Mallard #24-0204

March 1, 2024
March 7, 2024
Rescue Location
City of Richmond, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Lead toxicosis, suspected habituation
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On the evening of February 29, a driver was at a busy four-way intersection in Richmond, when her car’s headlights shone on an unusual sight – an adult Mallard duck standing in the oncoming traffic lane. Despite Mary’s efforts to scare the duck out of the roadway without exiting her vehicle, she was unable to get the Mallard to move. At that point, Mary thought, “There is no way I’m going to watch this duck get hit by a car."

After putting her vehicle in park and turning on the flashers, Mary was able to capture the duck and put her in the safest place she could at the time – the back seat of her car. Mary suspected that the duck was injured, but none of the local wildlife rehabilitation facilities were open at such a late hour, so the Mallard spent the night in her guest bathroom with a bathtub full of water.

The next day, Mary called the Wildlife Center of Virginia, and our front-desk staff determined that the Mallard’s behavior warranted admission to the hospital. Mary transported the duck from Richmond to the Center later that afternoon.


During the intake exam, veterinary staff noted that the Mallard was unusually calm and preening her feathers despite being handled by humans. No obvious physical injuries were found and radiographs were within normal limits, but an emergency blood panel showed that the Mallard was suffering from clinical lead toxicosis of 0.315 ppm – a high lead level that can cause permanent neurologic damage.

Precisely how this duck ingested the lead isn’t known, but the veterinary team suspects that she may have ingested a discarded fishing sinker. Waterfowl like Mallards swallow small pebbles and gravel to help them grind and digest food, and the duck may have mistaken a sinker for a pebble. The team also suspects that the Mallard came from a pond or park where she was regularly fed by people, explaining her lack of fear of humans.

For now, the Mallard will remain in an outdoor enclosure while veterinary staff perform chelation therapy to remove the lead and evaluate her level of habituation to humans.

Want to help this Mallard? Your donation will help cover the cost of her medical expenses, and that of many other animals admitted during 2024. Thanks for your support!

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Patient Updates

Mallard #24-0204 has been successfully released back into the wild! Throughout the course of its six day-long chelation therapy regimen, veterinary staff noted promising behavioral changes related to its suspected habituation toward humans. As its overall condition improved, it became progressively more resistant to being approached and handled during daily treatments – a good indicator that this duck was ready for release.

On March 7, Wildlife Center Volunteer Transporter Julie Kelly brought the Mallard to a pond near its original location of rescue in Richmond, where it was successfully returned to the wild.

Photo courtesy of Julie Kelly