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November 18, 2008  
Photo of Kevin Mack.

The Welcoming Party
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

On August 28, at Silver Lake Park in Everett, a child threw a rock at a female Mallard. I know nothing of the child's motivation, history or background. I have no idea if, as is often the case, the child was behaving cruelly toward animals because he had experienced cruelty in his own life. My sincere hope is that the child didn't really mean to hurt the Mallard; that he was just acting on a nave, youthful impulse. I also hope that he felt a measure of guilt--strong enough to prevent him from behaving similarly in the future--when the rock connected with the duck's head and sent her sprawling.

Whether the boy was motivated by malice or simply failed to consider the consequences of his actions, the end result was the same. The Mallard suffered a severe brain injury from which she would not quickly recover. After witnessing the attack, a concerned citizen scooped the bird up and brought her to PAWS. She was recorded in the PAWS database as case #08-2178.

Upon arrival, the duck was unable to stand and too weak to lift her head. She was treated for shock, and given medications to reduce any potential swelling of the brain. Her condition stabilized, but her balance and equilibrium were badly affected. Her prognosis was poor, but only time would tell if the Mallard would be able to return to full function.

During her early convalescence, the Mallard was assessed daily. Her progress was slow, but noticeable. Within a few days of being admitted, she regained the ability to sit upright and hold her head in a normal posture. Next she began to stand, first on wobbly legs and then with an ever-increasing steadiness. When she started walking, balance issues persisted and the Mallard had difficulty walking in a straight line. Eventually she was steady enough to move to an outdoor cage where we hoped that fresh air and natural light would have a positive impact on her recovery.

It took more than two months for the Mallard to heal to the point where she stood a good chance of surviving in the wild. At the end of her time at PAWS she was able to walk, run and fly once again, all of which were amazing considering the severity of the head injuries she had experienced. On November 5, the Mallard was returned to the wild where, after a rocky first meeting, she quickly made some new friends. The following photos tell the story.


When Mallard 08-2178 first exited her transport container, she slowly paddled around getting her bearings.

She noticed two other Mallards on a nearby log and immediately paddled toward them.

The two ducks didn't quite know what to make of her. They both extended their necks in a threat posture and warned her off.

Mallard 08-2178 retreated a short distance away. She then turned back toward the log.

She began to dabble, moving her bill back and forth just at the water's surface as she zig-zagged in the direction of the log. This time, the two unfamiliar Mallards seemed more curious than angry about her approach.

The two ducks on the log entered the water and began dabbling right along with Mallard 08-2178. Whatever tension they had felt before was now gone.

As the formerly injured duck swam away, the two Mallards she had just met followed. They passed another individual female who fell in line behind them. Although the Mallard's journey from her home to rehabilitation had been a solo trip, it appeared that she would not be making the return trip alone.

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