Just Ducky 3/8 Elderly Blind Woman Wins Court Ruling To Feed Fowl
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ An elderly blind woman who said she was ready to go to jail rather than stop feeding a flock of ducks near her home won a legal battle Tuesday when a bird-loving judge dismissed a public nuisance charge against her.
″I think it’s great for the ducks,″ said Leila Nicol, 85, after the hearing. ″It’s not me I feel glad for, it’s the ducks.″
Ramsey County Municipal Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick said he was dropping the criminal misdemeanor charge because ″I was unable to see any facts that would support a criminal offense.″
Mrs. Nicol, who has fed six generations of fowl, said she was elated and returned to her home on Long Lake to resume feeding the 25 to 60 ducks, mostly mallards, that flock to her property daily.
City Attorney Tom Hughes said he filed the charge because duck droppings were creating a health hazard and an inconvenience to neighbors.
Mrs. Nicol, who keeps a pet mallard hen named Feathers in her house and a pet goose named Squawker in her yard, feeds 25 to 60 ducks a day, but the feedings draw an estimated 600 additional ducks to the area, Hughes said.
″What she has done is interfere with the natural feeding of the birds,″ he told the court.
Fitzpatrick said the charge did not belong in a criminal court. He said the prosecution would have to prove that Mrs. Nicol intentionally attracted the 600 additional ducks for the criminal charge to stick.
″Besides, I had 14 cardinals at my bird feeder the other day,″ he said after the hearing.
William Harper, an attorney for Mrs. Nicol, said the ordinance was too vague to be enforced, and does not specifically forbid citizens from feeding ducks.
If the duck population on Long Lake is a problem, it should be remedied by the Department of Natural Resources or through a civil court, the judge said.
″They’ll be kicking out the jams in Duckville tonight,″ said Harper. ″I’m just tickled by the judge’s decision.″
If found guilty, she would have faced a maximum fine of 90 days in jail and a $700 fine.
Mrs. Nicol began feeding the ducks about 43 years ago when she first moved into her cabin on Long Lake in the suburb northwest of St. Paul.
Officials tried to stop Mrs. Nicol for the past two years because they say the feedings lead to overpopulation of ducks on the lake.
Just over a year ago, 50 residents signed a petition calling the ducks a public nuisance, and the city charged her with creating the nuisance when she refused to stop feeding the ducks.
She was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge in August 1984 and fined $25, which was suspended. In November, she again was charged with the crime.
Her case attracted national attention, prompting animal lovers from across the country to write her in support.
New Brighton City Manager Hank Sinda said the city feared that duck droppings could lead to cases of salmonella, but Harper said they are no more dangerous than having fish in the lake.