... Like a Duck to Water

Editor’s note:  The Wildlife Center features many patient stories in the “Critter Corner” portion of the website – but these are only a few of the thousands of cases the Wildlife Center treats each year. Each animal has its own unique story, and this story is one of a Mallard duck with which animal care volunteer Carol was particularly involved!  After she excitedly shared her release story with us last week, we asked her to write our next blog entry!

How incredibly lucky I am to be able to volunteer at the Wildlife Center of Virginia!  Working to rehabilitate injured and baby animals is usually a joyful and rewarding activity. However, over the last several months, I felt sad every time I went into the lovely aviary space where a mallard had lived since the end of May. He had been attacked and injured by other ducks and seemed to be depressed, hardly moving, or eating. Even as his head lacerations and puncture wounds healed, the duck did not seem any brighter or more active. He did maintain weight, and despite the quiet attitude, the vet staff cleared the duck for release in October.

On October 14, I had the opportunity to release this mallard into the wild. With the permission and participation of Raymond and Jean Wilkerson, my neighbors and friends, who live in an idyllic and secluded crook of the Middle River. We transported the duck to the water’s edge and opened his cage door.

In the twinkling of an eye, he was in the river, dipping and diving and flapping his wings. Jean said, “I wonder if he can fly” and immediately he flew three times in quick succession about 100 yards up-river, glided onto the water, turned and swam back to us, ducking and diving and looking for food (“circuits and bumps” my pilot brother calls it). The last time he flew rather than swam back to us, executed the perfect landing and stopped to splash and preen. This creature was ecstatic with pure joy … and so were those of us who observed. Call me anthropomorphic if you like, but I swear he was thanking both us and the Wildlife Center!

--Carol Taylor