Failed duck rescue

May 18, 2022 • 12:30 pm

NOTE: If you are at Botany Pond, PLEASE to not disturb or, above all, try to catch this duckling. It’s a tricky job, you have to know what to do and, above all, you need to know how to get the duckling into rehab. We will try again tomorrow. So far the tenacious little rascal is surviving and even eating.


Today I did what I didn’t think I’d have to do this season: go into to the pond to rescue the orphan mallard. I failed–twice. Once I got stuck in the mud in the big pond and had to be pulled out. (It’s cold and was raining hard.)

The second time I had the little bugger trapped in the channel but it managed to get away. I was SO close with my net!  I fell down and went underwater in that attempt. The duckling escaped and went back into the big pond. I have to hand it to this baby: it’s very stalwart, but also keeps following hens, hoping that one is its mother. The hens reject it and peck at it.  It’s ineffably sad.

It will be a miracle if this duckling survives. And the only way it will is if I can catch it, which means going back in the pond soon and trapping it in the channel. I am letting it rest now, and have put some newborn duck food on the duck islands, where it seems to hang out.

Right now I am at home after a long hot shower to wash off the mud and schistosome larvae. I doubt I’ll be posting more today. Both the duckling and I are traumatized, but the difference is that I will survive. Unless I take the plunge again, the duckling won’t.

21 thoughts on “Failed duck rescue

  1. Was this orphan just dumped in the pond by a human? Sounds like a very challenging rescue, Jerry. Maybe you need an extra pair of hands holding a big piece of weighted netting dangling down into the water, while you herd the duckling.

  2. It will be a miracle if this duckling survives. And the only way it will is if I can catch it …

    Let’s try to maintain some great expectations on the little critter’s behalf. After all, Pip survived as an orphan in Victorian England, despite encountering tough times.

  3. I can’t find a good famous quote for this.

    Strength, perseverance, selflessness, is what I see here…

    1. To be somewhat solipsistic, given that I’m still determined to catch it, I’d use the last line of Tennyson’s “Ulysses”, which was carved on a cross in the Antarctic to mark the death of Captain Scott and his four comrades after they were beaten to the South Pole by Amundsen:

      “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

      That is the title of my talk about the science of the Scott expedition.

  4. Would a cage help as a stop-gap?

    Bring the cage out, nudge the duckling in there with food, etc. – protection from the adults, until relocated/other?

  5. Schistosome larvae?? I thought you had to go for a dip in tropical Africa to be at risk of picking those up. I’m surprised to hear that you have them in Chicago. Are they the kind that can give you full-blown bilharzia?

  6. Good luck. Are any of the duck-tending auxiliary available with a second net to increase the odds?

      1. Hi! I would totally love to help you, I live near campus and as of 5:30 he was still swimming around

  7. I saw people trying to catch the baby duck this evening. I think they failed. I hope you and the duck good luck.

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