An 80-year-old old Massachusetts woman is willing to go to jail rather than quit feeding the ducks at a pond near her house. She says she worries about the health of her feathered friends — particularly during the winter when they have little to eat.
“Claire Butcher says she’s only trying to make sure that a group of domestic ducks that made Flax Pond their home have enough to eat as the cold weather approaches,” writes Jeff McMenemyLynn Daily Item newspaper.
She says that’s why she recently resumed feeding the birds — in violation of a city ordinance and a No Trespass Order she agreed to in 2009, according to City Attorney Vincent Phelan.
Police told ABC News that they intend to charge her with trespassing and violation of a city ordinance after a woman saw her feeding the birds recently, according to court documents.
“Here I am, an 80-year-old woman and they’re treating me like a criminal,” she told McMenemy while she feeding the ducks as well as some local geese at the pond.
She acknowledges being cited multiple times for violating the city’s ordinance, which forbids people from feeding wild geese, ducks or “other wildlife that may congregate” on or about the local Sluice Pond, Flax Pond or Goldfish Pond.
The penalty is $100 per offense.
Asked if she’s worried that she will be fined, Butcher laughed and said,
“No, I’m not worried about being fined, because I never paid my fines before.”
“The animals in the park do not belong to the city of Lynn — they belong to God,” Claire told McMenemy.
Phelan said city officials have cited her about a dozen times for violating the city ordinance, but Butcher continues anyway.
“We’re not picking on this woman,” Phelan told reporters. “We just want her to comply with the ordinance.”
“City officials said they have tried working with her,” reports McMenemy, “including dismissing previous fines levied against her after she agreed to comply with a No Trespass Order issued in 2009. The order, signed by Jay Fink, the city’s Department of Public Works Commissioner, and Mary Ann O’Connor, the city’s Director of Health, states that Butcher is prohibited from trespassing in Lynn city parks, and includes a list of all the parks in the city.”
“Since you have previously violated city ordinances, by feeding wildlife on these locations, your presence at these locations may be adverse to the purpose of city property and the health of its citizens,” the order states.
The order states that a violation of the No Trespass Order can result in a $100 fine or “by imprisonment of not more than 30 days or both.”
O’Connor says the 80-year-old is causing a public health nuisance by throwing “entire shopping carts full of bread” into ponds or parks, which attracts geese and ducks.
“She has no regard for her neighbors or for people who live in the area,” O’Connor said. “I understand she thinks she’s doing God’s work, but she’s taking it to the extreme.”
Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said when people feed ducks or geese at Flax Pond or other city ponds, particularly Canada geese, they end up staying there in large unhealthy numbers.
“When there’s literally 100 or more,” Lozzi said, “they’re overtaking our ball fields.”
Lozzi, who works for the state Department of Environmental Protection and considers himself “an environmentalist,” said he and other city officials have instituted a program of egg addling, using corn oil, so that the ducklings are aborted before they can hatch.
Claire said she sent a letter to both Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, complaining about her treatment.
“Do they think there’s no problems in Lynn that they have to chase after an 80-year-old woman?” she asked.