A local water rescue team went on a duck chase Wednesday morning to rescue two pet ducks abandoned in Lake Ronkonkoma.
The snowy white Pekin ducks, named Cheech and Chong by two volunteers, were removed for safety before winter's arrival. In the colder months, Lake Ronkonkoma freezes, which would leave the flightless ducks with few ways to find food or dodge predators.
"The entire lake will freeze; they don't stand a chance," said Caroline Lee of Douglaston. "There are not that many people willing to come out, but to me, there's nothing cuter than a big, fat Pekin duck."
Lee said that the ducks had most likely been deposited at the lake by owners who had tired of caring for them, adding that ducklings are often purchased as Easter novelties or raised briefly in elementary schools. But local ponds and lakes are not suitable homes for domestic ducks used primarily for egg and meat production.
Lee said that when she and fellow volunteer Patricia Amendolia found Cheech and Chong, they were extremely malnourished. Amendolia, 52, of Kings Park, said she used to feed the pair by hand, and was hoping they'd be easily enticed out of the lake Wednesday.
However, the ducks resisted capture as Bill Pfeiffer, the Nesconset Fire Department's water rescue supervisor, operated an inflatable rubber boat to corral the animals. After some struggle, Amendolia scooped up the ducks, one in a butterfly net, and another straight into her arms.
Suffolk Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) watched the rescue from the shore, cheering when the ducks were in hand.
"This is all of our lake," Kennedy said. "We have a lot of stuff to do."
After the ducks were removed from the water, they were placed in a carrier to be taken to a veterinarian in New Hyde Park. Lee said they will then move to one of three wildlife sanctuaries in the state.
"They're going to a wonderful home," Amendolia said. "They don't have to die this winter."