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Old May 1st, 2004, 09:14 AM
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Make way for ducklings

By Rachel Grace Toussaint

Portsmouth Avenue became a danger zone for motorists and wildlife earlier this week when a family of four ducks took up shop near the Dreher-Holloway BMW dealership . Now, local officials are trying to find out whom the ducks belong to, and whether they’re runaways or if they were abandoned.

According to Abigail Smith, director of development and marketing for the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the N.H. SPCA received a call from Stratham police Monday afternoon, requesting assistance in retrieving the ducks from the busy roadway.

"Both police and the N.H. SPCA had concerns about the ducks potentially causing a fatal accident on Portsmouth avenue," said Smith.

In an attempt to prevent such a catastrophe, Steve Sprowl, animal control officer for the N.H. SPCA, arrived at the scene at 2 p.m.

"Monday’s attempt to capture all four failed because he was by himself," said Smith.

Sprowl was successful in capturing one of the ducks on his own.

So, Sprowl recruited help and went back Tuesday and captured the remaining animals.

Despite the N.H. SPCA’s good intentions, Smith said some motorist were displeased by the effort.

"When the animal control officer was rescuing them on Tuesday, people stopped their cars and asked why he was taking them. They were saying children really liked seeing them and would feed them," said Smith. "The ducks were rescued from the area because people were feeding them from both sides of the road, and the ducks were crossing from side to side posing a great danger to themselves and threatening the safety of motorists."

The ducks are boarded in the back yard of the N.H. SPCA. In accordance with state statute, the flock will be held for seven days (until Tuesday).

"If they’re not claimed, they will be considered abandoned and will go up for adoption," says Smith.

The ducks, which are a very colorful bunch, are thought to have been abandoned - as opposed to being wandering wild ducks, or even runaway domestics - for a number of reasons, according to Smith.

First, she said, they are of a domestic breed. According to Sprowl, these are Appleyard ducks, which are known for being bred as domestic water fowl. Also, the N.H. SPCA doesn’t know of any local areas that keep ducks like this.

"And they didn’t fly in from Canada and land on Route 108," said Smith. "The animal control officer says it’s likely they were left (on Portsmouth Avenue) as opposed to arriving there themselves, due to the nature of the location. There’s no pond there; they just landed in a busy section of Stratham."

If indeed the ducks were abandoned, Smith said she hopes that, in the future, animal owners will realize they have other options.

"We want people to know that the N.H. SPCA is a community resource. We’re here for pet owners who need to surrender pets for any reason," she said. "Surrendering animals through a shelter ensures safety and health of animals, and prevents potentially dangerous situations that can be caused by abandoning domestic animals in the community.

"And we’re not accusing anyone of doing that. It’s just because of the kind of duck and where they were that it appears that way."

Anyone with inquiries on or information about the Appleyard ducks can call the N.H. SPCA at 772-2921.
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