‘Unusually calm’ duck with no injuries wouldn’t move from busy road. What was wrong?

A woman driving in Virginia came upon an “unusual sight” — a mallard duck sitting in the middle of the road without moving, according to a wildlife center.

The woman tried to scare off the duck so it could avoid getting hit, but it still wasn’t moving out of the busy intersection in Richmond on Feb. 29, according to a news release from the Wildlife Center of Virginia. She began to grow fearful that the duck could be in trouble, the center said.

“There is no way I’m going to watch this duck get hit by a car,” the woman recalled in the release.

The woman parked her car, put on her hazard lights and picked up the duck herself after failed attempts to scare it away, according to the center. With no other option, the duck ended up sitting in her back seat, the organization said.

Her worries about the duck’s health condition convinced her that the “unusual sight” must have been caused by injuries, so she tried to find a wildlife rehabilitation clinic to take the mallard to, the center said. When she couldn’t find any that were open, the duck had to spend the night at the woman’s house, the center said.

The woman filled up the bathtub in her guest bathroom and left the duck in there for the night, according to the organization.

After talking with the center the next day, the woman took the duck in to be checked out by veterinarians.

Staffers evaluated the duck’s health, noting how “unusually calm” the bird was, according to the organization. They didn’t find any “obvious physical injuries,” and the X-ray images came back normal, the center said.

But when the staff got the duck’s blood panel back, the veterinary team began to understand its behavior a bit better.

The duck had high levels of lead in its blood, which could cause “permanent neurologic damage,” according to the center.

The center isn’t sure what caused the high lead levels, but it said the duck may have swallowed a fishing sinker on accident, mistaking it for a pebble. Mallards ingest gravel to aid their digestion, the center said.

The veterinary staff was also concerned the duck may have been regularly exposed to people by being fed in a pond or lake, which could explain its “lack of fear of humans.”

People feeding ducks can cause a variety of problems, such as nutritional imbalances, overcrowding, spread of disease and habituation — losing the “healthy fear” of people and predators, the center said.

The center recommends other actions to help out ducks and geese in their environments other than feeding them. Participating in a trash pickup and telling others not to feed waterfowl are healthier ways to aid the species, according to the center.

While in recovery, the duck was placed in an outdoor enclosure as it continues chelation therapy, which removes lead from animals’ systems, according to the center.

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