Alexander Chancellor

Long life | 17 March 2016

A month ago there were 13 ducks on my pond. Now there’s only one — and its days are numbered

My time as a duck-keeper seems to have come bloodily to an end. I have had ducks on my pond for some years now, and I have kept buying new ones to replace those that have got murdered. This stretch of South Northamptonshire may look rather cosy and suburban, but it’s ruled by the law of the jungle. Not a day passes without some creature viciously killing another. Only a month or so ago there were 13 ducks on my pond. Then there were eight. Then there were five. And now there is only one, an Indian Runner drake that stands forlornly on the base of a statue in the middle of the pond, awaiting what it probably feels is its inevitable fate.

As you see, I have stopped replacing lost ducks in the way that I used to. I became too disheartened by the endless killings. Let nature take its course, I thought. Well, nature did; but it turns out that I have been wrong about where to place the blame. I always thought that foxes were nature’s guilty agents in this matter. They have certainly been killing my chickens (though they are no longer, as these are now well protected), but not, it now seems, my ducks. A couple of the latest ducks to die have been found lying in the water, mutilated and disembowelled. This could not have been a fox’s doing; foxes don’t like to swim or to attack their prey in the water. But there is an animal that does both these things with enthusiasm, and that is the otter. And otters do like eating ducks.

The last four of my ducks to die were killed immediately after the neighbouring farmer had (as I reported last week) shot seven foxes in a single night.

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