Ducks, mostly mallards, roam freely around the pond and nearby roadway at Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is investigating the shooting of several of the birds with metal-tipped darts. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Five ducks were found to be punctured with blowgun darts in a pond outside Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle, according to the Maine Warden Service.

Game Warden Mike Joy said that the ducks were pierced with stainless steel shaft darts that had an arrow-type head. Officials determined that the darts had been shot out of a blowgun, an attack that was unlike anything the veteran had seen before.

“I’ve been a warden 27 years,” Joy said. “I’ve never seen darts being used [to attack animals].”

Ducks gather around the pond at Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle. Many onlookers enjoy the birds, but the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is investigating the shooting of several of the ducks with steel-tipped darts. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

The only sign of injury on the ducks were the darts, and they were still able to swim and fly. Still, the attack on the ducks is a crime and is under investigation by the Warden Service.

“Blowguns are illegal to use for any type of hunting, if you will, of any animals in Maine,” Joy said, though he said it was unclear whether the perpetrator or perpetrators were attempting to hunt the ducks.

Blowguns — which have been used as weapons throughout history — are today often used by zookeepers and other people working with wildlife to capture or stun animals. Some people also use them recreationally — including in competitions — and blowguns and blowgun ammunition are widely available online.

Joy and other Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife officials traveled to the site of the attack at Northern Light A.R. Gould on Friday.

Ducks, mostly mallards, roam freely around the pond and nearby roadway at Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is investigating the shooting of several of the birds with metal-tipped darts. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

They were able to catch three of the ducks, each of which will be examined and rehabilitated if necessary. Officials were not able to catch the other two because they kept flying away.

Joy said wildlife officials would keep an eye on the two ducks that are still free. The darts could also fall out on their own over time.

“We’re going to keep monitoring it, and if it gets to where the duck is unable to fly, then [they will also be rehabilitated],” Joy said.

Blowguns are legal in Maine and most of the United States — only Massachusetts, California and Washington D.C. have laws prohibiting them.