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Monday, August 10, 2009
More duck drama here at Morning Wood Acres.
I was at home alone Sunday afternoon watching a movie while Paul was out running some errands. Through the window next to the TV, I noticed some commotion in the pond. One of the ducks was flapping its wings wildly, struggling to swim. I ran outside to see that it appeared to be dragging something attached to its foot. I couldn't make out exactly what the large object was, but I had a suspicion.
I grabbed a large stick and quickly crossed the footbridge to the small island in the middle of the pond. As the flailing duck slowly made its way past me I saw it - a very large snapping turtle had chomped down on the duck's leg and had it in in a vice-like grip.
I started beating the turtle with the stick and after a few good whacks to its head, it released the injured duck and swam away. The wounded duck made its way up to a muddy sand bar and limped a few feet before resting in a swampy area that I couldn't get to.
Before the charges of animal cruelty start, let me say that I love animals. The last thing I would ever do is deliberately cause pain or injury to any of them, domestic or wild. But snapping turtles are dangerous, not mention tough. This prehistoric-looking monster was about 18 inches long from its head to the end of its tail, which had alligator-like ridges along its length. They can grow to over 2 feet long. The shell on this one was about 12 by 8 inches and its head was about the size of a golf ball. Once they bite down on something, they don't let go. The snapper was stunned enough to release the its grip and that's all I wanted.
Living in the country for the last decade has taught me to be practical. Here in Floyd County, if a predator - a fox, bobcat, dog or anything else - is attacking you or your animals, you can legally shoot it. I don't own a gun, but if I did, I probably would have shot that turtle.
I kept an eye on the injured duck as he eventually made his way up the bank and rejoined the flock. I tried getting close enough to assess the injuries, but each time, he'd hobble away. Not wanting to make the injury worse, I decided to wait for Paul to get home to help.
By the time Paul got back, the duck had moved into the rhododendron thicket in the back yard. Our first attempt to round him up was fruitless. Rather than cause more trauma, we waited until sundown, when the ducks would make their way to the coop. Once they were in, we removed the top of the coop, I climbed in amongst the panicked and squawking birds, threw a towel over him and handed him to Paul. We washed the wound and treated it with iodine.
The duck, which we determined was our alpha-male, named Saturday (as in the Elton John classic, Saturday Night's Alright For Fightin'), has been resting comfortably in a large pet carrier in the basement.
Our regular vet's phone number was disconnected and there was no new listing for him in the phone book. After several phone calls, Paul found a vet that works on ducks and made an appointment.
Aaah, the simple country life.
UPDATE: August 10
Unfortunately we had to have our duck, Saturday, put down yesterday afternoon. Apparently, flies had gotten at the wounds and laid eggs. The vet said the infestation was pretty bad. He said he could treat it, but the nerve damage would have been extensive and permanent.
We will miss Saturday.