Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Date: June 17, 1990
On June 17, 1990, numerous visitors to Calgary, Canada's Prince's Island Park noticed a mallard duck with a plastic six-pack ring entangled around its head and neck. Parkgoers, accustomed to feeding the mallards, could tell that the duck was having trouble eating. Over the next couple days, visitors tried to lure the duck with bread crumbs in the hope of catching it and removing the plastic ring. The news media picked up the story and the duck was named Ed.
Department of Fish and Wildlife officers made several attempts to capture Ed. Officer Jack Morrison, involved in the rescue effort, received numerous phone calls from concerned citizens who were worried that Ed would starve or strangle to death. "One fellow suggested we should take some grain and soak it with whiskey and get the duck intoxicated," recalls Morrison. "Another said that we should dive beneath the water. I believe somebody tried to scuba dive and grab the duck from underneath."
As word of Ed's predicament spread, Colleen Ferguson, a local television news reporter, was sent to cover the story. "We were almost held hostage by that duck," says Ferguson. "This story really excited people. Everybody wanted that duck caught."
When all attempts to rescue Ed failed, the Department of Fish and Wildlife called in an expert. Jeff Marley was the manufacturer of a "net launcher," a gun device that shoots a weighted net. It was used to capture animals when tranquilizer darts could not be used. Marley did not want to net Ed on the water because there was a risk he might drown, so his first plan was to capture him on land. But Ed got smarter as the week wore on and avoiding being lured onto the banks.
Finally, Marley took a shot at Ed while he was on the bank, but Ed escaped just as Marley got his hands on him. Another day, Marley decided to take his chances and shoot Ed while he was in the water. "We caught a duck," recalls Morrison, "but not the right one."
Capturing Ed proved harder than anyone had imagined. Ed eluded his captors for several days by staying out of sight. Meanwhile, as his fame grew and more crowds gathered in the park. Ferguson continued to follow her story, and would call Marley whenever she spotted Ed. "I knew I'd catch him," says Marley. "It was just getting the right shot."
On July 4th, Marley and his assistant set up an ambush, pushing Ed upriver with light harassment. Ed fell for it and ended up right in front of Marley. Marley took aim, but he missed his shot. A little later, Marley spotted Ed in the water near a pedestrian bridge that spans the river. The bridge was filled with onlookers and Ed was wary of getting near anyone. It looked as if he wanted to swim under the bridge, so Marley decided to surprise Ed with a shot from above. He went out on the bridge and waited until Ed passed underneath and emerged on the other side. Then Marley fired. This time, he netted Ed.
Concerned about Ed being dragged underwater by the net, Marley didn't waste time running down to the bank. He jumped off the bridge, thinking the water level was still five feet and intending to land on his rear end. Unfortunately, the water only came up to his knees and Marley landed on his left leg. He carried Ed out of the water and Ferguson cut the six-pack ring off Ed's neck. Ed then flew to freedon as the crowd cheered.
There was only one casualty that day. Marley broke his leg jumping off the bridge and was in a cast for a month. Two weeks after he rescued Ed, Marley received the City of Calgary's first Enviromental Awareness Award. Marley hopes that in the future, six-pack holders will be made biodegradable so something like this won't happen again.
"A lot of people wondered, 'Why the big effort for one duck?' " says Ferguson. "Ed was special because it was man that put him in that position, and he couldn't get himself out of his predicament. We pollute too much and this is the kind of thing that can happen."