ST. PETERSBURG — The blue arrow went straight through its neck, leaving a St. Petersburg duck with an unusual and potentially fatal piercing. But county officials have intervened to save its life. They christened it "Quackers."
For about six months, the avian resident of a St. Petersburg pond was periodically seen trying to carry on with life as usual. But there is nothing normal about a roughly 5-inch blue arrow sticking out of a duck's neck, and neighbors began to talk.
After a television news spot featured the injured animal, the Pinellas County Animal Services staff stepped in. For two days last week, they stalked the Muscovy duck around its retention pond home on Fourth Street N between Monroe Circle and Lincoln Circle. Both times, it kept out of sight.
Finally, on Thursday evening, animal control officer John Hobson and two trappers from Bradenton spotted the duck and captured it using a net gun. They brought the bird to director of veterinary services Dr. Caroline Thomas, who operated and successfully removed the arrow.
"While the injury was quite severe and the surgery was complicated, I feel comfortable that the duck will make a full recovery," Thomas said.
John Hohenstern, senior animal control officer, said the county is not actively pursuing Quackers' attacker. "No one saw anything, and it happened months ago," he said. "Technically, it could have really happened anywhere. It might not even have happened in Pinellas County."
Muscovy ducks are not native to Florida and are not protected, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Tony Young.
"They're just like pigeons," he said, adding that they are considered domesticated animals, not wildlife. But that does not mean it is legal to pick one off.
Sgt. David DiSano, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, said that whoever shot the duck could be charged with animal cruelty, a third-degree felony.
The arrow that struck Quackers — a bit of a misnomer, as the duck has been a very quiet patient — likely came from a crossbow or similar type of weapon. No other ducks appear to have been injured, Hohenstern said.
Quackers, who is convalescing in the Animal Services office's cat building in Largo, will be moved to the Loving Care Animal Hospital later this week.
The county's veterinarian has not ascertained whether the duck is male or female.
"We were working on one end and I guess we didn't really take a good look at other," Hohenstern said.