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Last Updated: Friday 13 July 2001  TOP STORIES

Mother duck's 'bird brain' saves ducklings

She grabs police officer by pant leg to lead him to her brood trapped under grate
Nicholas Read Vancouver Sun


Ray Peterson, Special to the Sun / Mother duck shows police officer where her ducklings fell through a grate into a sewer underneath the Granville Street Bridge.

Don't mention "bird brains" to Ray Petersen, because after what happened this week, he won't hear a word of it.

Petersen, a community police officer for Granville Downtown South, was walking in the 1500-block Granville Street (directly under the Granville Bridge) Wednesday morning when a duck came up and grabbed him by the pant leg. Then it started waddling around him and quacking.

"I thought it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," Petersen said in an interview.

But the duck, a female (he thinks it was a mallard), wasn't about to give up that easily. Making sure she still had Petersen's eye, she waddled up the road about 20 metres and lay on a storm sewer grate.

Petersen watched and thought nothing of it.

"But when I started walking again, she did the same thing. She ran around and grabbed me again."

It became obvious to him then that something was up.

So when she waddled off to the sewer grate a second time, Petersen decided to follow.

"I went up to where the duck was lying and saw eight little babies in the water below. They had fallen down between the grates."

So Petersen took action. He phoned police Sergeant Randy Kellens, who arrived at the scene and, in turn, got in touch with two more constables.

"When they came down, the duck ran around them as well, quacking. Then she lay down on the grate," Petersen said.

While Kellens looked over into the grate, the duck sat on the curb and watched.

Then the two constables, John Schilling and Allison Hill, marshalled a tow truck that lifted the grate out of position, allowing the eight ducklings to be rescued one by one with a vegetable strainer.

"While we were doing this, the mother duck just lay there and watched," Petersen says.

Once the ducklings were safe, however, she set about marching them down to False Creek, where they jumped into the water.

Kellens followed them to make sure they were all right, but elected to remain on shore.

The experience has changed Petersen's mind about ducks. He thinks they're a lot smarter than he used to.

And while he never ate duck before, he says he wouldn't dream of it now.


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