The call wasn’t an unusual one for Jimmy Longbottom: A number of domestic ducks had been abandoned at Delhi Park’s Clearview Lake and needed to be saved. As one of the only people who rescue domestic ducks in the area – if not the only person – through his LLC, Longbottom Bird Ranch, he gets these calls every week about parks, cemeteries and other spots where someone may try to get rid of a bird they can no longer care for.
What was strange about the call, however, would be the proceeding fight to get the ducks out of the park.
“At the beginning of July, I had probably about five different people reach out to me on Facebook or via email saying there were domestic ducks dumped in Delhi Park … So I went down and took a look and there was a massive amount of ducks, probably at the time about 25 to 30,” Longbottom told CityBeat.
The ducks he’s referring to are all domestic breeds: White Pekins, Blue and Black Swedish ducks, Muscovies, Rouens and Khaki Campbells. These ducks aren’t equipped for wild living like the migratory ducks you also see at lakes and ponds – your mallards, wood ducks and pintails.
“They can’t fly; they can’t survive in the wild; they starve,” Longbottom said.
So Longbottom did what he always does and reached out to Delhi Township’s parks department for permission to catch the ducks and take them back to the ranch. He says he’s never been met with resistance until an email exchange with parks director Randy Supe that took place from July 5-14.
“I kind of got put in a holding pattern for a week or so until I finally heard back from [Supe], at which time he wanted more information. In the first two emails I explained why [the ducks] couldn’t be there and then he kind of weirdly said they’ll find their way south if they need to,” he said.
Longbottom explained to Supe that the ducks couldn’t fly south for the winter. Any ducks left at Clearview Lake that don’t starve or die from infection, injury or from a predator by November would freeze to death in the winter. Supe asked for more information about Longbottom’s rescue, writing due to the township’s policies, he would need as much information about the rescue as possible before making a decision. Getting frustrated at how long it was taking to get help for the ducks, Longbottom wrote back, “Disregard. I won’t be coming for those ducks. Thanks.”
But it wasn’t that Longbottom wouldn’t come for the ducks, he told CityBeat. He said he just wasn’t going to play by the park department’s rules and would instead sneak them out. As the email exchange with Supe was going on, Longbottom had set up a GoFundMe and had land on hold to lease for the ducks.
“So at that point, I was just going to go take the ducks, which I don’t mind saying. It had been two weeks at this point. Then the news got involved at this point. … Then I guess [Delhi Township] told the news they would release the ducks to me. So I said, ‘Great,’ and then I never heard from them. And I eventually got an email that said, ‘We found another rescue we’re going to work with.’”
After that final email, Longbottom forfeited the hold he had on the land and returned the money raised through the GoFundMe. He said he’s unfamiliar with any other rescue in the area that takes domestic ducks, but he doesn’t care if it’s him or someone else who takes the ducks, as long as they’re rehomed.
“I just care that the ducks are getting taken care of, if it’s me or someone else, doesn’t matter. They just gotta get out of that pond ASAP,” he said.
But despite the township’s statement on finding another rescue, Longbottom says the ducks are still in the park almost a month later.
“In the last week or so, I had a bunch of people reaching out about injured ducks at Delhi Park. So I went out there yesterday to take a look and see – I thought they’d all be gone by now but they’re all still there and in worse shape than they were a month ago,” he explained.
CityBeat reached out to the Delhi Township's Parks & Recreation department and received a reply via email from Supe.
“Delhi Township is in the process of working with a Non Profit duck rescue and have been since this first went out to the media. We are however working with the available time frame from this group and not the ongoing opinions of other organizations,” Supe wrote. “After many emails [Longbottom] said he would not be taking these ducks and we needed to disregard anything from him. From that point on we contacted the organization that is going to rehome these ducks and have a date and an agreement to do such in a timely manner.”
Supe would not immediately share the name of the rescue the parks department is reportedly working with, saying he needed to check to see if the organization would like to be “recognized.” At the time of this publication, he still has not shared its name or the timeframe in which the ducks would be removed.
“...this process will be a little stressful and hectic as is without a lot of public or news around causing a bigger scene than needed. We will be assisting the group along with other volunteers during this process. They have removed a few so far while checking out the area while working on their strategies for catching the ducks.”
“I feel like I did everything I could do,” said Longottom. “And when they said they found a rescue to give the ducks to, it was a big win for me. As long as they go to a good home, it doesn’t have to be me. But it looks like they’ve gone nowhere, and that’s the concern.”
Longbottom says, despite forfeiting the land and the GoFundMe money, if the township were to have a change of heart and reach out to him about taking the ducks, he would make it happen.
“I would figure something out. I would find new land; I would find money. Because that’s my number one priority. If there’s really not another rescue that would take them or if for some reason this rescue is saying we could do it in six months, I could make it happen now.”
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