HARRISBURG – With Easter just around the corner, many parents consider purchasing young rabbits, ducks, geese or chickens for their children as pets. However, officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Wildlife Rehabilitation Association are urging parents to think twice about purchasing such pets.
“Each year, we hear of people abandoning these living Easter gifts at public parks, state forests or State Game Lands after parents and children grow tired of caring for these pets,” said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. “Nearly all of these animals are unable to survive in the wild on their own since they have been breed and raised in captivity.”
Beth Carricato, a wildlife rehabilitator in Harrisburg, said parents should educate themselves about an animal’s needs and requirements before purchasing a pet. She noted that wildlife rehabilitators typically are filled to capacity largely due to impulse purchases of these animals and their eventual release.
“As the animal’s uniqueness fades and they grow, many will inevitably be taken on a one-way trip to a pond or park and abandoned,” Carricato said. “Very few will become permanent pets where they are fed and kept properly.”
Leaving domestic animals, such as ducks or geese, in the wild is illegal and has the potential to spread diseases to wild populations and cause domestic hybridization of the wild waterfowl.
“People feeding ducks and geese, cause them to remain in the area and, eventually, they will begin to reproduce,” DuBrock said. “Typically, cross-bred waterfowl are often associated with nuisance situations. Also, the area will become overpopulated and suffer from the stress of too many birds.”
DuBrock also noted that people who feed the birds actually are doing them a disservice, especially when they’re provided bread, crackers, chips and popcorn.
“Ducks and geese can starve to death if that is all they get to eat,” DuBrock said. “Geese and ducks are mainly vegetarians, but well-meaning people bringing big bags of bread and crackers to feed the ducks and geese need to understand that they are killing the birds with their kindness. Bread fills the birds’ stomachs, but provides very little nutritional value.
“The entire situation could be avoided if only parents think twice about giving such pets as Easter gifts. For the health and safety of the animals – both domestic and wild – we urge parents to fully educate themselves about the responsibilities that come with owning such pets.”
As an added concern, many municipalities have zoning ordinances that prohibit ownership of livestock, such as poultry and waterfowl.