In their benevolence, police find themselves in sort of a Chicago-style duck bind

May 14, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The duck that nested just outside the Belmont District police station was back home in its plastic planter.

The rat who snitched on the unauthorized police mascot remained at large.

And the hounds in the media pack remained hot on the controversial bird story.

Benevolent police officers adopted the duck about three weeks ago when it started hanging around outside the station.

The police say they were just doing their job, to serve and protect. Then animal control alleged entrapment, called it cruel and tried to banish the duck to the woods. This duck, though, was not to be denied.

The station, after all, was a pretty nice place for a duck.

Police fed her bread and cracked corn. They named her Maggie. They provided a sense of security as she built a nest in a planter outside their window and laid 12 eggs.

They even made her famous, telling the duck's story to reporters, who like to call these tales warm and fuzzy, even when they are webbed and feathery.

Everything was ducky for a while. Then things turned thorny.

Calls came in to the city's Animal Care and Control Department. Duck cruelty was the charge.

Animal Care Director Peter Poholik was more polite, even if he could not condone the excessive use of kindness by police.

"A bit misguided, well intentioned," he said.

The concern was that when the duck tried to lead her ducklings to the Chicago River for their first swimming lesson, they might not survive crossing the street. On Tuesday, the duck and her eggs were relocated to the Caldwell Forest Preserve, presumably a more natural habitat.

Within a couple of hours, though, Maggie was back yesterday outside the window at the Belmont station.

Why a police station?

"She probably likes guys in uniform," said one Belmont officer.

The free food apparently was too hard to resist, Mr. Poholik said.

There was one small problem. Or more exactly about a dozen embryonic problems. Maggie had left the eggs at the forest preserve, some eight miles away, so animal control

officers retrieved the unhatched ducklings and returned them to the planter.

Police were left to wonder whose feathers were ruffled over a harmless duck.

City Hall, goes one theory. The top police brass, goes another. Mr. Poholik said there were several calls from concerned citizens.

Operation Safe Duck now has a backup plan. Police are to call animal control once the eggs hatch. Animal control then will transport the duck family to a wilder-but-safer locale.

The new mother presumably will be too preoccupied with motherhood to pine for her planter or fixate on warm, fuzzy memories.

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