Duck Rescue 101
Article submitted on 2015-10-09 by: Dave Swanson
For over thirty years, members of the Green Bay Duck Hunters Association have operated a duck rescue program. It began in the late ‘70’s by two founding members, Ted Thyrion and Milt Geyer, to whom this program is dedicated to, 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, construction sites, 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 Green Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (920) 391-3671to respond to such incidents. More than 11,000 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. By placing any water or food near the nest, predators are attracted which can be harmful to the brood. Some of the predators include crows, cats, raccoons, opossums and squirrels.
The closer to the hatch date, the more protective the hen will be. In the extreme case of a disturbed hen or abandoned nest, eggs will 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. Yearly, a returning hen may nest in the same place or nearby.
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. The trap is covered with a blanket to keep them calm. The hen and ducklings are transported to a wildlife area or marsh 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.
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, this 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’s “Hero’s 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 Dr and at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve on CTH J in Suamico.