CENTRAL PARK — An Upper West Side veterinary clinic is warning dog owners to be vigilant with their pets around wildlife after a female mallard duck was mauled near the 59th Street pond in Central Park Wednesday afternoon.
The bird was brought into the Wild Bird Fund at Animal General with most of its bill torn off and half its tongue missing, as well as lacerations to the back of its head, at about 5 p.m., said Karen Heidgerd, practice administrator at Animal General hospital.
A park ranger found the bird floating in the pond, she said.
"It’s one of the worst things we’ve seen," she said, adding that the bird was immediately sedated and euthanized because of the extent of its injuries.
A Parks Department spokesman said the individual who found the bird works for the Central Park Conservancy.
The team at Animal General believes an off-leash dog likely attacked the bird before the owner fled, but they cannot be certain of the cause because there were no witnesses.
"From the wounds, our licensed wildlife rehabilitators conclude that the duck's entire head was in a dog's mouth," read a post on the clinic’s Facebook page.
Nests and young ducks are common in the park at this time of year, as baby-bird season typically runs between mid-April and late-May. Due to the unusually warm weather this year, ducklings are more likely to be present around this time of the month, Heidgerd explained.
Although duck attacks are fairly uncommon, Heidgerd said she cared for a duck last year after it came in with similar wounds.
She urged dog owners to take extreme care when walking their dogs near wildlife, as nests can be found throughout the park, usually within close proximity to water.
"Even if a dog is on leash, if there is a nesting duck or goose, they’re going to protect their nest and may get aggressive," Heidgerd warned. "The bird likely won’t hurt your dog, but they will hiss."
Park workers are now searching for ducklings or a nest near the pond, Heidgerd said.