4 people, 14 hours, 1 fowl
THE MALLARD with a dart in its head fared fairly well for almost a week, until it was rescued on Sunday.
Sonoma’s fondness for fowls seems to know no bounds, and that was apparent during the 14 hours spent last weekend attempting to rescue a duck impaled by a dart. It was a fitting finale for the saga of a small mallard that captivated neighbors’ attention.
It all began last week, when residents walking by Fryer Creek spotted the duck with a bright orange dart protruding through its emerald green head. On Friday, the Index-Tribune ran a photo of the maimed mallard, which drew the attention of Deborah Stroski of East Side Animal Rescue.
“I went over to Fryer Creek immediately after seeing it, I didn’t even finish reading the article,” she said.
It was the beginning of a long, tedious weekend, during which she and three others spent a total of 14 hours working to save the duck. She visited the creek three times on Friday, attempting to catch the bird. After each unsuccessful effort, she’d leave for a few hours to prevent the bird from getting spooked and flying away. On Saturday, after seeking advice from myriad bird rescue organizations, she made five unsuccessful visits to the creek to collect the damaged duck with her adopted son, Ector Garcia, 15.
“I couldn’t sleep, for three days I couldn’t sleep worrying about this duck,” Stroski said. “I laid in bed for three nights thinking about what to do.”
The answer came to her in a dream. She dreamt about a hand-made net adhered with Christmas ribbon to a tree over the creek. She woke up realizing that would better position the net to capture the bird.
“I really went beyond the parameters of what International Bird Rescue wanted me to do,” she admitted, “but because I had this dream about it, I knew it would work out just as I imagined.”
On Sunday, she headed back to the creek, aided by Garcia, Jadon Summers, a seventh-grader at Adele Harrison Middle School, and Quentin Baker, a freshman at Sonoma Valley High School. The four of them spread out, trying to set up a perimeter to catch the duck. They were perched on the bank and in the water, seeking just the right angle.
“I’ve done a lot of rescues, but this was the most arduous because of the mud and the rain and it was freezing,” she said, adding that Baker lost his cellphone to the creek’s waters. “We also had 25 or 30 people out there watching us.”
Finally, the duck was under a bush in a position where Garcia could get the net over it. “He (Garcia) even took off his shirt to wrap the duck in …,” beamed Stroski. “He’s the real hero of this story.”
With the duck in hand, Stroski headed to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, which takes in injured animals from all over Sonoma County. Stroski volunteers there as well, and made arrangements for the duck to be seen immediately.
“Our trusty vet, who for absolutely zero (dollars), came up on a Sunday night to remove that dart,” Stroski said of Dr. Dan Samini, who volunteers with Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.
A spokesperson at the rescue said the duck is doing fine, and is being treated with antibiotics to prevent infection, and painkillers to keep him comfortable. Assuming he continues to heal normally, they expect he’ll be released back into Fryer Creek, perhaps as early as next week.
“We’re going to release him right where he was, because he’s already in love with a girlfriend down there,” Stroski said.
If you find a sick or injured animal, contact the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue’s free advice hotline at 526-9453.