Hefty Bill for Duck Theft

Cathy Salustri

Hefty Bill for Duck Theft

The Reyes couple told police the duck followed them.

Gulfport police have charged a local couple with taking a duck from a city park.

 Thursday night, a little after nine o’clock, Tomlinson Park area resident Timothy Spencer noticed two of his neighbors, Raul and Elba Reyes, circling the park in their Honda CRV.

 “I saw them driving them around,” he said, which piqued his curiosity. He followed them.

 “Basically, what he [Raul Reyes] was doing, he was carrying what looked like a duck,” Mr. Spencer says. “I said, ‘Excuse me, why are you stealing the duck?’; they told me that the other ducks didn’t want it, that it was alone, and they wanted to help the duck.”

 That answer didn’t fly with Mr. Spencer.

 “I just told them, ‘No, no, it’s not OK to take the duck. It’s a crime’.”

 That’s when he took a picture of Mr. Reyes holding the lone Pekin duck.

 “He was ready to fight me over taking the picture. He started coming at me and said ‘Don’t take my picture.’ I said, ‘No, no, stay here, I’m calling the police.’ They said, ‘No, we know the police’.”

 The Reyes then went to the police station, and the Sheriff’s dispatch sent Gulfport officers Zachary Mills and Matthew Parks to the station.

 Although the Reyes, who live two houses from the pond at 5314 Tangerine Avenue, told Mr. Spencer they wanted to help the duck, they told the Gulfport officers two different stories: according to police logs, they said the duck followed them. They then said the duck had injuries.

 “It seemed to be fine. I returned it to Tomlinson Park,” Officer Matthew Parks wrote in the log.

 Later that evening, Mr. Spencer said he saw Mr. Reyes behaving oddly.

 “He was out there with what looked like two duck carcasses, holding them by the neck. I think [he was putting them in something] like the Gulfport recycling bins. I heard a lot of clunking around,” he said. He told police, but Chief Robert Vincent said they found no duck carcasses in the trash. Without a sworn statement from someone saying they saw ducks on the property, the police say they cannot search the Reyes’ home.

 Chief Vincent says the Reyes will receive an $80 fine for violating city ordinance 17-28, Subsection C of which says “no person shall molest, harm, frighten, kill, trap, hunt, chase, capture, shoot, or throw any object at any wildlife within the boundaries of any park; nor shall any person remove the eggs, nest, or young of any wildlife within the boundaries of any park; nor shall any person collect, remove, possess, give away, sell or offer to sell, buy or offer to buy, or accept as a gift any specimen, dead or alive of any wildlife from within the boundaries of any park...”

 Local reaction was more extreme.

 “Steal any more damn ducks and you'll have a bunch of Gulfportians open a can of whoop-ass on y'all,” local animal lover Connie Dritsos said, adding, “You can quote me.”

Saturday morning, a smaller Pekin duck appeared at the Tomlinson pond. The duck had trouble swimming and walking. By Saturday night it had disappeared. Tuesday night a fully-grown Pekin duck had appeared in the park. Gulfport police remind people that while it is legal to keep chickens, it is a violation of city code to own ducks.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.