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Original Issue


Ducks for dinner

There may be such a thing as doing your job too well, but Pat Hoctor doesn't believe it. One small part of Pat's job as a New York state park ranger consists of raising a brood of 2,500 or more ducks and pheasants each year to keep the wild bird population up for hunters. The pheasants grow up and fly away, but the majority of Hoctor's ducks get to like his society and his cuisine so much that they refuse to leave. Each morning at 7:30, summer or winter, mallards by the hundreds waddle up to the Hoctor house by the Niagara River and—according to Mrs. Hoctor—"if Pat isn't out there with the feed, they'll come right up to the kitchen door and ask for it."

Hoctor, who has worked with wildlife on or near the river for close to 50 years, is philosophical about the fact that many of his dinner guests end up as dinners themselves. "But these mallards are far from tame," he says, "and after a couple of days of the hunting season most of them learn to stay pretty clear of the duckblinds. And as for those that get shot—well, at least the hunters who get them get some well-fed birds."