Happy Rehab Habitat
Linda Tarte...............................Peg Markle
Wildlife Rehab Center Ltd. is an independent, nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to offering the West Michigan area a reliable, high-quality resource for the rehabilitation of orphaned, abandoned, injured, or incapacitated wildlife. Licensed by both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, The Wildlife Rehab Center works to provide a swift and humane return of wounded animals and migratory birds to their natural habitat.
Peg and Roger Markle founded the Center and perform 99-percent of the day-to-day care of orphaned, ill, and injured animals. In a typical year, 1,200-1,500 of these animals pass through the Center. Please help the Wildlife Rehab Center continue its much needed work by donating money that is needed for food, medical supplies, housing, cleaning supplies, and more. Credit card and PayPal donations are gratefully accepted.
Bob Tarte: Hi, I’m Bob Tarte, host of What Were You Thinking? And I’m not home being beset by the demands of all of our animals. No, I’m away from all that visiting Peg Markle, Director of the Wildlife Rehab Center in Grand Rapids and watching her respond to the demands of all of her animals. Now these are all critters that are being rehabbed, they were either injured or orphaned or in some cases had an illness. Peg how many animals do you have right now?
Peg Markle: Right now we probably and we’re slowing down on baby season we probably have 150.
Bob Tarte: 150 animals in here right now? Okay and in a typical season how many animals do you get?
Peg Markle: 16-1800.
Bob Tarte: 16-1800 wow that’s incredible! Of course you have a huge staff helping you with everything.
Peg Markle: Yeah we have a lot of money to work with I tell you and we just can pay top price for all these people that come in including me.
Bob Tarte: So it’s basically Peg and her husband Roger. Now does Roger have a title?
Peg Markle: Roger is president, believe it or not.
Bob Tarte: Okay, Roger is president of the Wildlife…
Peg Markle: Not that he wants to be but he is the president.
Bob Tarte: Okay and what’s your title?
Peg Markle: I’m executive director.
Bob Tarte: Executive director and since you mentioned money, let’s start right off by giving the website. What’s your website? I think Peg is looking for her website. Okay and you can visit the Wildlife Rehab Center website it’s www.wildlife-rehab-center.org. I’m glad you got those hyphens in there.
Peg Markle: I know, they’re really important I tell you, those computers need to know what to do.
Bob Tarte: So I will also have the link. That was a crow you may have heard in the background. I will also have a link in the What Were You Thinking website. How long have you been doing this?
Peg Markle: Probably about 20 years. We just started dabbling in it, knowing a lot of that friends. Went out and got our state license or DNR license which allows us to do mammals and reptiles that we get then we got our federal license which takes care of all migratory birds, predatory birds, water fowls, songbirds.
Bob Tarte: And how did you get started doing this?
Peg Markle: We got started knowing Dr. Bennett, Dr. Drummel out of the vets.
Bob Tarte: Dr. Bennett, he is the vet for the zoo in in Grand Rapids.
Peg Markle: Right. Right and he got us going at it. He volunteers his services, the animal clinic. His staff, we always ask him if he’s sorry he got us into it and he says, “Nope, nope, somebody had to do it” and he donates a lot of time to us.
Bob Tarte: Yeah
Peg Markle: We couldn’t do it without him.
Bob Tarte: Yeah Dr. Bennett, he does free medical veterinary work on any of the animals that need it and that includes..
Peg Markle: Surgeries, lots of surgeries, broken legs, broken arms, animals that, water fowls that has swallowed lead sinkers and they’re stuck in their stomach and lead sinkers are fatal to birds. Lot of different surgeries he’s done for us.
Bob Tarte: Lots of nasty stuff. Since I never pass up an opportunity to plug my books, I should mention that Peg and Roger are in both of my books and my books are Enslaved by Ducks and Fowl Weather and there in there as Marge and George Chebrick and that was just a little thing putting the phony names in to protect myself because I could not present Peg and Roger in all their splendor.
Peg Markle: Depends on what day it is Bob and what time of the day.
Bob Tarte: So there’s a little bit about them in both the books you can get just a tiny little hint of what they’re place is like and I hope you get more of a hint because we are going out to the barn and see what kind of animals that Peg has there today. So you want to do that?
Peg Markle: Sure, let’s take a hike.
Bob Tarte: Okay we’re inside now and I’m seeing inside a very large animal carrier a great blue heron and Peg what did you say is wrong with the heron?
Peg Markle: Yeah the compound fracture of both the radius and the ulna, those are wing bones. He went through surgery. He’s got quite an incision. He’s got pins in both of them and depending on what happens to the weather, we might have to winter him and he’s going to be pretty expensive guy to do. You can see Bob his fish bowl is empty. That bowl was completely full of smelt.
Bob Tarte: Oh dear, and how many smelt in a day will he eat?
Peg Markle: Well, that was his one meal today they’re smaller smelts, he probably ate at least 50 of them.
Bob Tarte: Okay now you were telling me something a few minutes ago that really surprised me that these are gorgeous, graceful looking birds but I had no idea how dangerous they are.
Peg Markle: Very dangerous, Dr. Bennett and the animal clinic, we took this bird in from another vet here in town and she had messed up it was her own fault. With this guys the first thing you have to do is grab that beak because it’s what, 8-10 inches long probably and it’s used for spearing fish and they’ll go for your eyes and she tried to grab them because he was flaying around with his broken wings and she grabbed the wings and got her right on the cheekbones.
She’s lucky she didn’t lose her eyes, because they go for the eyes and she got quite an injury on her cheekbones and she’s going to end up with a nice shiner but she’s lucky. Two inches further up and she would have lost her eye so you have to treat them with respect and you have to know how to handle them.
Bob Tarte: So this isn’t a bird that you are going watch your volunteers working with.
Peg Markle: No, no.
Bob Tarte: Weren’t you telling me about the temple?
Peg Markle: Yes and if they miss your eye and get you in the temple that goes right into your brain and they’ll kill you immediately.
Bob Tarte: Yeah that’s amazing.
Peg Markle: So we try not to take these guys into the clinic. We try to do what we can for them and definitely none of our volunteers are even get close to them because we don’t need any injuries and they’re not as used to handling them as Roger and I. We’ve done a lot of handling with these guys so we know that you have to be careful.
Bob Tarte: I want to mention, a couple of weeks ago Peg and Roger dropped off a green heron at our place and that was a release that went pretty well.
Peg Markle: Scary for awhile there.
Bob Tarte: Scary for awhile and we’re going to be talking about that in another show and Peg you probably didn’t realize it but I recorded the release too.
Peg Markle: Did you really?
Bob Tarte: Yeah, yeah so we are going to talk about…
Peg Markle: Beautiful, yeah that made us a little scary there for a couple of days.
Bob Tarte: Yeah but he did okay. Now do you have some other animals in here?
Peg Markle: Well, let me see. These are squirrels they all have neurological problems. They’ve all been in the vet where I’m hold for them.
Bob Tarte: Now what does it mean when you say neurological problems?
Peg Markle: They probably fell from a tree or hit by a car, nothing’s broken but its spinal cord and your spinal cord with the injuries, or it could have been a head injury, I think one of them is, and it’s like when a person gets a concussion it just takes awhile. They’re going to slowly come out of it or they’re not going to get any better but these three are all young ones and they’ve all been to see the vet and they are all on hold.
Bob Tarte: So how does it usually go when you have squirrels with neurological injury like that. Do they usually make it?
Peg Markle: 50-50 and sometimes it takes awhile.
Bob Tarte: And what kind of care do they need?
Peg Markle: Just supportive care.
Bob Tarte: But for instance how often do they have to be fed? Do you have to hand feed them? How does it work?
Peg Markle: Oh no they eat by themselves. They do and their bowls are filled up in the morning there’re fresh water their bowls of food are filled up in the morning. If they’re big eaters, we’ll fill their bowls up again at night.
Bob Tarte: But this is unlike baby squirrels and you have to feed the baby squirrels how often?
Peg Markle: Every four hours round the clock.
Bob Tarte: Round the clock so you’re not sleeping a whole lot.
Peg Markle: No and there’s like flying squirrels, baby possums in the house on the heat, I probably every four hours round the clock had I have16 I think that I have to hand feed.
Bob Tarte: Wow.
Peg Markle: Yeah it makes for long days but that’s what we’re here for also and I have some very good subcommittees who are licensed under us also who help with us.
Bob Tarte: So you have good helpers.
Peg Markle: Yeah.
Bob Tarte: And did you say you have a screech owl too?
Peg Markle: Yup, there’s a flying squirrel.
Bob Tarte: Oh there’s a flying squirrel, I have never seen one of those.
Peg Markle: I don’t know, there’s two little ones in the house. I don’t know…
Bob Tarte: If they’re hiding I don’t want to disturb them.
Peg Markle: Yeah she is probably in her thing hiding because they’re nocturnal.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, oh dear, we’ve got four baby possums.
Peg Markle: Five.
Bob Tarte: Five, I never learned to count. Oh they’re cute.
Peg Markle: Yeah these guys are going to be wintered along with the other seven that I have in the house on heating pads and I have another one coming over this afternoon.
Bob Tarte: Now you don’t do raccoons right? Is it because they’re rabies carriers?
Peg Markle: Right, well they carry rabies, distemper they also carry something called raccoon round worm which is carried in their feces and it’s fatal to humans.
Bob Tarte: Okay but possums are a different matter?
Peg Markle: Possums have a lower body temperature. You don’t get a sick possum in, you get something in that’s been hit by a car, in the winter time it has frost bite on it because Michigan is not the best place for possums because they don’t do a true hibernation but their body temperature is 95-96, they carry no bacteria, no virus. They’re just, not a good spot for them.
Bob Tarte: Aren’t they basically animals with sort of southern range that have expanded their territory?
Peg Markle: Virginia possums.
Bob Tarte: That’s right Virginia possums.
Peg Markle: That’s where they came from and they I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of years ago they started migrating up here so.
Bob Tarte: Now do people have pet possums? Is that legal anywhere?
Peg Markle: No. Well it’s not in Michigan, I don’t know in other places. We do imprint them for the zoo because they like to use them in education programs and we’ve done it even for Brookfield down in Chicago. We’ve done it for the Michigan zoos, you make them very friendly. You can even litter train them.
Bob Tarte: Wow.
Peg Markle: They’re the only marsupial in North America that’s why they want female possums and they have more teeth than any mammal. Very sharp teeth, they need a lot of calcium, they eat bones. A sad part of it, males live two years, females live three years.
Bob Tarte: That’s it?
Peg Markle: Uh huh, very sad.
Bob Tarte: Oh I had no idea.
Peg Markle: Yup, so it’s fun to imprint them then they can take them to classrooms. We can teach people that possums aren’t the nasty big rats that everyone makes them out to be. They eat garbage, they eat dead stuff, they’re kind of God’s garbage disposal.
Bob Tarte: But they don’t eat garbage when you have them.
Peg Markle: Oh no, no, they don’t we keep them on milk on a long time because they have a high need for calcium.
Bob Tarte: Now since What Were You Thinking is basically about exotic pets, one reason I’m here is I want to talk to you about the fact that in addition to the wildlife, you also end up with domesticated birds. You’ve given us Linda and I, a couple of muscovies so I want to thank you so much for giving us Victor the muscovy who likes to chase us and bite us.
Peg Markle: Scovies have their own personality they’re just sweethearts.
Bob Tarte: Oh we love them, we love Victor. He is a character but you’ve given us there or four muscovies and a dove we had for awhile named Jessie, now how do these birds come to you?
Peg Markle: Usually they’ve been injured, quite often it’s cat attacks. We don’t even want to get into the subject about the cats with me.
Bob Tarte: Okay but are…
Peg Markle: We don’t take dogs, we don’t take cats, we don’t take domestic animals, occasionally, we don’t take domestic ducks unless we can find a place for it.
Bob Tarte: I recall the dove you gave us, she was a ring neck dove and what happened was she just appeared in somebody’s yard, so I think…
Peg Markle: Someone probably, it’s domestic so someone probably released her. I’ve got two in the house now that were brought in as cat attacks that get them going on antibiotics fast enough and they come around.
Bob Tarte: Okay and probably some of the domesticated ducks or the geese, they just get dumped somewhere don’t they, but people who they think they want them and then they don’t.
Peg Markle: And then the water freezes over, in the wintertime we get lot of calls on that.
Bob Tarte: We had a guest a couple of weeks ago who calls himself the crazy critter lady, she lives in the Toledo area and what she does, she goes out everyday and she feeds the domesticated ducks that were released on a pond and when they’re sick or injured, she captures them and takes them to the vet. So that’s very good work.
Peg Markle: That’s good, yeah because there’re people who get them in the spring time for their kids and they think they’re cute and they just release them at any open water. The water freezes over and they’re domestic, they can’t fly, they’re just kind of left there to freeze to death. So we get a lot of those calls in the wintertime.
Bob Tarte: Okay. Did you say you had a screech owl too?
Peg Markle: Yeah there’s a screech owl way back, a little gray one.
Bob Tarte: Okay what kind of shape is the screech owl in?
Peg Markle: He’s got a broken right wing.
Bob Tarte: Oh he’s gorgeous.
Peg Markle: Down in Caledonia, by the side of the road after he sat out there for two days somebody picked him up and he’s in to see Dr. Bennett and he’s a good guy. He’s eating fine, he’s doing everything fine.
Bob Tarte: He’s beautiful.
Peg Markle: Hopefully he is going to be releasable but we do work pretty closely with John Ball Zoo here in Grand Rapids. They did take an unreleasable, beginning of the year, gray screech from us, they were also looking for a red screech owl and that’s one of our options and if we can’t release an animal it has to be euthanized unless we can find a educational facility for it to go to and they were looking for a red face screech.
Bob Tarte: So that’s great that that bird found a home and of course ideal is for them to be released and then you think the owl look pretty good for this one.
Peg Markle: Hopefully, Dr. Bennett seems to think so.
Bob Tarte: Good. And I see a turtle.
Peg Markle: Yes, it’s a box turtle and he was hit by a car. We get a lot of turtles like that but he’s not in too bad a shape, we’re just waiting, it’s still a little soft in that shell.
Bob Tarte: So the shell cracked, the bottom part of the shell…
Peg Markle: Yeah it cracked through here and his leg was injured. He wasn’t bad enough. When they’re really bad the clinic they fiberglass them.
Bob Tarte: They do? They actually put like body…
Peg Markle: Yup just like a car and we release them usually they have top shell damage but he was on the back.
Bob Tarte: He looks pretty good now what kind of an environment will he be released into.
Peg Markle: He’s not a water turtle, he’ll be released you can see he’s got water to drink here but he’s in the leaves and stuff. He’ll be released in the woods someplace.
Bob Tarte: Does that make him a tortoise?
Peg Markle: No he’s not a tortoise. Oh you got to see Roger’s new pet.
Bob Tarte: Oh oh..what is it?
Peg Markle: A desert tortoise.
Bob Tarte: Yeah I got to see that. We’ll be right back with more of What Were You Thinking after these potentially important messages.
Bob Tarte: I’m talking with Peg Markle, she is the executive director of the Wildlife Rehab Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the website is www.wildlife-rehab-center.org and Peg just brought in an extraordinary…is this a tortoise or a turtle?
Peg Markle: It’s a tortoise, a tortoise.
Bob Tarte: What kind of? Is it just called a desert tortoise?
Peg Markle: No he has a name it begins with an “S” and I never remember it. Someone else more knowledgeable in reptiles can come up with and Dawn Conney [sp] has one and she’s coming up this weekend to bring Roger some literature on him and…
Bob Tarte: Wow, he’s quite handsome!
Peg Markle: He weighs 14 pounds.
Bob Tarte: And so what would his typical natural environment be?
Peg Markle: Desert I guess, I guess desert from, and I’m not even sure what deserts down if it’s South America, if it’s…I’m not sure.
Bob Tarte: And this was somebody’s pet and they couldn’t take care of him anymore?
Peg Markle: They were moving and were looking for a home for him.
Bob Tarte: And of course you needed another animal.
Peg Markle: Kind of like the Tartes huh?
Bob Tarte: Well, we have it easy compared to you and Roger, I tell you.
Peg Markle: So he’s only 68 years old, he lives to be 100. He can weigh up to 300 pounds, but something..
Bob Tarte: Wow, 300 pounds?
Peg Markle: They get very large and something you put in your will and we already have people who would like to take him after we’re gone.
Bob Tarte: Do they want to hasten your demise so that they can get the turtle?
Peg Markle: They might. We already have several volunteers who said, “we’ll take him.”
Bob Tarte: Now I didn’t know that Roger had a soft spot for tortoises, did you?
Peg Markle: Roger has a soft spot for anything that needs a home.
Bob Tarte: Can he be touched or anything or does he nip or is he?
Peg Markle: No, he might do some hissing.
Bob Tarte: Oh, I don’t want to bother him.
Peg Markle: Look at this, he can pull incompletely but look at these feet.
Bob Tarte: Oh that’s amazing!
Peg Markle: And I think that’s for digging and we do when Roger gets home, this is his baby he takes him outside and lets him get some exercise and named him and this is really original Bumpy.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, he does have a bumpy shell. I was trying to think what it reminded me of but…
Peg Markle: Yeah I don’t…
Bob Tarte: I don’t know.
Peg Markle: Yeah I don’t Miskegans [sp] is scared to death of him.
Bob Tarte: Oh okay.
Peg Markle: Look at him.
Bob Tarte: Oh my!
Peg Markle: Isn’t he pretty neat?
Bob Tarte: Yeah, his shell almost looks sculpted to me.
Peg Markle: Yeah.
Bob Tarte: He is gorgeous.
Peg Markle: Yeah and look at those legs.
Bob Tarte: Yeah.
Peg Markle: It’s okay, it’s okay sweetheart and he eats of course it’s not going to be a cheap one, he eats cherries and blue berries and strawberries and greens and he needs a little bit of protein so every once in awhile, he has a little piece of raw steak.
Bob Tarte: Oh no! You couldn’t get one that just ate some kind of kibbles.
Peg Markle: No, you can’t buy a 50 pound bags of food and he eats an awful lot.
Bob Tarte: It would be fun giving that fruit in the wintertime. You have to [xx] some kind of that.
Peg Markle: Well we already bought the little half pint of raspberries that were $3.99.
Bob Tarte: Ah uh..and how long did it take him to go through those?
Peg Markle: Oh he would be, well he’s sharing his food with the box turtle right now. The strawberries and the blueberries and the cherries and the raspberries.
Bob Tarte: Now did you have pet turtles or tortoises before?
Peg Markle: Uh uh.
Bob Tarte: So you don’t really know what to expect..
Peg Markle: No, no and that’s why Dawn has this big old one that she’s going to be Roger’s mentor on that and I guess she even had special cream that you rub on their shell…
Bob Tarte: Oh my gosh!
Peg Markle: So it doesn’t dry out and I don’t know. So she’s coming up this weekend with her books because he definitely needs to do some reading up on him but he’s pretty neat.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, he’s gorgeous. Well thanks so much for talking to us. I’m talking to
Peg Markle at the Wildlife Rehab Center at Grand Rapids Michigan and you know this work doesn’t come cheap and please donate money so that they can take care of this great blue heron over the winter and you said you’ll probably getting a wood cock in?
Peg Markle: A wood cock and he eats and 50 [xx] a day and if he comes through surgery he would have to be wintered also.
Bob Tarte: Wow.
Peg Markle: So these guys, they get a little expensive. I think our operating budget is probably between 75,000 and 100,000 a year.
Bob Tarte: But you are a non profit organization.
Peg Markle: We are a 501 3C yup and your donations are tax deductible.
Bob Tarte: Okay, I can’t think of a worthier cause, oh the tortoise is moving, I can’t think of a worthier cause and let me give out the website one more time just to really drive it home. It’s www.wildlife-rehab-center.org and if you go on my website bobtarte.com you will find pictures of quite a few wild birds that Peg has allowed us to rehab over the years.
Peg Markle: Because you are licensed.
Bob Tarte: That’s exactly right, Linda and I are…
Peg Markle: You are licensed, you are sub permitted under us so whatever you do is legal.
Bob Tarte: But as I say we do just a very, very little bit of volunteer work but we just love the birds that you bring us and you’ll see.
Peg Markle: Well you have such a good habitat for a release of some of the birds.
Bob Tarte: Yeah we do, we do and we’ve really enjoyed doing it. So you can see pictures of them at bobtarte.com and also on the wild bird page you’ll find a link….oh!
Peg Markle: What is he doing? Is he dancing?
Bob Tarte: The tortoise is doing something. You’ll find a link to Peg’s website.
Peg Markle: Oh I wonder if he is…you gong to the bathroom? Or what are you doing? You itching yourself?
Bob Tarte: Thanks Peg.
Bob Tarte: Well thanks so much for Peg Markle for letting me visit the Wildlife Rehab Center. It’s always fun going over there and seeing the animals that she has.
Linda Tarte: Oh that’s true.
Bob Tarte: My wife Linda is joining me and I want to talk a little bit about moscovy ducks. Now I joked with Peg towards the beginning of our interview about I think for giving us the moscovy duck named Victor and it’s been kind of what you might call a mixed blessing. I want to talk a little bit about moscovies in general and then we’ll talk about Victor.
Now 99% of the ducks you see in barnyards are all, they are mallards basically. They’re different colors, different shapes, different sizes. You have the big white barnyard duck, the white pekin, you have the little cawl ducks, you have just all kinds of color variations but these were basically all breed from mallards.
Linda Tarte: Even the white pekins.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, the white pekins are considered mallards.
Linda Tarte: That’s amazing.
Bob Tarte: But there is another kind of duck that you see occasionally which is not a mallard derivative and it has not been breed, interbreed so much that it’s lost a lot of it’s wild characteristics and that is the muscovy duck and it’s a tropical duck.
Linda Tarte: What country did it come from, do you know?
Bob Tarte: I don’t really know, I think it’s South American there’s a [xx] population in Texas and in Florida and in some other states, there are a lot of escaped muscovies and the climate is warm enough that the muscovies do okay. Muscovies don’t do that well in really cold climates. Why don’t you talk a little bit about why they don’t do very well?
Linda Tarte: Muscovies have this peculiarity, at least that ones that we have had, now other people have spoken differently about them but our muscovies do not like water. They of course drink it but they don’t like to go in the pool the way the other ducks do. I believe it must have something to do with their genetic heritage, the climate they were in, or I don’t know the reason, they’re land ducks, they don’t care for water.
Consequently they get kind of as the feathers get older, their feathers get kind of brownish looking and little solution of taking a bath wouldn’t occur to them. They don’t do that so when they get old or with their feathers they are kind of dirty looking but no they don’t go in the pool the ways the other ones do.
Bob Tarte: And their feathers don’t seem to have the water repellant quality as far as we’ve noticed that mallards do.
Linda Tarte: No they don’t seem to. They don’t preen themselves as much or something.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, we had a muscovy that once in the middle of winter, froze to the ice. It’s not as bad as it sounds like what happened was, he must have been in the pool and sat on the floor of the duck pen which was icy at that time and he ended up getting frozen to the floor. I couldn’t understand why all the other ducks in the middle of February came out and were out in the yard and Hector he was just sitting on the ice and I went out there and I had to free him from it and he was fine and walked on into the ice.
Linda Tarte: They are a different kind of duck.
Bob Tarte: Yeah they look different.
Linda Tarte: Yeah they look different also they have a fleshy red around their beaks.
Bob Tarte: And on their face.
Linda Tarte: On their face, that’s what I mean, above their beak and around their face is this fleshy red.
Bob Tarte: Kind of a fleshy red mask almost.
Linda Tarte: Right, right.
Bob Tarte: And they are very stocky gooselike duck.
Linda Tarte: Yes.
Bob Tarte: They tend to be blacks and whites.
Linda Tarte: Blacks and whites, some are pure white but yeah like, some are black but predominantly black and white or white.
Bob Tarte: Now instead of quacking, they’re quite quiet or at least compared to a quacking duck. They hiss, they throw back their heads, they pant, I guess it’s more panting than hissing and they also waggle their tails and this is one tough duck.
Linda Tarte: They are…
Bob Tarte: And we’ll talk a little bit about Victor, about the toughness. You have had some fairly unpleasant experiences with Victor haven’t you?
Linda Tarte: Victor seems to be under the illusion or whatever that he is the head of the barnyard and if you walk into the barn he considers that an affront upon his territory and he lets you know it by coming up and standing as near to you as he feels he can and acting like he’s going to nip you which he will if you allow him to.
Bob Tarte: He’s pretty stealthy because it isn’t like some other aggressive animal that will just run right up to you. In my experience, what Victor likes to do is he likes to just kind of hang around you and just slowly works his way back to you if you’re not seeing him and suddenly…
Linda Tarte: Bang!
Bob Tarte: He’ll nail you.
Linda Tarte: He leaves a mark on your skin that is kind of like a welt and it really hurts and he has a serrated edge to his beak and that’s just not pleasant
Bob Tarte: That’s the thing his bill has a little hook on the end of it and it’s serrated and man you really feel it when you get bit by a muscovy.
Linda Tarte: You feel it. You have a little mark that would last you a good two to three weeks.
Bob Tarte: Now I have to say in other ways I think he is a pretty nice duck.
Linda Tarte: Yeah, he likes you better than he likes me.
Bob Tarte: I don’t get that problem with him anymore. When we first got him, there’s a story in my book Fowl Weather about a shoving match I had with a duck and I’m embarrassed to talk about it a little bit because you have to be an idiot to get into a shoving match with a duck. I mean what do you gain if you win? And if you lose it’s silly too but I was out there one night and he was trying to bite me and I had a push broom with me so I just put the broom between me and the duck but he kept coming at me so I held the broom and before I knew it I was shoving his chest to shove him back, I wasn’t hurting him, I was just shoving him back. He kept coming at me and it escalated and he just got wilder and wilder and I realized that he thought that this was some kind of a fight to the death.
Linda Tarte: He was enjoying it.
Bob Tarte: He was enjoying it but he was quite enraged and I was getting mad too until a little voice inside my head said.
Linda Tarte: This is a duck.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, do you realize you are having a shoving match with a duck? Do you realize this is maybe…
Linda Tarte: Who is stupid here?
Bob Tarte: So I stopped and it surprised me that he stopped too. He threw his head back and did his little panting but he was still aggressive at that point, from then on but something changed in a little while. He begun to molt and when ducks molt sometimes they…
Linda Tarte: They don’t feel real good.
Bob Tarte: No, they don’t feel well. A lot of birds, a lot of wild birds in nature, they lose a few feathers throughout the course of a year, they’ll lose some, I think some….
Linda Tarte: Some on their head…
Bob Tarte: Yeah, they’ll lose wing feathers, something like that but ducks drop huge amounts of feathers all at once and they lose the power of flight, not that they are a big fan of moscovies to fly.
Linda Tarte: They don’t fly anyway.
Bob Tarte: But anyway Victor wasn’t feeling well and at that time we had another muscovy duck named Hamilton and Hamilton always wanted to be the top duck and so Victor wasn’t feeling well and was hiding while he was molting and one reason he was hiding was because Hamilton who was not molting was coming after him and was bothering him.
So I felt sorry for Victor and I used to go and give him little pieces of water melon and I found out he liked water melon so I’d go behind our old pottery kiln where he was hiding and I would shake out a few pieces of water melon next to him making sure not to get too close and he ate them and I know it sounds odd but…
Linda Tarte: I remember that…
Bob Tarte: I have never had any trouble with him whatsoever. I don’t know if it’s gratitude, if a duck can feel gratitude or not or if he’s just come to connect to not attacking me with getting fed but ever since then…
Linda Tarte: He was very nice to you.
Bob Tarte: We had a good relationship with him. So they are very personable ducks. They have a lot more native intelligence than mallards. I love our white pekins, we have three white pekin ducks now and we have a lot of really nice ducks but I just think that the muscovies are really sharper. He once hurt his foot and he let me lift up his foot and put some betadine on it and sponge it off a little bit.
Linda Tarte: Not every duck will allow that.
Bob Tarte: I know I mean most ducks would be, “What are you doing? Help! Help! He’s trying to kill me!” but Victor did quite well. You want to talk a little bit about Ramone. Ramone is another moscovy duck that we got from Peg at the Wildlife Rehab Center.
Linda Tarte: Ramone has a totally different personality than Victor. He is timid, he has a great fear of everything just the exact opposite of Victor.
Bob Tarte: And he is a great big duck.
Linda Tarte: He looks a lot like Victor but I don’t know if Victor has intimidated him one too many times or what it is but he tries to stay away, far away as he can from Victor and he tends to be afraid of most everybody except the chickens. As a matter of fact he hangs around with the chickens a lot or a lot of times just by himself and separately from the rest of the ducks and chickens.
Bob Tarte: Sometimes you’ll see him in the evening.
Linda Tarte: Off by himself.
Bob Tarte: Or roosting with the hens, the hens like to see, the muscovy ducks actually can roost flying up to sit on, I guess they sit on pretty stout branches in their part of the world. Yeah and so he’ll fly up and he’ll roost on a railing which is interesting to see because none of the other ducks do that, only the muscovy and sometimes we’ll find them in with the chickens.
Linda Tarte: Yes and I have heard from one of the workman that he actually has romantic relationships with the chickens.
Bob Tarte: Yes, I’m afraid…
Linda Tarte: He is not too pleasant sometimes.
Bob Tarte: No I’m afraid..
Linda Tarte: I’m happy I haven’t seen that.
Bob Tarte: Yeah I am afraid I have witnessed the romance between…
Linda Tarte: Not a happy thought.
Bob Tarte: It’s pretty one sided romance.
Linda Tarte: But you can’t picture him really being mean to anything but the workmen claim that he is kind of rough with the chickens sometimes, at other times he just looks so innocuous and very timid and shy and he does like me to. When he first come in the barn, there’s a long alley way and he’ll sit there by himself and he’s conveyed to me somehow that he wants me to feed him there. So when I’m giving treats to everybody else I have to make a special little trip over that first alley way and feed him separate because he doesn’t like to have to contend with the other creatures for his food and it’s just the way he is. He is just so shy but he does have once or twice a year where he turns around because of this hormones or something and he will turn on Victor.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, that’s right.
Linda Tarte: Very infrequent but it’s an odd thing to see.
Bob Tarte: And it’s also odd once in awhile in the summer to see them both together hanging out so they’re very interesting ducks and we have a couple of others we will talk about in another show, we have one female named Rosemary Clooney and we have another female named Juanita and they’re both very sweet.
Linda Tarte: They have sweet dispositions unlike the males.
Bob Tarte: The females are great. I like the males too. They are very, very personable.
Linda Tarte: Yeah, different.
Bob Tarte: Yeah and I’ve heard from a lot of people who emailed me telling me how much they love their muscovies so.
Linda Tarte: Well the ones that we had which was it, Hector used to sit on my shoulder.
Bob Tarte: Yeah, imagine a big goose size duck sitting on somebody’s shoulder.
Linda Tarte: If I was sitting he would scramble at my lap, I can’t imagine how that ever started but I have photographs of it to prove.
Bob Tarte: Yeah it’s on my website bobtarte.com. You go to the section on my website that says enslaved by ducks and I think the…I forget what the chapter is called but you’ll want to look at all the animal photos anyway and you’ll see one of Hector.
Linda Tarte: It was a beautiful duck.
Bob Tarte: Yeah so that’s all the time we have this week, we want to remind people that we want you to be our next guest, we want you to do just like Peg Markle did today and just talk to us. Talk to us about your animals.
Linda Tarte: We can’t wait to hear from you.
Bob Tarte: So email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and who knows I might be talking to you next week.
Linda Tarte: That would be just great.
Bob Tarte: So thanks to all our listeners and thanks to our very mysterious producers and thanks to Peg Markle and thanks to Linda.
Linda Tarte: Yeah, thanks Peg. Thank so much for listening. Bye bye.