One lucky duck | Moment's Notice

By Maria Montalvo | Jun 08, 2017
Courtesy of: Amanda Tavoularis Alex Schatz helped rescue a momma duck and her ducklings.

After a delightful morning wandering the Saturday market, my husband, two friends and I were walking home along a quiet street in Edmonds when we came upon a momma duck with three ducklings hovering too close to the street, despite the immediate danger of several dogs and people about.

Long story short, with the help of three neighbors, a pool net and a very patient 6-year-old named Alex, we located the ducklings trapped in a storm drain and reunited them with mom.

Perhaps it was our dads who raised us to take the stray to the shelter and respect the animals being raised or hunted for food and love the dogs and cats (and horses and guinea pigs and birds and goats) we grew up with, but watching those ducks waddle away, we felt good.

My husband is involved with PAWS, an organization that works to protect both domestic animals and wildlife.

They believe that people and animals are best served when they play their appropriate roles.

Wild animals are wild, farm animals are to be treated humanely (with reduced reliance as a food source as a priority), and domesticated animals create social and mental health benefits as companions.

PAWS is often thought of as a dog and cat adoption center, but their work is much more expansive, impactful and sometimes controversial.

Case in point, I recently saw an interview with a Seattle woman, who works in charities affiliated with child protection, who sees abuse, neglect, and the ravages of poverty hurt kids every day.

She said that animal-rights charities often out-fundraise children’s charities, and talked of her internal conflict over the concern for animals versus a concern for children.

The struggle came from a valid place, but I see caring for animals and people as complementary, not competitive. At the base level, we need animals for a variety of uses, and more importantly, the lessons of compassion and caring that come from animals is proven to positively impact human society.

Interacting with your childhood pet and other animals or caring for livestock in a humane and sustainable way is directly related to how humans treat each other. Psychologically it is referred to as a manifestation of “pro-social” vs. “anti-social” behavior.

Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

When considering what is most important in our policies and interventions and charitable efforts, it is true that humans only directly “use” a few hundred species of plants and animals. The vast majority of our food supply comes from only 12 plant species and 15 mammals and birds.

However, those few species are dependent on thousands of others for their productivity and existence – insects and birds pollinate crop flowers (butterflies, bumble and honey bees, flies, beetles, hummingbirds, sunbirds) and serve as natural pest control (birds, bats, moles, frogs, wasps, ladybugs, worms). More than 80 percent of the crops grown in the U.S. and Europe need insect or bird pollinators.

And if the beloved insects like butterflies or ladybugs are not enough to sway you, the species disappearing first are those that buffer against infectious disease transmission (bees again, some ants – did you know scientists first mapped the fruit fly genome to learn how to map the human one since 70 percent of our genomes match?), while surviving species tend to be the ones that cause disease transmission (mosquitoes, fleas).

Impacts to food supplies will be felt in developing and developed nations alike. The same holds true for fish – not just as a food source but also as part of the ecosystem.

More than 70 percent of commercial fisheries are being fished unsustainably, and early in 2017, international trade groups opened up the sublayer of the oceans (where no sun reaches) to catch the pre-historic-looking sea life to make up for dwindling catches of a more recognizable sort.

Just a couple of months ago, those of us at the Edmonds off-leash beach watched an eagle go after a seagull because there are not enough salmon and other fish for them to eat, and our orca population is dwindling.

I believe baby ducks are cute, but I am not yet a full-fledged vegetarian. I find rabbits, raccoons and coyotes adorable, but have to remind myself that they are also part of not just one, but also multiple food chains. Animals are important to us – whether as a beloved pet or as a critical function in nature.

When we came upon those ducks, none of us considered walking by or rolled our eyes at the 20 minutes of effort.

We were grateful we happened by and hopeful that 6-year-old Alex would remember the moment of caring for some baby ducks and share it with his generation.

Note: There are many critical protocols with dealing with wildlife, and in nearly all cases, regular citizens getting involved is NOT the right approach. Be sure to contact Fish and Wildlife or PAWS or your local police department for help.


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