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Portland Police: Running Over Ducklings Is 'Not Going to Fare Well for the Agency'

The world cheers as an Oregon cop chooses rescuing ducks over fighting crime.


The next time you're trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket, try offering the officer a handful of fuzzy, dawdling ducklings. Police have a big soft spot for baby ducks, sometimes dropping everything just to assist them in crossing the road.

The latest instance of heroic cop-duck action comes from Portland, Oregon, a city known for its everything-bird obsessiveness. This Mother's Day, Officer Mark James clocked a speeder doing 52 mph in a 35 zone and zoomed off in pursuit. He must've been an eagle-eyed fighter pilot before picking up a badge, because somehow he noticed on the gloomy asphalt ahead a fluffy, ankle-high movement. Duuuucks!

"It was pretty good vision on his part to even see them in the road, with the gray weather we had that day," says Sgt. Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau.

Officer James stopped his cruiser right there on Northwest Bridge Avenue and guided the ducks – a mother and her waddling progeny – onto the grassy shoulder. He did so despite there being "no regulation about stopping for ducks," says Simpson, and also risking a chewing-out from the Chief. Which wouldn't happen, actually, because he seems to love ducks, too.

"I think the chief would definitely side with officer," says the spokesman. "While traffic enforcement is important to save lives, running over a mama duck and her ducklings is not going to fare well for the agency."

Would this story have turned out differently if the officer was motoring down upon a family of smelly skunks? Or, say, a frothing-rabid possum?

Nope. "It wouldn't be all right to drive over animals," says Simpson. "We would discourage the intentional ramming of any fauna in the neighborhoods."

As it happens, this isn't the first time Portland's finest have interrupted their normal duties to pluck a hapless animal from doom's snapping maw. When a juvenile red-tailed hawk fell from its building perch in 2011, an officer was there to scoop it from the sidewalk and take it to the animal clinic. And this May, cops rescued a three-foot-long snake slithering around downtown that "looked scared."

Sometimes this animal love can cause problems. Last year, the Audubon Society of Portland reported getting "way too many" ducks "dumped at their door," according to this TV news spot. If you skip ahead to 0:35, you'll find yet another cop going beyond the call of duty to save ducks, this time in Ohio:

Top photo courtesy of thieury on Shutterstock


About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.