Ducks seem to be everywhere in Vermont. It's easy to spot a merganser or two floating down a river, a wood duck in a tucked-away pond, or a sord of mallards on a lake. But imagine one woman's surprise to see a drake -- a male mallard -- wandering around the parking lot of a busy shopping center. That's no place for a duck!
In the photo, Sara Eisenhauer holds the duck while he is hydrated by another staff member.
It was clear something was wrong, as the duck was unable to hold his head up properly and appeared weak and disoriented. He was brought to VINS for care, where we indeed found that the bird had little control over his neck. His head would kind of hang listlessly to the side of his body: it was not pleasant to see. We suspected he was hit by a car and suffered nerve or possible brain damage. He also had a scrape beneath his left eye.
We immediately started the dehydrated, thin bird on fluids, and gave him a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to try to treat the head trauma. For the next week, the bird struggled to maintain some kind of composure over his body. We started him on solid foods, and he had trouble getting his head into the bowl to eat. He also was terribly frightened and fought us with a surprising ferocity, perhaps because of his vulnerable, injured state.
Unfortunately, in more than a week's time, the duck showed no signs of improvement. The staff agreed that the duck was suffering due to his condition. We made the difficult decision to euthanize the bird, feeling that his quality of life was too poor to continue treatment as no improvement was apparent. In the end, we felt he likely had irreversible brain damage, and would have never been able to return to the wild. Always a tough choice to make -- but we feel we did the right thing.