to predators.
Last week a predator, thought to be a coyote or bobcat, attacked one of the ducks. All that remained of the duck was a wing and a foot.
“We can’t do anything about predators — that’s just what they do,” Max said. “But the kids need to stop. I’ve even seen some kids chase the ducks with their parents watching.”
She contacted the police department about the duck abuse. The department’s animal control division is responsible for providing animal control services throughout Los Alamos County. This includes enforcement of state and local laws and ordinances regarding animal welfare.
Animal Control Ofc. Robert Aragon explained that harassing the ducks is a form of animal abuse and if a witness comes forward to report someone who has caused injury to a duck, that person could be cited to appear in Municipal Court on abuse and neglect charges.
Another tenuous situation currently in play at the pond involves a duck that appears to have gone rogue.
“He’s really been bullying the other ducks for about three weeks,” Max said. “We’ve been trying to catch him but so far we’ve been unsuccessful.”
It’s the mating season and Sibbitt said he’s been keeping four male ducks out of the water. She also said the rogue duck nearly killed a juvenile duck, which she also has been rehabilitating at her home.
Max explained that the plan now is to create a walking net with which to encircle the pond and corral the male bully to one end where they can capture him. Sibbitt said they need to get him away from the other ducks and once he’s caught, she intends to keep him at her home.
Anyone witnessing duck abuse can contact Animal Control at 662-8179.