Domesticated ducks rescued from Dover’s Silver Lake Park

3 Palms Zoo employee Matt Shaffner of Clayton holds Gus, a Chinese goose rescued at Silver Lake. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

3 Palms Zoo employee Matt Shaffner of Clayton holds Gus, a Chinese goose rescued at Silver Lake. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

CLAYTON — The unidentified kids who kicked a mallard to death two weeks ago should be held responsible.

Just as culpable, however, is whoever abandoned the domesticated duck in Dover’s Silver Lake Park to live on its own.

A concerned citizen called the Clayton-based 3 Palms Zoo and Education Center after witnessing the attack on April 13, and staff rushed to the scene as quickly as possible.

According to 3 Palms co-owners Michael Stonebraker and Matt Shaffner, the wounded waterfowl with two broken legs couldn’t waddle anymore and was dragging herself by her wings when they arrived shortly after the animal cruelty crime.

“She was in tremendous pain,” Mr. Stonebraker said. “I could feel that her legs were shattered and in pieces as soon as I picked her up.”

An X-ray ensued, which Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research viewed and deemed critical injuries.

Despite emergency lifesaving measures by John H. Weiher Jr. of the Atlantic Veterinary Center in Middletown, the mallard (which also had a punctured lung) was euthanized the next day due to injuries that made a reasonable quality of life impossible, Mr. Stonebraker said.

Sadly, Mr. Shaffner said, releasing domesticated ducks into the wild is an ongoing problem throughout Delaware.

“People buy them over the counter as babies for $6 and then raise them,” he said. “Some have the idea that it’s a good idea to set their ducks free, but don’t realize that they’re sentencing them to death.”

Attacks on the animals are far from a rarity, either.

“Unfortunately, it’s not unusual,” Mr. Shaffner said. “It’s disturbing but not unusual. These kids (at Silver Lake Park) seemed to have something not right with them.

“Others don’t realize or understand what might be coming up toward them and can take violent action when there’s really no reason to.”

Mr. Stonebraker believes Silver Lake Park has become a “dumping ground for domestic ducks and geese,” where they have become targets for abuse.

“These animals depend on people for survival,” he wrote on a Facebbook post. “Unfortunately there is a group of abusive punks who frequent the park and have been ‘picking off’ the domestics.”

Even if domestic ducks avoid being killed by mean-spirited humans, 3 Palms ownership said they can only survive a year at most in the wild, far less is the water freezes over.

“They have no instinct to live on their own,” Mr. Shaffner said.

After the assault, eight other domesticated ducks were reportedly seen swimming in and waddling around Silver Lake. Three Palms staff went to find them, assisted by friends of the nonprofit, and were able to locate five; the rescuers shudder to think what became of the other three.

Last week, five members of a Dover Air Force Base unit (one of which is a long-time 3 Palms supporter living near Silver Lake Park who learned of the saga on Facebook) volunteered to assist in rounding up the surviving ducks; it took at least two hours and venturing into neck deep water to bring them in, Mr. Stonebraker said.

“They didn’t want to come off the water,” he said. “They know of and had seen trauma and were not as trusting as they normally would be. The water was their security.”

Appalled by the animal cruelty, rescuers attempted to report the acts to several law enforcement and state agencies without success; finding whoever had jurisdiction regarding the crime at Silver Lake Park proved elusive, Mr. Stonebraker said.

The five surviving waterfowl are now sheltered at Three Palms’ facility at 924 Blackbird Forest Road, and staff is attempting to find two drakes a caring permanent home. The zoo can be reached at 715-1326 or email More information is available online at

Also rescued was a personable goose named “Gus” along with brother and sister Khaki Campbells, which will stay at 3 Palms permanently.

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