Two well-meaning parkgoers who tried to save an injured duck ran afowl of park policy last Thursday — and a Ranger even said the duck should just be left to die.
The controversy began after Anne-Katrin Titze, Ed Bahlman, and others became convinced that a beloved Cayuga duck — nicknamed “Shadow” for his unique and colorful plumage — had fallen ill. The duck was not well, and had a nasty, swollen protuberance the size of an eraser on the side of its head.
Shadow struggled to eat, was no longer preening himself, and tended to stay on land — all bad signs, apparently.
“He’s acting like he’s disoriented — not even trying to get away from us,” said Bahlman. “It seems like he wants us to do something.”
Titze and Bahlman were convinced that the bump on the duck’s head was the result of a BB fired by whomever is responsible for part, if not all, of the bizarre deaths and chicken-park dumping that has fascinated part watchers all spring.
But there’s nothing clear about Thursday’s ducking story.
Despite no formal training as animal wranglers, Titze and Bahlman hatched a plan to capture the creature and turn it over to a professional wildlife handler — they even had a getaway driver waiting outside the park to rush the duck over to the avian expert.
But things didn’t go quite as planned. After spending over an hour attempting to wrangle the crafty creature in a net, an Urban Park Ranger arrived, somewhat irked at the rogue operation.
“I know you guys are trying to do a good thing, but you can’t be out here trying to net birds!” said John Moylett, who is familiar with the pair of swan-lovers that have become outspoken advocates for a cleaner lake.
Moylett eventually — and somewhat begrudgingly — captured the duck, using Titze and Bahlman’s net.
“It’s just a growth,” said Moylett, referring to the lump on the duck’s pate. “If it’s sick, it’s sick. Let it live out its life. If it dies, it’s going to be food for something else!”
Those orders come down from Mother Nature herself, but they struck Bahlman and Titze as cruel — especially given that the park is hardly a natural ecosystem.
“Of course it’s just one duck, but people do care,” added Titze, who is on the verge of receiving her own license as a wildlife rehabilitator.
After capturing the duck, Moylett released it and left it to fend for itself. And Park officials were quick to condemn the perpetrators of the Cayuga caper.
“It is against Parks Department rules to remove animals from the park,” said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for Prospect Park. “If an animal is sick and needing attention, people should contact the Urban Park Rangers. The Rangers may remove an animal, as may a licensed animal rehabilitator called by the Rangers.”
Even the top environmental agency in the state chimed in, noting that the ducks in the park are indeed wild — though they have grown fat and lazy due to parkgoers’ generous bread donations.
“Even if a duck is ‘domesticated,’ it is still considered wildlife if it isn’t someone’s pet,” said Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Conservation. “If the duck is exhibiting any obvious or distress or illness, our advice is to contact the property owner — in this case the city — to take proper action.”
Titze said she and Bahlman did call the state agency and were told to proceed, though it is unclear with whom the pair spoke.
At any rate, as he was leaving the scene, Moylett acknowledged the recent mysterious and grisly goings-on at the park, including floating chicken heads, dumped animal entrails, and a dead dog. But, Moylett said, he didn’t see the incidents as cause for major concern.
“I’ve never seen a rash of animal killings — or dumping — in five years [working] here in Brooklyn,” he said.
Moylett was also skeptical of notions of a park cover-up.
“Come on, we’re the Parks Department. What are we hiding — spaceships in Prospect Park lake?”
The alien finding could neither be confirmed or denied in time for our pressing online deadline.