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Identity issues

muscovy2.jpgLast month, the Kenneth City Town Council passed an ordinance that prohibits the feeding of wild animals on private property (the town already had an ordinance banning the feeding of wildlife on public property). Although they are not named in the ordinance, it was directed at Muscovy ducks. The birds have been the subject of a long-running dispute in Kenneth City between residents who enjoy feeding the ducks and those who argue that feeding encourages the birds to hang around residences and cause problems (i.e., poop on sidewalks).

The Town Council can be forgiven for thinking that Muscovy ducks are wildlife. The ordinance specifies “wild” birds, but according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Muscovy ducks are domestic birds. Now the town is concerned that the new ordinance does not apply to the animals it was intended for (read about the dilemma in this week’s St. Petersburg Times).

Muscovy ducks sometimes make odd choices, such as building nests next to busy sidewalks, but we doubt that most people would consider them domestic, or tame, animals. Like squirrels or pigeons, Muscovy ducks thrive in urban environments, but nobody “owns” them and they shouldn’t be confused with dogs or cats.

Wild pigs in Florida have similar identity problems. Even though pigs have been Florida residents since the 16th century, the FWC defines them as a “non-native” and domestic. If you ever come across a group of wild pigs while on a hike, you will not mistake them for their domestic cousins! (Read more about wild pigs on our website)

We believe that the FWC is wearing blinders by refusing to classify Muscovy ducks and wild pigs as wildlife. And definitions count. Wildlife receive the limited protections of state wildlife laws (for example, wildlife in Florida can not be captured or killed without a license or permit).

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