Fredericton restaurant owner 'heartbroken' after eggs of duck nesting on patio stolen

The mother duck sitting in its planter nest at Isaac's Way restaurant in downtown Fredericton. (Isaac's Way/Facebook - image credit)
The mother duck sitting in its planter nest at Isaac's Way restaurant in downtown Fredericton. (Isaac's Way/Facebook - image credit)

The owner of a Fredericton restaurant who took special steps to ensure a duck could lay its clutch at the business is heartbroken someone took some of the eggs Sunday.

"I really do feel heartbroken," said Tabitha Smith, the owner of Isaac's way. "All the effort has kind of gone to nothing."

About a month ago, as staff prepared the patio for the summer, they noticed two eggs nestled between dead plants in a planter from the summer before.

Smith said the staff didn't think much of it, but the number of eggs increased until there were seven. Eventually, they noticed a mother duck sitting in the planter.

"I started making phone calls immediately," said Smith, who found out that the mother and her eggs are protected under the Canada Wildlife Act, and the restaurant needed a permit to do anything.

Isaac's Way/Facebook
Isaac's Way/Facebook

The restaurant decided to delay the opening of their patio for the well-being of the family of ducks. Smith said the community was very understanding of the delay, and she was happy that nobody joked about new duck dishes.

Pam Novak, the wildlife care director with the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, said it's not uncommon for ducks to nest near homes or businesses.

She said the best thing to do is to leave the nest alone while waiting for a permit and recommendations from the Canadian Wildlife Service because improperly relocating the nest can result in the loss of the eggs.

"The female is most likely going to abandon the nest," said Novak.

Novak said a duck can lay up to 16 eggs in one clutch. Once the eggs are laid, the mother needs about two weeks to incubate them before they hatch.

Under the guidance of the Canadian Wildlife Service and with help from the Nature Trust of New Brunswick, Smith and the Isaac's Way team slowly moved the nest.

Isaac's Way/Facebook
Isaac's Way/Facebook

"Mama was following the nest, so we were happy," said Smith. "We built a structure down off our patio that mimicked our patio with a roof and sides so that she would feel she was in a similar spot to actually incubate those eggs."

On Sunday night, a staff member noticed a man standing near the structure. They went out to ask them what they were doing and to tell them to step away from the nest. The man took the eggs, put them in his hat, got in a car and left.

Novak said it is unlikely that the duck will return to lay the reminder of her clutch. She has never heard of someone stealing eggs, and is unsure why someone might do it.

"You can't speculate why, but it's definitely not a legal activity," said Novak. "You can't just go and take eggs from migratory birds."