TARPON SPRINGS — Somebody had it in for the Muscovy.
Residents of the the Meadows mobile home park noticed the male duck with an arrow protruding from his backside on Wednesday.
But a group effort that included residents, a wildlife trapper and volunteers from a bird sanctuary ended with a successful rescue operation Thursday afternoon.
"I think he'll be fine," said Fred Hale, a volunteer with the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.
No one knows who shot the duck.
The rescuers had to take to the lake to get to the bird, which was perched atop a fountain base. Trapper Mike Santo brought nets. A resident offered up a canoe. Other neighbors supplied life jackets.
As Santo paddled around the lake in a slow-speed chase Thursday afternoon, the bird flitted short distances across the water, then took to diving under the surface in a futile attempt to evade its captors.
"I knew he'd wear down before I did," Santo said.
After several laps, Santo was able to flush the fowl onto shore, where Hale waited with a net. Hale swept the net over the bird, then loaded it into a pet carrier for the ride to the bird sanctuary for treatment.
The rescue operation took 32 minutes.
"Oh, that's wonderful news," said Hub Kirkpatrick, 69, who watched the rescue from his lakeside deck. "I guess they got him tired enough."
Hale estimated the bird weighed about 3 to 4 pounds. It was shot through its tail with an upward trajectory, and it didn't appear the arrow had pierced any organs, Hale said.
Residents were miffed that someone would use a bow and arrow on a duck and wanted to know who did it, a question that eluded authorities Thursday.
"This is just appalling. It's inhumane. It's just wrong," said resident Sandra Flavin, 55, who first saw the duck about 10 a.m. Wednesday and had been watching it walk around since.
Santo said he had been hired by park management to collect 13 ducks from the lake and had captured seven of them over the last week and a half using nets and a baited mesh pen.
The nuisance wildlife trapper said he does not use a bow and arrow.
"I only get paid if they come out alive," said Santo, who sells the ducks at a livestock market. Some end up on dinner tables in Latin American countries where they are considered a delicacy. Others go to farms.
Santo said it's a mystery to him how the duck was injured, but noted it may have been shot somewhere else.
"It could've flown in with the arrow in it," he said.
In Florida, Muscovy ducks are considered domestic animals and do not enjoy the protections of wildlife, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. It would be up to local law enforcement to determine if animal cruelty charges are warranted, Morse said.
Tarpon Springs police were unable to find anyone who witnessed the bird being injured, but said the investigation is still open, according to police spokesman Capt. Jeff Young.
The bird sanctuary sent out a rescuer Wednesday to capture the duck, but it was able to fly away from pursuers, said spokeswoman Michelle Simoneau.
"The arrow wasn't affecting its ability to fly and take care of itself," she said.
But on Thursday, the duck could only fly short distances and had difficulty getting aloft as the rescue operation went on.
Santo noted that Muscovy ducks are "very aggressive," non-indigenous birds that are known to take over the habitats of smaller, native birds.
There are also concerns the birds could introduce diseases to native birds, Morse said. Muscovies, known to be messy and loud, have caused controversies in several Tampa Bay area neighborhoods over the years.
"You either love them or hate them," Morse said.
The ducks have divided residents at the mobile home park in recent days — half want to see them go and half want to see them stay, Simoneau said.
Kirkpatrick said he didn't view the birds as a nuisance.
"I think they're beautiful," he said.
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