Live Easter pets have little chance of survival
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Fluffy live bunnies and quacking ducklings may look cute in children's Easter baskets, but the Pennsylvania Game Commission says the kids might be better off with candy.
Agency officials advise parents against giving the traditional Easter gifts of live rabbits, ducks, geese and chickens. Too often, those specific pets end up being illegally and irresponsibly released into the wild.
"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 [them]," said Calvin W. DuBrock, director of the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management.
Believing they're "freeing" their unwanted pets, some families take them on a one-way ride to a local park or wooded area, not realizing the animals stand little to no chance of survival and could cause damage to the natural environment.
"Nearly all of these animals are unable to survive in the wild on their own since they have been bred and raised in captivity," said Mr. DuBrock.
Wildlife rehabilitators report that following sprees of seasonal impulse shopping for exotic pets, their pens can be filled with former pets rescued from the wild.
"Very few will become permanent pets where they are fed and kept properly," said Beth Carricato of the Pennsylvania Wildlife Rehabilitation Association.
Most abandoned Easter pets ultimately die in the jaws of a predator. They have the potential to introduce diseases to wild animal populations, and domestic ducks and geese could interbreed with their wild cousins, resulting in the domestic hybridization of wild waterfowl.
"Typically, cross-bred waterfowl are often associated with nuisance situations," said Mr. DuBrock. "Also, the area will become overpopulated and suffer from the stress of too many birds."
Many municipalities have zoning ordinances prohibiting ownership of poultry and waterfowl. And while the Game Commission has no jurisdiction over the abandonment of rabbits and chickens, it levies fines for the release of domestic waterfowl into the wild.
Live Easter pets were more popular during previous generations, but the practice is still a concern to Game Commission officials.
"We urge parents to fully educate themselves about the responsibilities that come with owning such pets," said Mr. DuBrock.
First Published May 2, 2007 2:25 pm