Originally Published: November 3, 2007 9:34 p.m.
DEWEY-HUMBOLDT - Lori Kinney scanned the "large pond" on the former Young's Farm property Saturday afternoon and felt a tinge of sorrow for the geese and ducks that have lived there for several years.
More than a year ago, when the Young family sold its farm on the corner of highways 69 and 169 to Scottsdale-based developer Monogram for a proposed residential and commercial development, the intent was to keep this pond, and the three others on the property, intact.
Although most of the farm's natural resources remain untainted, water in the farm's large pond has dwindled significantly over the past several weeks, causing Kinney - a 15-year Humboldt resident and animal caregiver who works for Kachina Animal Hospital - some concern about the birds' health.
Monogram began draining the pond two weeks ago to see how well the lined pond would hold water and also to do some testing on its pumps.
During the next month Kinney will continue to feed and care for the ducks and geese - as she has for nearly all of the past year - in advance of their eventual capture and likely relocation to the TK Bar Ranch near Skull Valley.
The ranch has two ponds where the birds can live safely without harm from predators or interference from humans.
Nine geese and 12 ducks still live on the pond, where former farm owner Elmer Young brought in, cared for and fed the birds, many of which are exotics. But when the Youngs sold the property, they left the birds behind.
Every two or three days, Kinney fills a trough full of scratch feed for the birds and goes through a 50-pound bag of it each week. The geese and the ducks honk and quack loudly as they make their way up about 30 feet from the pond's surface to feed at the trough.
In the interim period before the birds' move, Kinney is seeking assistance from a fence company to rent fencing and cordon off the trough area. If no fencing were available, the geese and ducks could take flight if they had room to run.
"We would feed them for probably a week or two weeks, get them used to the fence, then not feed them for about three days or four days," Kinney said. "Because when I come out and they haven't had food, they'll literally come up and eat out of the trough while I'm putting it out. Then I'll close the fence behind them and we'll start catching them."
Employees at Kachina Animal Hospital and volunteers from Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary will corral the birds for their transfer.
Nick Derene, general curator for the zoological sanctuary, said the move could help the birds, although they probably could find another water source in the Prescott area if the pond dried up.
"The geese and ducks out there primarily only feed on aquatic food," Derene said. "They need a clean water source in order to consume their food well. If we can't catch them all, there's a 50-50 chance they could find their own water source."
The pond, originally about 30 feet deep, now has a depth of no more than 5 feet.
"If I could get the pond raised up and they would take care of them, that would be great," Kinney said. "All they would have to do is turn the pumps on and fill this pond. But it looks like the birds' best deal would be for me to relocate them."
The farm's curator has said that the ducks can survive in the pond in its current state, but Kinney said the birds can't nest where they once could when the pond was at its original depth because of predators.
"It is extremely sad," Kinney said. "When I talked to Monogram about the pond when I first started taking care of them (birds), they were going to keep the pond. But this isn't keeping it. You can even smell how bad the pond is."
Kinney said that for more than a week and a half the geese and ducks have been swimming in the shallow water.
Without the Young family's supervision of the ponds and the property as a whole, Kinney said trespassers have caused problems for the birds.
"I've found boys up here throwing rocks at them," she said. "One of the ducks was injured. Kids shoot BB guns at them. People are their biggest threat, more so than even predators, like coyotes."
Within the past couple weeks, Kinney made numerous phone calls to animal-care agencies before finding a solution with TK Bar Ranch.
On Nov. 1, Monogram developer Don Allison wrote a letter to Kinney that gave her and Derene permission to relocate the birds to the ranch.
"We are very appreciative of their efforts in the caretaking and welfare of the ducks," Allison penned in the letter.
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