A Not So Ducky Idea

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Duck Dynasty is promoting family values.

Is there any doubt that the TV hit Duck Dynasty is a huge success? Whether it’s the zany cast of family and friends, the masterful scripting, slick editing or finally a show that promotes family values without relentless profanity, immorality or even twerking, it has captivated the attention of this nation like no other “reality” show has. And unless you believe the Easter Bunny regularly fishes with the Tooth Fairy, rest assured there is no such thing as reality television.

D.D. is not show and family patriarch Phil Robertson’s only profitable venture. The Robertsons have enjoyed varying degrees of success in its duck call and hunting video businesses – chump change compared to the gold mine Dynasty has metastasized into. National TV show guest appearances, throwing out first pitches, even being asked to run for political office and seemingly endless product endorsements from T-shirts to the Robertson girls in pink camo plastic cups are the mark of a new found dynasty of its own. One that has evolved into something that has little to do with ducks.

In baseball terms for every home run there are as many or more strikeouts. And many of Phil’s fans may not recall or even be aware of an earlier debacle. You see in the 1990s when North American waterfowl populations, thanks to climactic conditions, were at their lowest in years, Robertson being the enterprising individual he is thought he had the solution – duck stocking in his home state of Louisiana. It wasn’t an original idea in fact it was attempted in Florida with horrendous results. Even so, today there are still proponents of the idea that wild waterfowl populations can be increased like fish, through stockings.

The concept is to release captive-reared mallards that at a day old are removed from hatcheries and raised in large ponds enclosed with fencing and covered in netting to protect them from airborne predators. The ducklings are fed an equivalent of jet fuel protein diet to promote accelerated growth and then released for supplemental breeding and hunting opportunities once they are able to fly. Sounds good so far? When Robertson and his financial backers presented their program (which would be done at no cost to state taxpayers) to the LA Department of Wildlife & Fisheries Commission, the staff waterfowl biologists rolled their eyes. Here’s why.

Studies are producing frightening results.

Studies show that approximately 70% of pen-raised mallards die before the hunting season begins, the result of being easy pickings for predators and nutritional deficiency. It gets worse. Some survive and interbreed with wild ducks and migrate to other states within the flyway. Band recovery data indicate that some of these birds are being recovered as far away as Canada.

This raises the antennae of the US Fish & Wildlife Service because these birds devoid of natural immunities expose wild waterfowl to several diseases including virus enteritis, duck plague and avian cholera commonly found when in overcrowded conditions. Another concern is the risk of hybridization with mallards, black ducks and local non-migratory ducks such as the mottled duck. Because no long return to breeding grounds is required local wild duck populations are at the highest risk of weakening their genetics and their chances of survival. This was documented in the Florida duck population when it was experimented with in that state.

Finally, another negative aspect of large-scale captive-reared releases is its effect on waterfowl management programs. Tracking migrations, survival and harvest rates is easily disrupted when large numbers of captive-reared birds are interspersed with wild populations.

Consequently and with good reason, pen-raised mallard hunting by permit is monitored by state agencies to prevent mixing of wild and captive ducks.

Phil Robertson was visibly disappointed and expressed insult and outrage when the LDWF Commission acting upon the recommendations of its staff, pardon the pun, shot down his generous proposal. You can’t blame the guy, he was trying to save what he thought was the beginning of the end for what he loved most in the world – duck hunting. Would you expect less from the Alpha male, take-matters-into-his-own hands kind of personality he is?

Just so happens the truth is as wise old Uncle Si might say, “Its not nice to fool Mother Nature!”

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