Monday, October 19, 2009

Quacking the case: The Park School ducks

(photo, courtesy Dr. Corey Young)

For those of us who usually access Park Hall through the parking lot entrance in the morning, it's been a bit lonely this last week. We had gotten used to some enthusiastic quacking and fast waddling of little webbed feet to welcome us when were arrived... and occasionally our greeters even made it into the lobby.

Alas, our two Park ducks are no longer with us. They made a "splash" with their own story in the Ithacan about a month ago, and since then, they've been at the center of quite a drama.

As the weather was getting colder this September, many Park students, faculty, and staff who had been feeding them during the mornings came to me with concerns about their inability to fly south (one of them seemed to have a malformed wing). I was willing to build a shelter, and Associate Dean Virginia Mansfield-Richardson was even willing to donate one of her unused dog houses. But we needed to get more expert advice on how to best ensure their safety.

Thus ensued quite a research project -- ably led by Dr. Mansfield-Richardson who happens to have a Ph.D. in journalism and work experience in an animal hospital. Finding a home wouldn't be easy -- since they were not technically domestic animals, many shelters would not take them in. We finally got the Cayuga Nature Center to agree to accept them -- but not until Friday October 9.

Fearing that the weather or coyotes would bring harm to the ducks, Dean Mansfield-Richardson implored her friends at Colonial Veterinary Hospital to take them in for two nights until the Nature Center could accept them. Devan Johnson, a sophomore Documentary Studies and Production major and Kit Straley, a Biology major, consulted with faculty in Environmental Studies on how to handle the situation. It's not as easy a task as one may think: a person must be a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in order to legally transport ducks, and as much as many of us would have made them house pets, that's not legal either. Luckily, Devan is licensed to transport wildlife, so one piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Sadly, just as we lined up Devan and Kit to chauffeur the ducks, they noticed that only one could be found near the pond where they normally spent their days. After a number of calls to Safety, we found out that tragically one of them had been killed by a run-in with a car in the parking lot earlier that day. Devan, Kit, and Dean Mansfield-Richardson easily got the remaining duck into a cardboard box and took it to the vet hospital where it was fed fresh grapes and tomatoes and visited by several faculty and staff. On Friday Oct 9, the duck traveled to its new home, the Cayuga Nature Center, where Tom Trencansky, the Director, is really smitten especially since he had a pet duck as a child- - and he has named her "Parker".

The Park Sustainability Club is taking on the task of raising funds to build an appropriate habitat for Parker as a donation to the Cayuga Nature Center. We are also in the process of looking for another duck that can't fly to give Parker a friend again.

It's just one more story about the big hearts and endless energy in the Park School -- even for our feathered visitors. Maybe we should set up a Duck-cam at the Nature Center?


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