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Everything's Ducky With Problem at Reagan Ranch

September 01, 1986|JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writer

SANTA BARBARA — President Reagan, whose ranch has been plagued in the past with water snakes, mountain lions and dead goldfish, has a new problem with the flora and fauna at Rancho del Cielo, his 688-acre spread high in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

It is algae, growing in his vinyl-lined pond. The solution: ducks.

Of course, few challenges facing the President of the United States can be simple, and few can offer such a cut-and-dried solution. And so it is with this one, as portrayed by a source close to the President.

The story of the ducks dates back some time to a day when Reagan, chatting about the ranch, mentioned that he would like some ducks for the acre-sized pond, which is fed by a small stream that runs through the property. Long ago, Reagan drained it and lined it with synthetic sheeting to prevent it from drying up in the summer.

Then one recent day, two aides, visiting a supermarket in Solvang, a community near the ranch, noticed an offer on a bulletin board for free, 3-week-old ducks.

Ducks Move to Ranch

After determining that the animals were still available, and ascertaining that Reagan remained interested in obtaining a few ducks, they picked up the young birds and delivered them to the ranch, 3,200-feet up the side of a mountain nearly 30 miles northwest of here.

There they sit in a makeshift pen, letting the other animals of the ranch become familiar with them until they grow old enough to live on their own in the freedom of the pond, the source said.

But before their ability to control the algae, as well as the schools of small fish that live in the pond, can be put to the test, a presidential decision must be made: Should their wings be clipped?

As described by the source, clipping the birds' wings would keep them from flying away, if they find the pond and life on the mountainside unsatisfactory. However, it also might leave them vulnerable to the ranch hounds, not to mention the less-tame wildlife of the region.

Lucky Among Residents

Among the animals roaming the property, according to Nancy Reagan's press secretary, Elaine Crispen, is the rambunctious Lucky, a Bouvier des Flanders cattle-herding dog that proved to be too active an animal for the Reagans to handle in the confines of the White House. He was said to have been given a haircut for the summer.

In addition to being joined by the ducks, Lucky and four other dogs have recently begun sharing the ranch with an adult cat and two kittens, which ranch hands said appeared to have been abandoned in a nearby village. The adult cat has been dubbed Morris, by Mrs. Reagan, and the youngsters are being called Cleo and Sara.

And lately, according to her aide, Mrs. Reagan has been leaving carrots and lettuce for two cottontail rabbits that have been nibbling on the treats before scampering back into the cover of the woods.

The President, observing the apparently harmonious relations of the animals, was said to have remarked to aides Saturday: "It's a miracle how well everyone is getting along."

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