Thursday, July 29, 1999

Stuffed Duck taken into custody

 copyright 1999 Mark Bellis

GUELPH JULY 29 - "Why a duck?" is the question that a Guelph curio dealer is asking himself after being served with a summons for putting a stuffed mallard up for sale in his shop window.

"They're environmentally friendly, once you get over the fact that someone's slaughtered them." says Ray Mitchell, 37, about the other animals in his shop, which he says are legal. Mitchell runs an antique shop on the main street of Guelph. The shop features a line of stuffed animals and birds that has included a boar's head, a cougar, muskrats, deer heads, bears, alligators, several frogs, including one riding a unicycle, two skeletal human feet and one elephant's foot, which he does not display. "It's kind of gross - they just took the foot and threw away the rest". But it was the mallard that he put in the window that got him into trouble July 11, when he was served with a summons which charged that he did "expose for sale a migratory Game Bird - to wit: one mallard duck ".

Rick Pratt, Manager of Wildlife Conservation for Environment Canada, says that one of his officers saw the duck on display for sale in the window and charged Mitchell under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, which he says covers most migratory birds, even the common mallard and robin, and prohibits their ownership or sale, even if they are stuffed. "Charges for selling are not common" for stuffed birds, says Pratt, but do happen, and even sales of feathers of migratory birds attached to hats may be illegal.

Mitchell could face a fine of up to 50,000 or five years in jail.

Mitchell says his other animals, which he has posed in a protest group in his window under a "Free Huey" poster, are legal, except for another mallard. "Huey", the mallard that caused the problem in thefirst place, remains in custody, pending the trial.

Mitchell says his collection are like his friends. "He's like one of the family" he says, refering to a black bear cub posed next to a log. "He watches TV with us, he likes everything we put on (the TV)" and says his wife and four kids don't "actually mind" the taxidermified wildlife, which includes a monkey's paw that he says his grandfather got in the Amazon in 1910. "I never have made a wish on it - you could make a wish for publicity and get charged with having a mallard duck!" he quips.

Mitchell says he has sold around 50 stuffed mallards during his 20 years as an antique dealer.