With Easter around the corner, animal experts are pleading with the public to avoid buying baby ducklings as presents, citing a rise in high abandonment rates.
Ducks grow up quickly and require lots of care and a Lake Elsinore duck sanctuary is raising awareness on the issue.
Howard Berkowitz is the founder of The Duck Pond of Lake Elsinore, a nonprofit sanctuary that is home to around 200 ducks. He said that number alarmingly continues to grow every year.
“I’ve been doing this for approximately 10 years,” said Berkowitz. “It started out with five ducks that had been abandoned at a feed store in Costa Mesa and we took them in and then slowly, we started taking in more ducks.”
Berkowitz said the ducks he houses have all been either stranded or abandoned by their owners.
“At Easter time, most all the feed stores will start selling baby ducks and you can order them online which is even worse,” said Berkowitz.
He said every year, people purchase cute, small ducklings without realizing what they’re actually getting into. When the responsibility becomes too great, the ducks are eventually dumped at a lake or a pond. But because these store-bought animals are actually domesticated, they won’t be able to fend for themselves in the wild.
“They realize that, number one, the city doesn’t allow it because they are considered a farm animal or the neighbors complain or they just don’t want to take the responsibility because they become very messy,” said Berkowitz. “Ducks walk and poop everywhere. They require a lot of water and a special diet.”
With the upcoming Easter holiday, Berkowitz said he’s anticipating taking on around 50 or 60 additional ducks that will be abandoned by owners. Officials are also pleading with the public to avoid buying baby chicks or bunnies as gifts.
At the moment, he said his Lake Elsinore sanctuary is running out of room and he’s hoping to relocate to a larger property in Wildomar to continue housing abandoned ducks.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help with expenses.
“Please don’t buy a baby duck for Easter, don’t buy any animal for easter,” advises Berkowitz. “This is a live animal that you’re going to have to take care of for the next 10-12 years.”