A Tale of Two Mallard Ducks

In early November, we received calls about two injured mallards at a pond located in Albany. The ducks had been recreationally shot with blow darts and were sadly left to suffer. Archell Banta, one of our dedicated volunteers (and a fellow waterfowl lover), was able to capture both ducks and bring them to our clinic.

Assistant Animal Care Staff volunteer Erika Seirup writes about her experience upon admittance of the mallards:

Many of the patients we receive at CWC are injured by humans on accident (such as car or window collisions). This particular case was disheartening to me because it was purposeful cruelty to wildlife.

I have been a volunteer at Chintimini Wildlife Center for 18 months and haven’t seen an intentional injury to wildlife before. I’ve seen animals that’ve been hit by cars, birds that have flown into windows, and orphans in need of care.

This was a deliberate attack on wildlife and it really surprised me.

The first mallard presented with a dart lodged deep within the left side of his body. Upon further examination we were able to determine that it was stuck in his thigh. The dart was approximately three inches long and he is very fortunate it did not go deep enough to puncture any organs.img_7882

The second mallard had been shot in the bill, which also punctured his tongue, pinning it to the roof of his mouth. Mallard ducks are considered “dabbling” ducks (rather than diving ducks) and this type of injury made it impossible for him to properly forage for food.

To eliminate stress and pain, we decided it was best to place the mallards under anesthesia before removing the darts. This way we were able to give a more thorough examination and tend to the wounds without additional stress or accidental harm.

img_7888

Both ducks recovered quickly, and after careful observation in our ICU they were able to move to an outdoor enclosure.

Outdoor housing for waterfowl includes a pool for swimming and enrichment that helps to encourage the natural behaviors they will need to survive in the wild.

adobephotoshopexpress_2016_12_13_08_39_25

After spending only a few weeks in our care, they were released to a quiet pond where they’ll be safe from harassment and free to live their lives.

 

While we are happy to report this as a successful wildlife rehabilitation story, this unfortunately is not an isolated incident. Each year there are multiple reports of dart shootings in other areas of Oregon, and more often than not the perpetrator isn’t caught.

Animals shouldn’t be left to suffer – if you see an injured animal that you think has been illegally shot, please call your local authorities (police, animal control, wildlife rehabilitator or State Fish & Wildlife agency) as soon as possible. For a wildlife rehabilitation center near you, check out this state-by-state listing:

How to Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Advertisements

The Art of Waterproofing

Chintimini Wildlife Center clinic volunteer Alyssa Tarbox explains the process of waterproofing:

Have you ever wondered how birds stay afloat?  It occurs mainly because of the interlocking hooks and barbules on birds’ feathers – these help to provide an airtight seal allowing insulation from water and other potentially harmful elements. Additionally, their feathers become water resistant when they apply oils from their preen gland (more formally known as the Uropygial Gland), an oil gland found at the tail base possessed by a majority of birds.  Healthy birds do a pretty good job of keeping themselves water resistant and warm by the continual act of preening. But sometimes birds need a little help from wildlife professionals! If you have ever seen the infamous Dawn oil spill commercials, you are seeing part of the waterproofing process. However, much more work goes into ensuring the bird can return to life in the wild!

What happens if birds aren’t able to waterproof themselves?

Waterproofing cannot be done on a bird that is in critical or poor condition. Before the process can begin, an exam on the bird must be performed to ensure the bird is stable and able to withstand the procedure. At Chintimini Wildlife Center, waterproofing is one of the last steps before release, so it is necessary the bird passes all parts of the exam.

When a patient is ready to be waterproofed, they are first washed in warm, soapy water. The temperature must be continuously monitored to ensure the health and safety of the bird – if the water is not warm enough, the process will not be effective and the bird could quickly become chilled and go into shock.

We use a gradient of concentrations of Dawn dish soap because of its proven effectiveness; it is important to reach every nook and cranny of the bird’s feathers so they can go onto the next step!  

waterproof-bird
Photo Credit: Sheri Cochran

In a separate rinsing area, we use a consistent, high pressure stream of warm water to remove any buildup of residue.

Thoroughly rinsing each feather is a time consuming process.

The biggest problem that can occur at this step is trying to “speed up” the process. The goal of waterproofing is to only do it once. It requires taking the time to ensure that all excess residue is completely removed; if not removed it can result in the bird drowning!

When the bird is fully waterproofed, water will run off the feathers instead of penetrating them, leaving beads of water on the bird’s feathered surface. This ensures that the feathers repel water, which allows the bird to dive, swim, and float without sinking.

petrel-dry-300x199
Photo Credit: Hawaii Wildlife Center

 

Once the bird is completely free from soap and residue, the clean bird is taken to dry. An area equipped with a protective net-bottomed pen and an appropriate grooming dryer ensures the bird can comfortably dry. At this point, birds will start preening their feathers back into place. Each hook and barb of the feathers will realign into their pattern which helps create a natural waterproof seal.

Once the drying process is complete, our professional Animal Care Staff will determine if the bird requires another waterproofing session or if it is ready to be back on the water!