The adopt-a-duck program initiated by local duck activist Amy von Somogyi is dead in the water, thanks to an edict from the U.S. Department of the Interior not to lay a hand on the waterfowl until the migratory season ends April 15.
The action stopped the transfer of excess domestic ducks from Green Valley Park to Rim country residents who wanted to adopt them, scheduled for last Saturday.
"Somebody called the federal fish and wildlife folks and squealed on us," von Somogyi said. "They told them we were going to dope the ducks. Even though the Arizona Department of Game and Fish was going to be there to oversee the whole thing, the feds said we can't touch a feather on any duck in the pond until then."
Ralph Moody, a professional aquatic biologist hired by the town to transfer the ducks, received the phone call from the U.S. government.
"It was the federal wildlife people out of Albuquerque," Moody said. "They just felt we couldn't control what we were going to knock out. They said, 'Hold off a little bit, and nobody gets hurt.'"
While Moody, who lives in the Valley, disagrees with the edict, he intends to obey it.
Von Somogyi said Moody's approach to capturing the birds temporarily stunning them with a chemical placed in bread is the most humane possible.
"It's risky to catch them in nets because they can break their wings," she said.
Informing the 20 people who were planning to pick up their ducks Saturday morning was not a pleasant task for von Somogyi.
"They all have water features or ponds that would have made great homes for the ducks," she said. "Now we'll have to organize this all over again. One lady, who has a motor home park, was so disappointed. The older people who live there were so looking forward to watching them."
Moody says he will be back in Payson on April 15 to do the job he was hired to do.
"But this time we'll do it nice and quiet. We'll call (the Roundup) for a few pictures, and that will be it," he said.
Meanwhile, von Somogyi has a program in place to deal with ducks and geese who are injured at the park.
"The Payson Parks Department has net and pet carriers that were donated by people who care, and two local vets have volunteered their services," she said.
According to Moody, the town owns the ducks and is therefore responsible for them.
"Whoever owns that lake owns those ducks," he said. "If they're hanging out and making a home in the park, that's the way it works."
The 15 mph advisory speed limit signs ordered by the Town Council are also in place.