MONTPELIER — The state has issued a possession permit to an East Montpelier woman to keep a wild wood duck at her home after the duck’s fate captured the attention of Vermonters and even lawmakers.
Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said the permit will allow Kim Stevens to keep the duck named Peep at her home. The Department of Fish and Wildlife sought to remove the duck in March after it came to the department’s attention that she was keeping the animal as a pet. Steven’s dog found Peep as a baby and brought it home. Stevens cared for the animal and it has been allowed to roam outside, but it always returns.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife had planned to seize the duck and rehabilitate it with the intention of returning it to the wild. If it could not be returned to the wild the department planned to keep it at a rehab facility.
But Peep’s story was featured on WCAX and Vermonters around the state and some lawmakers took up Peep’s cause and pushed for the duck to be allowed to stay with Stevens. After working with Stevens and Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, Porter said he decided to issue the permit normally reserved for breeders that will allow Stevens to keep one duck.
“It seemed in this particular case the harm done [by issuing the permit] would be less than removing the duck, given the specific details of this case,” Porter said.
Porter said the decision was made after a thorough review of the situation. He warned that keeping wild animals as ducks is illegal and people should not try to domesticate them.
“These situations are among the most difficult that the game wardens deal with in their jobs. We do our absolute best to educate people about why keeping wildlife as pets is a bad idea for the animals, for the people and for the wildlife population at large,” Porter said. “Wild animals belong in the wild and it’s not safe for them or for people when they become pets.”
Klein, who sought to find a resolution that would please all sides, said the case was among the oddest he has dealt with.
“In my 14 years as a representative that I’ve been doing constituent work, this may rise to the top of the list as one of the stranger pieces of work that I’ve bene involved in, but it certainly was extremely important to a family in East Montpelier and seemed to capture the attention of Vermonters across the state,” Klein said. “I’m just happy that we could show the softer and human side of government and come to a resolution that makes everybody pretty happy.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin responded in a letter Friday to Steven’s daughter who had written him urging him to allow Peep to stay. Shumlin noted “how important Peep is to your mother and your family.” The governor said Stevens will need to follow the conditions of the permit.
“I understand that your mother will be responsible for being in touch with the Department should any issues or illnesses arise with Peep. This will help us ensure the safety and well being of Peep, other animals in the vicinity, and your family. I trust your mother will care for Peep in accordance with these guidelines and keep in contact with the Department should any issues arise,” Shumlin wrote.