Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 23, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — A female mallard duck at Dan Nicholas Park is swimming around with an unwelcome piercing.
A stray fishing hook has punctured the base of her beak. For the past week and a half, park staff members have tried to catch her to get the hook out, but they either can’t find or can’t get close enough to the animal.
“It doesn’t look like it’s any danger to her right now, other than the fact that she’s just got a piercing, more or less,” said Bob Pendergrass, nature center supervisor at Dan Nicholas Park. “We’ll eventually get ahold of her and get the hook out. Sometimes it just takes a while.”
Don Bringle, Rowan County parks and recreation director, said last week that park staff found out about the injured mallard on Feb. 10. “Anytime we are made aware of an animal with something like that, we do respond to try and take care of it,” he said. “But we’ve been unsuccessful at this point in catching or netting the duck.”
Bringle noted that High Rock Lake is just a few miles away from Dan Nicholas Park, and fishing is allowed in both places.
Pendergrass said Wednesday that animals in the water will get caught in fishing lines or hooks “from time to time.” Park staff typically have to work to free them about once or twice a summer, he said.
“We don’t know if it happens here or if the ducks fly in from somewhere else,” he said. “I know this particular duck isn’t here every day.”
Pendergrass said when he enters the park first thing in the morning, all of the ducks typically come out to him, looking for food. Some are tame enough to eat out of his hand, he said, but this particular mallard “obviously is semi-wild.”
Her piercing isn’t stopping her from flying, running and swimming just as fast as the other ducks. But this mallard tends to run against the crowd — away from the reach of well-meaning humans.
“In my opinion, the way the hook’s in there, it’s not stopping her from feeding,” Pendergrass said. “At this point, I would guess it probably wouldn’t be that painful.”
But park staff will continue to try to remove the hook, he said, because it could get caught on something, worsen the injury or hurt another duck.
Fishing hooks can sometimes get stuck on a stump or other object that causes the line to break, Pendergrass said, and it can be hard do anything about that. He said people who fish can help by staying conscious of where their line could end up.
Mike Lambert, a park naturalist, has put up recycling bins at boat ramps on High Rock Lake. Another will be installed at Dan Nicholas before peak fishing season, Pendergrass said.
“We would encourage fishermen to be aware of the fact that fishing line (or a hook) that’s not disposed of properly can be a danger to wildlife,” Pendergrass said. “Litter in a lot of different forms can cause problems for wildlife in people, so be considerate of what you’re doing.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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