Duck Breeding Ban May be Reversed

TEXAS, US - Keepers of Muscovy ducks are furious about new federal agency rules banning the breeding of these birds from many regions of the state.
calendar icon 26 April 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

On one side was the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a lumbering bureaucracy out to curb the spread of a pesky fowl; on the other, thousands of duck lovers, breeders and pet owners who feared for their flocks. Like forces of nature, inexorably they moved toward collision.

When the crisis hit three weeks ago in the form of new regulations for Muscovy ducks, the outcry was instant and stunning, at least by duck aficionado subculture standards, reports Houston Chronicle.

'Krazy K Farm Resident Muscovy Ducks Land in Government's Foul Territory', cried the headline on a news release distributed by Hempstead farm owner, Tobi Kosanke.

"We were blind-sided," declared American Poultry Association chief Sam Brush.

"None of us had a clue this was coming down the road," said James Konecny, president of the International Waterfowl Breeders Association.

At the heart of the dispute was the wildlife agency's finding that the Muscovy ducks – a blue-eyed breed native to Mexico and South America – had extended its range into three counties in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, and, therefore, could be considered migratory birds.

With that ruling came an order authorising landowners and others to remove the birds and their eggs – killing them was one option – from any place in the US outside the designated Texas counties. People who owned such ducks for any purpose other than meat production were barred from breeding them. Releasing them into the wild also was banned.

Duck fanciers were outraged. Muscovies widely are bred for show purposes – the breed was officially recognised as early as 1874 –said Mr Brush, a Fort Worth-area resident whose organisation oversees poultry competitions. The ducks also have been bred as pets for centuries.

Ms Kosanke said her flock of 40 ducks roam her 35-acre farm eating mosquitoes, flies, mice and other pests. In addition, they produced prized free-range eggs that Kosanke sells for a premium.

She urged supporters to sign a pro-Muscovy petition.

According to Houston Chronicle, George Allen, the US Fish and Wildlife Service branch chief who researched, then wrote, the regulations, said his agency was bound by international treaty to declare the ducks migratory once their permanent residence in the Rio Grande Valley had been established. Unlike many commonly hunted breeds on the migratory list, Muscovies do not make seasonal transcontinenal migrations.

When the proposed rules were published in the Federal Register, they brought only 10 responses, mostly from people in Texas and Florida who complained that Muscovy colonies were a bane both to humans and wildlife by virtue of their aggressiveness and messiness. Such colonies, were subject to removal even before the agency's ruling, he said.

Mr Allen, who specialises in wild species, had no knowledge that the ducks were a revered show bird, nor that some owners – such as Ms Kosanke – consider them the ideal domestic pet, displaying characteristics of both cats and dogs.

Almost as soon as the new regulations became effective, the part most onerous to Muscovy lovers – the ban on breeding – was put on hold. "I'm working at revising my revisions," Mr Allen conceded.

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