Local restaurant accused of breaking federal animal protection laws

ELKHART, Ind. -- An employee at a Michiana restaurant walked off the job after 9 years because she says management broke federal animal protection laws.

She left her job at Wings Etc. in Elkhart County off CR 6.

Both management and the employee spoke to ABC 57 about the situation that involves a mated pair of mallard ducks that built a nest on the restaurant's property.

According to the Indiana DNR website it is a federal violation if you tamper with mallard duck eggs or try and relocate ducks on your property simply because the ducks are federally protected.

Kristen Baldridge has worked at Wings Etc. for the past 9 years.

"I started the second day they were open," Baldridge said.

Friday she quit.

"One of my managers threatened to shoot the ducks in their eyes with a BB gun," said Baldridge.

She also said that same manager said he might bring his dogs to the outside area where the two ducks would congregate and let them take care of the ducks.

She said the ducks have been coming back year after year to the same area to hatch their eggs.

She wasn't sure if it was the same pair of Mallards, but Baldridge said she is positive a female and a male duck are in the same spot of the landscape that borders the employee entrance in the back of the building each year that she has worked there.

"They (the ducks) are protected by a federal law. They cannot be moved and after telling another manager that he was still adamant about getting rid of them, I came to work the next day (last Thursday) and they (the ducks) were gone. Nobody knows what happened- I think we are all too scared to ask," Baldridge said.

Manager Phillip Flickinger came outside to address the concerns.

Flickinger admitted that he did make comments to Baldridge about shooting the ducks with a BB gun and bringing his dogs on the property but he said he was just kidding.

"There were remarks said about it but nothing was serious on what we were going to do with the ducks," said Flickinger.

The manager said management called the DNR and got permission to remove the eggs because he claims the eggs were rotten and smelled.

"We had to get the duck off the nest first so we sprayed it a little bit with water to get her out and then we cleaned up the mess. We picked up the mess, we used a rake and a shovel and cleared the mess out," said Flickinger.

Using water is not illegal according to the DNR website.

Baldridge said, "Having these ducks at Wings was really significant."

She said Michael "Mikey" Grotjohn, one of their Wings Etc. regular customers, passed away in July of 2011 from melanoma.

She said he was from Oregon and was a huge University of Oregon Ducks fan.

The Wings staff along with his friends planted a tree in memory of Grotjohn on Island Park.

"I associate him and ducks together, I see a duck and I think of Mikey, especially when I come to this park and go to his tree and it's surrounded by ducks. I do not want him to be forgotten and the fact that I associate ducks with him just kind of fueled my passion even more," said Baldridge. "My customers become like a family to me and they still are and hopefully they will always be."

Flickinger said Wings Etc. wants its customers to know they did not hurt the ducks.

"I seen ducks walking through here, we did not kill any ducks, we got rid of the eggs, the broken eggs," said Flickinger.

Flickinger could not provide ABC 57 News with the name of the DNR Naturalist they spoke to who he claimed gave them the all clear to dispose of the eggs.

We have a call into the DNR specialist who handles Elkhart County cases and are expecting a call back.

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