Hooked on quack: Mexican squealer gets stuck, dies in tree

Maraist makes discovery east of Grevenberg in Atchafalaya Basin

An appropriate low-budget horror film title for this summer might be “When Trees Attack!”

Less than two weeks ago, Louisiana Sportsman.com ran a story recounting the bizarre death of a doe that somehow got her head caught while dining on a pear tree in Walker.

If that’s not strange enough for you, imagine the shock Charlie Maraist experienced when he discovered a freshly-dead Mexican squealer (black-bellied whistling duck) stuck inside the crack of a hollow tree deep in the Atchafalaya Basin this June.

Maraist and a buddy were in a thick, cypress-willow swampy area constructing a duck blind for the upcoming season when they spotted the duck, which appeared to have died a pretty gruesome death.

“You could see he had been struggling. His toes were all scarred up from fighting to try to get free,” he said.

Maraist theorized the duck somehow got stuck as he was landing in, or taking off from, the hole in the top of the tree.

“I was thinking he went to try to land and his head got caught, then he started fighting it and fought it until there was no way he was getting out,” said Maraist, who owns Gator Outfitters in Lafayette.

And he ruled out someone playing a practical joke from the sheer remoteness of the area.

“If somebody would do that as a prank, I bet there’s not even one person who probably goes back there a month,” he said. “Nobody would ever see it.”

Larry Reynolds, the state’s waterfowl study leader, shared Maraist’s photo with other duck biologists last week, who also were mystified as to how the duck ended up in its predicament.

“I’ve received no insightful feedback, mostly, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that,’” Reynolds wrote in an email to Louisiana Sportsman.com. “Although you can’t see much detail of the cavity or hollow in the tree, one guess is there was some sort of confrontation between the BBWD and a predator in the cavity upon his/her arrival…

“When you spend time in the field, you are going to see strange things.”

Maraist, who watched as the duck decomposed over the next several weeks stuck in the tree, said he’s just happy he’s got a photograph to prove what he saw.

“My buddy who was with me said, ‘If we hadn’t taken a picture, nobody would have ever believed us,’” he said.

About Patrick Bonin 1315 Articles
Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.