Web-footed houseguests freed from St. Tammany chimney flue _lowres

Photos provided by St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1. -- Firefighters with St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1 dismantle a fireplace to free a Muscovy duck who had gotten trapped in the pipe on Sunday. It took about two hours to dismantle the pre-fab fireplace and free the duck.

Romance isn’t all it’s quacked up to be, at least not for a pair of Muscovy ducks that were apparently looking for a love nest but instead got stuck in the fireplace of a home in the Eagle Lake subdivision between Slidell and Pearl River.

Homeowner Demetria Sylve said her 11-year-old son, Malek, heard a noise coming from the fireplace Sunday morning and thought it was a raccoon, but the family was rushing to get ready for church and didn’t thoroughly investigate. It wasn’t until that evening, when the family was sitting in the living room, that they heard a scraping sound and then saw an upside-down duck peering out.

The large Muscovy duck was stuck and couldn’t be pulled free. The family called 911, and St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 1 came to the rescue, dismantling what spokesman Chad Duffaut described as a prefabricated fireplace.

The duck had made its way into the 8-inch flue leading to the roof, Duffaut said, and was wedged in.

Extricating the duck took about two hours. Firefighters had to lift the pipe to gain access to the damper and then use a hacksaw to cut the main rod holding the damper in place. When they did so, the damper fell down, giving them enough room to get the duck out.

Duffaut said it was stuck too tightly to flap or struggle much and seemed to realize that the firefighters were trying to help it.

“He didn’t quack uncontrollably or anything,” he said.

The firefighters let the duck go and then left, but that wasn’t the end of the flap.

The family heard sounds again and saw a pair of webbed feet extending into the now enlarged space. They were able to pull the second duck free without help.

Sylve thinks the pair were courting and ended up in her fireplace because they were looking for a spot to nest.

The subdivision is full of ducks, she said, and her children, Malek, Joanna and Mariah, like to feed them. But Demetria Sylve said her father covered up the pipe so no more web-footed neighbors will make uninvited visits.

Sylve had glowing words for the fire department, even though when a neighbor first suggested calling them for help, she was skeptical that firefighters would respond to a stuck duck call.

Duffaut said Sunday’s call was the first time firefighters have freed a duck from a flue. But the department makes plenty of animal assistance calls, including rescuing some ducklings that had gotten stuck in a drain in Oak Harbor and reuniting them with their anxious mother.

“Our chief has made it pretty clear: If you don’t know who else to call, call us,” Duffaut said.

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.