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Woman with autism earns national award for rescuing hundreds of ducks

Posted at 3:15 PM, Jan 26, 2023

WEBER COUNTY, Utah (KSTU) — A Utah woman who has dedicated two years of her life to saving abandoned ducks has received a national honor.

Adison Smith earned the Duck Defender Award. It was given to her by Humane Long Island, an animal rescue and advocacy organization based in New York that largely focuses its efforts on saving waterfowl.

Smith has rescued more than 400 fowl from ponds and lakes in Utah. Many of those birds were likely domesticated pets that humans abandoned.

“It's expecting a dog to become a wolf,” she explained. “People just decide, ‘I don’t want them anymore’ and so they abandon them.”

She said domestic ducks don’t have the ability to fly and lack the instincts to hunt for food or protect themselves.

Smith is the co-founder of Wasatch Wanderers, a rescue organization that has rehomed hundreds of ducks and geese.

She has also worked with local governments to save domestic ducks and to install signs near ponds warning people it is illegal to abandon waterfowl.

“Adison Smith is amazing,” said John Di Leonardo, an anthrozoologist and executive director of Humane Long Island. “She has really impressed us by stopping roundups of abandoned domestic ducks and educating the public that these aren't Easter photo props or science experiments.”

Receiving this award is special for Smith. She is a new mom and also has autism.

“Getting to this point in my life in general and also being able to do this rescue – a lot of people didn’t think it was possible, but I have done it,” she said.

She hopes her work and example will help end stigmas surrounding autism.

“To be able to show the world you can do whatever you put your mind to,” she said. “It might look different for some people than others.”

With Easter approaching, Smith knows many people will be interested in adopting a duck. She encourages everyone to think about what is in the best interest of their family and the animal before making a decision.

This story was originally reported by John Franchi on