The tale of Bartholomew the duck (and why not to release domesticated fowl)

This is a lucky duck.
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The duck in the photo is named Bartholomew. Although he may look like an ordinary mallard, there's something very different about him.

Bartholomew is domesticated. He doesn't know how to survive in the wild. So when he wound up alone and outside - in the middle of January - Bartholomew was confused.

Luckily some very nice people working at Northland Chevrolet thought it was strange to see a duck out there in the snow last Thursday. With the help of popcorn and a little bit of a chase, they finally got the duck inside the dealership to warm up.

One of Northland's employees, Ruthie Heitke, decided to take the duck home because he was very friendly. "I think I shall name him Bartholomew," Heitke wrote on Facebook.

She posted an update of Bartholomew having fun in the tub.

Bath time!!! (Yes, my drain is broken and I need to stop water with that way. Oh well.)

Posted by Ruthie Mae Heitke on Friday, January 13, 2017

But Heitke couldn't keep Bartholomew, so she dropped him off at Wildwoods in Duluth. It's a rehab center for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife.

Now the workers at Wildwoods are taking care of Bartholomew until he finds a forever home - preferably a kind person who has other ducks or chickens and a nice warm shed.

It's a cute story with a happy ending. But sadly, this isn't the way it normally goes for other ducks and fowl that have been abandoned.

Why you shouldn't release domesticated fowl

After seeing Bartholomew's story, we reached out to Wildwoods to find out how often this type of thing happens.

Executive Director of Wildwoods Farzad Farr told GoMN that the rehab center takes in at least 5-6 domestic ducks and geese every winter. Some years it's many more.

"People buy them when they are small. And then when they grow up and aren't in the cute phase, people think they are doing the compassionate thing by releasing them. But they cannot survive, they get stuck in the snow," Farr said.

"If it's out in the snow, please bring it to us, because it's either injured or domesticated."

He explained that domesticated ducks (and other fowl, like geese) can't migrate. They've never flown long distances, and they simply don't have the strength or sense of direction. If they don't find shelter or rescue from the elements, they are likely to die out in the cold. It's a problem that Wildwoods will be addressing in an upcoming article.

Which means if you see a duck in the snow, it probably needs help.

"If it's out in the snow, please bring it to us, because it's either injured or domesticated," Farr said.

He added that it's actually pretty easy to identify a domesticated duck vs. a wild duck.

"The temperament is so different. We can tell the difference because the domestic are very talkative, very social, and you can hold them. And the wild ones are not talkative, they are more reserved," he said.

Bartholomew loves to be held, and he even wags his tail and fluffs his feathers. He and other fowl raised by humans don't stand a very good chance of surviving in the wild.

Do Bartholomew a favor, and spread the message.

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