Never Try to Catch a Duckling

My mom lives in “town” in Greenbrier – well my Daddy always thought it was too much in town for his taste – but as in many rural areas with more than a city lot, some of her neighbors have livestock in addition to the usual cats, dogs, and occasional chickens.

That is why, a few weeks ago on our regular Saturday night visit, we weren’t particularly surprised to see a mother duck with a line of ducklings crossing the road near her house. It was straight out of a storybook….something along the lines of “Make Way for Ducklings” crossed with “Old Mother Hubbard.” This poor mama had a full dozen babies trailing her.

Over the next couple of Saturdays, we periodically spotted them, always together, always looking like they had someplace to go. My mom saw them on numerous occasions and wasn’t quite sure where they were coming from or going, or where “home” was for the brood. We – apparently wrongly – assumed they needed a pond in which to live. (I googled it and it is preferable but not totally necessary….which makes me want to go kidnap and relocate the ducks…but I digress).

This past Saturday, while sitting at the kitchen table before dinner, we looked out the back door to see Jemima Puddle Duck and the gang waddling across the back yard. By this point, the ducks would be tweens I assume (I don’t know how to age a duck) but of concern was the duckling bringing up the rear. He (or she) appeared to be limping, or lame, stopping and lying down occasionally. My mom said she had noticed this over the last week or so as well. Well, it didn’t take long for Abby, our resident animal rescuer, to start getting really worried about the well being of Duckling #11 (one less than the dozen we had counted before. )

As the ducks left the yard, I decided to make a few calls. First I tried the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Shockingly, no one answered at 6 p.m. on a Saturday evening. Then I remembered from the great baby possum rescue incident a list of wildlife rehabbers a friend had emailed me…unfortunately, a quick glance at the list revealed they only dealt with rescues of mammals. I then decided to message Central Arkansas Animal Rescue on Facebook and received an autoreply with the rescue list I already had and – a separate bird list! After determining that Duckling #11 fit the category “birds of prey and waterfowl ONLY – no songbirds” I texted the contact name on the list with the situation and asked for his opinion on what to do. I received his sage advice not too long afterward – “let nature take it’s course, or bring it to us.” “Us” turned out to be Raptor Rehab of Central Arkansas, located in El Paso, AR, about a half hour away.

As we scarfed down our themed meal for which we did not start the accompanying movie, we decided to attempt The Rescue of Duckling #11. The four of us – me, my mom, and both girls – left for our mission armed only with an old towel and enthusiasm. After driving up and down the roads around her home several times, we finally spotted the flocked family in a driveway. We turned in and Abby hopped out of the car and headed toward the ducks.

To say chaos ensued would be putting it mildly. They ran…every one of them, including the allegedly injured party. They scattered, they jumped, there were ducklings everywhere. Then Mama Duck said “not today Satan” and proceeded to – as Abby tells it – kick her in the shin while coming at her in quite a fierce manner. It was at this point that we decided that Duckling #11 wasn’t in as dire of straights as we had feared and appeared to be capable of outrunning a predator, even if that predator was a well meaning 18 year old girl.

After Abby was in the car and we began backing out, we saw the resident of a home that had other ducks, a horse, chickens, etc…out in her yard and she noticed us sitting there in the drive next door. At that precise moment, we realized that these ducks did have a home and we were there. We rolled down the window to speak with her and learned they were in fact her ducks, and sadly, one had been hit by a car. We didn’t exactly tell her that we were attempting to remove a bird child from her property but did let her know that one of the ducklings appeared injured and implied we were trying to just figure out where they lived.

We returned to my mom’s house and I texted the bird man know I would not be driving to El Paso with an injured duck. We never did watch the movie but finished off our evening going to see some fireworks as we had planned. I have saved the contact information for the wildlife rehabbers so I will be prepared the next time we need to attempt an animal rescue intervention. I just hope it isn’t a duck.

Karri Temple Bracket
June 28, 2021

So you need to rehab an animal? See below.

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