Jasper native saves lucky duck in Indy canal

Photos courtesy Kirk Steftenagel

Herald Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis duck can swim free thanks to the quick thinking of a university student from Jasper.

Last Saturday, Rick and Cathy Stenftenagel and Kathy Mathies, all of Jasper, were visiting their children, Kirk Stenftenagel and girlfriend Audra Mathies, both freshmen at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. While walking along the city’s downtown canal after taking in the school’s annual canoe regatta, the group spotted a struggling female mallard caught in a piece of plastic like the kind that encircles a six-pack of soda.

“It had (the plastic) around its neck,” said Kirk. “It would step in the rings and fall.”

The group later learned the duck had been trapped in the rings for at least two weeks. Many local residents had attempted to rescue the distressed mallard, which would bolt as soon as a potential good Samaritan would approach her. For days, animal lovers had tried and failed to rid the duck of her cumbersome necklace.

On Facebook, organizations including Indianapolis Lost Pet Alerts had shared pictures of the bird, eliciting dozens of comments from concerned animal lovers.

“Poor baby…did someone get to help her yet?” one reader commented. “Prayers for this duck!” said another.

Walking along the canal Saturday afternoon, Kirk and his family again saw the duck in the canal, surrounded by a crowd of people trying to remove the plastic rings.

With the help of some nearby paddleboaters, Kirk, an Eagle Scout, lured the duck onto the sidewalk with some potato chips.

“I reached toward (her), and (she) came closer,” Kirk said. “Finally, I grabbed (her) leg.”

While Kirk held the bird down, his parents worked the plastic off the mallard’s beak, to the cheers of the admiring crowd. The duck scurried several yards away before raising itself up and flapping her wings.  

A Facebook post about the rescue has since received more than 700 “likes” from relieved duck-lovers.

“Ever since I saw the post of the duck last week, it has been haunting me,” one person commented. “You made my day.”

“They called him ”˜duck hero,’” Rick said about his son. “Everybody felt good and the duck was pretty happy, too.”

Contact Sarah Fentem at sfentem@dcherald.com.

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