Rescued Scotts Valley ducklings land in private rehab

Santa Cruz Sentinel

SCOTTS VALLEY — A trio of ducklings who saw their corporate-based home pond drained last week has been rescued and transferred to a private shelter until they are old enough to be released in the wild.

“They’re in a very safe and happy place,” said Loretta Gardiner, who is the resident egg salvage and hatchery specialist at Rancho Esquon in Durham near Chico, a 6,800 acre rice and almond farm that also serves as a rehab facility for about 1,500 rescued birds each year.

With daily high-protein turkey meals and fresh water, the local ducks, bred on the shores of the Enterprise Technology Centre back pond, are expected to double in size every five days. They should be ready for release in just a few weeks.

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for the ducklings, which hatched last month, the last of several new duck families this season. Too young to fly, the ducklings faced an uncertain future when corporate property managers at Grubb & Ellis decided to drain the pond to cut costs at the mostly vacant facility.

When former employees of the building heard about it, they launched a widespread emergency rescue effort that hit several dead-ends, partly bureaucratic and partly jurisdictional, before it was successful. Finally, after a flurry of calls, Kris Houser, a technology writer with Embarcadero Technologies, which used to occupy space in the centre, helped volunteers from the Native Animal Rescue program trap the ducklings on June 29. They were then transferred to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, a nonprofit agency that specializes in fowl rescues relating to oil spills. On Thursday, the baby mallards landed in Rancho Esquon, where they’ll stay in protective custody with a gaggle of other birds about their same age. As part of Rancho Esquon’s education programs, children are often invited to hold and release the birds into the wild.

Without rescuing, the ducklings would have perished, said Molly Richardson, director of the Native Animal Rescue of Santa Cruz County, which rescues about 2,000 animals a year. The mother would’ve flown off when the pond was dry and the ducklings wouldn’t have been able to walk in the mud or make their way down a steep embankment to a nearby creek, she said. Disturbing the habitat when it means certain death is a breach of law, Richardson said, denying that she had told the property manager at Grubb & Ellis to go ahead and drain the pond.

E-mails provided by Grubb & Ellis for review seem to point to confusion over whether the birds could be considered migratory or not and whether the action to drain the pond was harmful or not.

Damon Elder, a spokesman with Grubb & Ellis, said Friday that the company contacted state and local agencies and got a green light to proceed with plans to drain the pond.

“All those agencies gave us the clearance to drain the ponds and said those ducks weren’t in any danger,” Elder said. “There’s a creek. We did do our homework.”

The cost to maintain the corporate fountains and ponds is heavy for the property owners, especially in this business climate, Elder said.

“That submarket was badly impacted by the economy,” he said. “We have to watch every dime. That’s what it comes down to: nickels and dimes.”

This article first appeared here.

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