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A Personal Story: "Dr. Nature" Saves a Duck's Life


30Apr 2008

This post has nothing to do with anything of educational value. It is just an interesting personal experience I wanted to share.

Last night I went for a run (the term “run” is used loosely). It was a beautiful Spring evening, about 70 degrees, calm and the sun was setting. I turned out of my driveway and jogged up the dirt, country road we live on. Our dog, Brownie, who is now 12 years old, chose to watch me from the driveway rather than come with me as she used to do.

About a quarter mile up the road there is a fallow prairie field with trees along the edges. It currently has about shoulder high brown prairie grass left over from last year’s growth (the new green growth is underneath and can’t be seen yet). As I came to the field, right next to the road there were three deer standing and eating. Usually they run off, but this time they just stood and watched me go by.

A little further up the road there is a deep ditch (recently dug out to facilitate run off when it rains) about six feet wide and 25-30 yards long. Right now, the ditch is full of water. As I came up to this area, I heard and then saw two mallard ducks swimming in the ditch. They started to swim away from me but I noticed that the hen was working quite hard, using her wings, almost like she was trying to take off. But she wasn’t going very fast.

As I got closer, it became evident that something was wrong — they didn’t fly off like they should have, and the hen was hurt or something else was going on. So I stopped and went closer to examine the situation. I then noticed the shell of a fairly large snapping turtle in the water, just under the surface of the water, behind the hen. The turtle was latched onto the duck’s leg or foot (I couldn’t see because the water was murky).

I don’t like snapping turtles. And I know that they have an appetite for baby ducklings, so I figured this guy was looking for a meal — maybe wear the duck out, she dies, and he eats her. He was pretty big, not huge, but big — his shell was 14-16″ long and 10-12″ wide.

So I started grabbing dirt clods and whatever rocks I could find and started heaving them at the turtle. As I later boasted to my daughter, finally all the years of pitching in Little League and throwing snowballs as an adult, came to fruition and I was able to use my throwing skills for some social good. I know I hit his body a few times, and there were several close misses that must have scared him. And then I cranked him really good in the head.

At this point, the duck was a bit frantic. She had turned “upstream” and was swimming up the ditch rapidly. After I hit the turtle in the head, he was hanging on for dear life, being drug along by the duck, floating belly-up. I saw my opportunity and grabbed a nice sized piece of rock and chunked it at him — and obviously, hit with a direct strike. He let go of the duck and she swam off in the other direction (all along her partner, the drake, was swimming along side of her).

I waited a while and made sure the ducks swam off to safety (I was surprised they didn’t fly off immediately, but maybe she was hurt.) I then continued on my jog up the road to the the railroad bridge that is my half-way point, feeling quite proud of myself — “Dr. Nature, the duck-saver”!

So I ran (a little more “quick” in my step) up to the bridge and came back. When I got to the ditch, the ducks were no longer there, so I assume they moved on. As soon as I got home, I gathered Kathy and Lizz together and told them of my glorious rescue experience.

Interestingly, as I came downstairs this morning to write this, I looked out the front window and there were three deer in my front yard (Brownie now stays inside so she isn’t there to scare them off.) I had to “shoo” them because one of the deer was eating our juniper by the front door, although they just went to the edge of the yard, stopped, turned around and looked at me as I came back inside.

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