Fowl play: Who's shooting blow darts at ducks, gulls?
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Jaye Moore, director of the Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center, shows where a dart pierced the neck of this duck at Carrie Blake Park in Sequim earlier this year.
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This photo provided by the Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center shows a sea gull on Ediz Hook, Port Angeles, with a blow dart stuck in its left leg.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — The Northwest Raptor & Wildlife Center continues receiving reports of birds being blow-darted even as Director Jaye Moore prepares to release in Sequim's Carrie Blake Park four mallard ducks that were injured this summer.

Two sea gulls reportedly were attacked in recent months, Moore said.

One was spotted at Ediz Hook in Port Angeles around mid- to late summer with a dart through its leg.

Moore also received several reports of another sea gull with a dart imbedded in its chest at the Haynes Viewpoint parking area at Front and Peabody streets in Port Angeles in October.

Neither bird was captured, meaning either is probably in pain or dead, Moore said.

A duckling also was darted in the chest in late May 2011 at Lincoln Park in Port Angeles.

It underwent surgery and was rehabilitated. It was released back to its mother in June 2011.

Moore contacted the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Sequim Police Department about the injured ducks but had little hope the dart shooters would be caught.

“Unless you have an eyewitness, there's not a whole lot that can be done,” Moore said.

People who intentionally harm a sea gull or mallard can be charged with crimes ranging up to a Class C felony.

Under state law, the crimes are first-degree unlawful hunting of wild birds, a gross misdemeanor, or second-degree unlawful hunting of wild birds, a misdemeanor, said state Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Dan Chadwick.

Chadwick said violators also can be charged with first-degree animal cruelty, which is a Class C felony, or second-degree animal cruelty, a gross misdemeanor.

And under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, they can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

“Unfortunately, [darting] does happen,” Chadwick said.

“It's happening from the mouth of the Columbia River all the way up.

“I'm not saying it's common, but it does happen.”

The recent incidents cause Moore to worry that the mother duck and her three now-grown adult offspring — a male and two females — that were attacked this summer will be shot again after they are released by next week.

“I'm happy,” she said of their return to Carrie Blake Park. “Then I worry that it's going to happen again, which I hope not.”

The ducks don't have names.

“It's too personal,” she said.

“For me, it's too hard to name them and have to return them to the wild.”

The birds — the three ducklings were born last spring — were likely shot with a blow gun that shoots darts, Moore said.

The ducks were swimming around at Carrie Blake Park for several weeks this summer, eluding capture before they were corralled and treated.

The mother duck was shot in the neck.

One duckling was shot in the back, one in the tail and one clean through the neck, with the dart sticking out at both ends.

Dr. Mike Tyler of Greywolf Veterinary Hospital in Sequim removed the dart from the duckling that was shot through the neck.

The other darts were removed by those who found the birds.

Tyler recalled a few years ago removing a dart from the skull of a bird that survived.

“It was embedded in the thickest, densest bone of the skull,” he said.

“A centimeter in either direction, and it probably would have been fatal.”

The dart he removed from the Carrie Blake Park duckling was 4 to 5 inches long.

Tyler cut the plastic tip off and backed out the dart, which had not damaged the neck bone.

“I'm surmising we've been seeing the survivors, but it's hard to imagine that only these birds that we've been seeing are the only ones affected,” Tyler said.

“I think these are the lucky ones.

“I'm thinking others have been fired upon and not survived.”

Some of those birds likely die a slow death, Tyler said.

“They can't feed well, it interferes with their ability to stay warm or any number of things, or the constant pain is so debilitating or inhibits their ability to fly or walk,” he said.

“My impression would be that the bird would have to be very careful not to cause itself more pain by getting the thing hung up,” he said.

“It would be beyond its understanding on how to deal with it.”

Animal abuse often leads to violent crime, he said.

“To me, this is way beyond simply some childish prank that's gone too far,” he said.

“This is potentially going to be a societal issue.”

Marcie Miller of Port Angeles said Tuesday that she reported the Haynes Viewpoint duck to the Raptor & Wildlife Center on Oct. 24.

“He had an inch of metal shaft sticking out of his right breast just below his neck,” said Miller, a former Peninsula Daily News staff writer.

The sea gull was flying around the parking lot area before it landed on the guardrail in front of her.

“He did not appear sick or hurt; he just had this dart sticking out of him,” Miller recalled.

“I don't know how long he can go like that before it goes bad or kills him.

“It's not a good thing.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 08. 2013 12:59AM
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