Friday, April 16, 2010

Muscovy rules from US FWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that the Muscovy Duck needs to be listed as a native species and added to the Migratory Bird List and thus protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Listing such a popular domestic duck as a wild native and extending it that kind of protection is inappropriate. Duck owners have responded loudly, and the regulation, which took effect March 31, 2010, is being reconsidered. As of now, those who own and breed Muscovy ducks will not be asked to make any changes and are permitted to keep their ducks without any additional permits or paperwork. This painting of Muscovies by Hashime Murayama comes from the National Geographic magazine of March 1930, Fowls of Forest and Stream Tamed by Man.

The USFWS understands that “The muscovy duck is native to Mexico, Central and South America.” The agency decided to declare it native to the U.S. after finding that “it has recently expanded its range from Mexico to Hidalgo, Starr, and Zapata counties in south Texas.” That means it’s an exotic invader everywhere else in the U.S. As such, Muscovies anywhere outside those south Texas counties can be killed without any restrictions,

Incredibly, the FWS somehow was not aware of the many poultry fanciers who keep Muscovies, or the fact that they are recognized by the American Poultry Association (and have been since the first Standard in 1874, when the White variety was included). The agency was unaware of the International Waterfowl Breeders Association, the specialty breed exhibition organization,

So, although the original proposal to list the Muscovy as a Migratory Bird was made in 2006, and the rule changes in 2009, the agency didn’t notify any of the people who would be most concerned. I didn’t hear about it until the rule change took effect in March, and I’ve been involved with poultry all along. Last October, at the SEJ conference, I had dinner with FWS director Sam Hamilton, who died unexpectedly in February, and several members of his staff. He seemed a capable guy, and his staff attentive and responsive to journalists’ inquiries. Unfortunately, the Muscovy changes were already in progress, and the subject never came up.

“State wildlife agencies were advised," their Fact Sheet states. "However, although any member of the public could have commented, we were unaware of the extent to which muscovies are maintained in captivity and did not know of any organization to inform about the proposed changes. Therefore, many muscovy duck owners likely were not aware of the proposal.”

The general outcry has prompted the agency to take another look at the situation.

“As a result of information received since publication of the final rules, the Service has
decided to revise the regulations,” the agency’s Fact Sheet states.

I’m grateful that the agency is willing to reconsider this odd decision to change the legal status of Muscovy ducks. I’m sad that this agency was so far removed from its subject and the people who love Muscovies that they were unaware that they even existed. Let’s hope this episode opens some lines of communication and leads to better information on both sides.


Terry/Cape Coral said...

Since Texas is the only state in the union that the MBTA would protect the duck in because it is "Native" there, to make things less difficult make the duck "NATIVE " in the other states and then you could leave it on the MBTA. I mean this duck has been in this state, Florida, for over 100 years. You can rest assured that there is nothing in this state that is native. We could go back a few hundred years... what is the time limit to make it native? All humans in this state other than the American Native are non-native. Do you get my point. There are many other species ie: the Pelican I don't believe is native. But thanks to Teddy Roosevelt that bird is now native. We can all come to some sort of understanding so that the muscovy duck doesn't have open season on it. After all we are talking about a "noiseless duck".It may poop a lot but as my father once told me; "If you eat regularly... you'll poop regularly". It needs to be protected like all other species of living things. What kind of a society are we if we don't take care of its animals.

PoultryBookstore said...

Muscovies deserve protection, but listing them as Migratory Birds also makes it difficult for people to keep them, requiring special permits. It also makes it Open Season on Muscovies anwhere else, since they are considered exotic invasives outside the recognized range. Thus, anyone can "remove or destroy muscovy ducks, their nests, and eggs, anywhere outside their natural range, without a federal migratory bird permit." I'm optimistic that FWS will find a better way to recognize Muscovies for their special qualities without placing them in a category that is really not appropriate for them.

Bwoodfla said...

I totally agree with Terry. These poor ducks have been picked on since I can remember. It is so wrong to not protect them because they are not native. I believe they are being discrimanated and they are being attacked for the wrong reasons. What are we teaching our children and this coming generation? I believe that the Muscovy duck should be protected and we need to fight for these ducks.