Keeping Muscovy Ducks is Now Illegal

Reader Contribution by Troy Griepentrog
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Photo by Pixabay/kie-ker

We recently received an e-mail from a reader who’s concerned about new regulations from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that would make owning or selling Muscovy ducks illegal — unless the ducks were specifically intended for use as food. The regulation doesn’t seem to account for small farmers, fancy poultry breeders or people who keep backyard flocks. Muscovy ducks provide wonderful natural pest control, and they’re great at hatching eggs and raising ducklings. What can you do to change the regulation so you can keep them legally? Here’s the e-mail:

Yesterday I came across info on a poultry forum that a new law went into effect that will make it illegal to raise Muscovy ducks. The Migratory Birds Division of the Fish and Wildlife Service adopted a rule to deal with problematic feral populations of Muscovy ducks in certain areas. Apparently, the Muscovies are protected as migratory birds, so people in some areas were prohibited from controlling these ducks without a new rule. The FWS lumps domesticated Muskovies in with native wild migratory ducks rather than domestic livestock.

From comments on the forum, Dr. George Allen (Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is now aware of the widespread domestication of Muscovies and is somewhat agreeable to revising these rules.

More people need to be made aware of this situation so that their voices can be heard and taken into account in the revision of these rules.

This is an extremely time-sensitive issue and the poultry community is just now learning about it.

The following section of the rule only applies to Muscovies: “(g) You may not acquire or possess live muscovy ducks, their carcasses or parts, or their eggs, except to raise them to be sold as food, and except that you may possess any live muscovy duck that you lawfully acquired prior to March 31, 2010. If you possess muscovy ducks on that date, you may not propagate them or sell or transfer them to anyone for any purpose, except to be used as food. You may not release them to the wild, sell them to be hunted or released to the wild, or transfer them to anyone to be hunted or released to the wild.” (From p 5, section 21.14 of regulation.)

Muscovies have long been domesticated livestock and as such it is not proper that they be subject to any special regulation under the migratory bird regulations. It sounds like we can get this rule changed if enough people speak up. Information on who to contact and a sample letter are available on the BackYardChickens Forum.

April 1, 2010

This just in from the FWS:

… as a result of information received since publication of the final rules, the Service has decided to amend the regulations restricting possession, propagation and sale of muscovy ducks. Therefore, we will not restrict possession or issue permits for propagation and sale of muscovies at this time. However, to reduce their spread, the revision to 50 CFR 21.14(g) prohibiting release of captive-bred muscovy ducks to the wild, including for hunting, will be implemented.

So, excercise your freedom and go get some Muscovies!

April 7, 2010

I had an opportunity to talk with Dr. George Allen (Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) recently. He explained that because he specializes in migratory birds, he wasn’t aware of all the domesticated Muscovies prior to the regulation going into effect.

Because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, wild Muscovies are automatically protected because they came to the United States on their own (they weren’t brought to the United States by people). Feral flocks (domesticated birds that have become wild) are a problem in some areas. For example, a rescue group recently removed 200 feral Muscovies from one pond. And, because the birds are protected, the regulation needed to deal with them.

There are really three kinds of Muscovies: 1) wild, 2) domesticated and 3) feral. Under the current regulation, they’re all treated similarly (with exceptions for Muscovies raised for food).

The biggest concern at the FWS is the issue of people releasing domesticated Muscovies into the wild, and I understand that. As Dr. Allen pointed out, the situation with pythons in the Florida Everglades is similar — it’s difficult to say it’s illegal to release snakes, but that’s it’s OK to release another species, such as Muscovies.

No Need to Get Rid of Your Muscovies

Dr. Allen intends to revise the regulation. He’s collecting more information and will start the revision process in the next couple of months. Meanwhile, the FWS is asking law enforcement not to take drastic action on implementing the current regulation.

Some items from the current regulation will most likely stay in effect: Individual states will be able to control feral populations, and releasing Muscovies into the wild will be prohibited.

Keeping captive birds requires a permit, but the new regulation will probably allow an exception to the requirement for having a permit to keep Muscovies. I know that domesticated Muscovies aren’t really the same as wild Muscovies, but understand that criteria for separating the two can be complicated for regulatory purposes. If you have a suggestion for defining this, you can contact Dr. Allen.

What You Can Do

If you have specific recommendations for how the regulation can be improved, contact Dr. Allen at george_t_allen(at symbol) Before you write Dr. Allen, please be sure to read the current regulation so you’re informed. Dr. Allen has asked that information be specific, because the sooner he can wade through it, the sooner a revision to the regulation can be written. Simply sending e-mails stating that you want the regulation changed won’t be helpful at this point.