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January 30, 2014

Community comes together to help frozen feathered friend

Lovey Duck

— Limestone County residents knew it was going to be cold Tuesday. Fact is, it was freezing.

Many across the county were hunkering down. But, those who were out and about — outside of work or school — were checking on their neighbors and their critters, including feathered friends at Big Spring Park in Athens.

Communications Specialist Holly Hollman said the mayor’s office received multiple calls Tuesday about a white duck, later identified as a Muscovy, whose feathers were frozen.

The duck, affectionately named Lovey, was trying to keep her frozen feathers from sticking together and was plucking chips of ice from her wings.

Athens-Limestone Tourism Assistant Cayce Lee saw Lovey and went to tell the director that one of the ducks was sick.

When Tourism Director Teresa Todd saw Lovey in dire straits, she called her husband to see if he could bring a bale of straw to break what she called ice-cold wind from hitting the duck. She also made a Facebook plea for help. Todd wanted to get Lovey out of the elements and somewhere warm and comfortable where she could be examined.

“I could tell by her demeanor she was not going to last long if we didn’t take action,” Todd said. 

Hollman said the mayor’s office asked Athens Police Animal Control to check on the duck and suggested Todd call the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries in Tanner. Todd was told by the department to get the duck inside and to warm her up so her feathers could dry.

Some believe the duck was frozen because her oil glands were not operating efficiently, so the duck could not repel water from her feathers.

A friend of the Visitor Center captured Lovey, and Animal Control later captured her mate.

Lynne Hart, executive coordinator of Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful, offered to set up bedding in the museum part of College Inn so the pair could stay the night, Hollman said.

A local chicken farmer, Cheryl Scott, who has heated facilities, offered to take the ducks to her home Wednesday afternoon.

When Scott arrived, she explained to Todd, Hart and Lee that Lovey most likely needed a better diet than bread and crackers. Scott told the officials the ducks should never be fed moldy bread. Lovey is also receiving vitamin D and water with apple-cider vinegar.

Todd said the ducks like one of Scott’s chickens and the three talk back and forth.

Scott will keep the two ducks for at least two weeks or until they are healthy enough to go back to the pond, Todd said.

Athens Police Department was also glad to be a part of the rescue effort.

“We’re always glad to serve our community, including our feathered friends,” Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said. “The children of our community enjoy going to Big Spring Memorial Park to feed the ducks, and we want to ensure that tradition continues. We appreciate those in the community who stepped up to help one of our park ducks.”

Todd hopes to get permission to build a few small structures on the property for the ducks to go during extreme heat and bitter cold.

“Our town is special to come to the aid of our ducks at Big Spring Park,” Todd said. “The concern for their health was so uplifting and genuine. It really makes you proud to know if you ask for help, there are folks who will come and help you quickly and not ask for anything in return.”

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