MARIETTA - The deaths of three ducks found this week at Buckeye Park in Marietta are being investigated by police and humane society officials.
Lowell resident Walter McBride, 54, who cares for a female mallard at the park, is concerned the ducks were purposefully hurt, as was the case with a pet duck in Vincent last fall.
"Someone had carried those ducks," said McBride of two white ducks found near the road.
McBride believed the ducks had been beaten.
However, it is still too early to tell whether the ducks were maliciously killed or died due to weather or accidental circumstances, said Misty Carpenter, humane officer for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley.
"If they were killed on purpose, they were very obvious about it," said Carpenter, who retrieved two of the ducks Tuesday from the spot where they were found near the street.
Another dead duck was found on the pond.
While a criminal act has not been ruled out, it is possible the ducks could have frozen, starved or been hit by a vehicle, said Carpenter.
It would be unusual, though not impossible for an area duck to freeze, said Dawn Hewitt, managing editor of Bird Watcher's Digest.
"Ducks can survive winter temperatures just fine. Of course they need open water...but the Ohio River rarely freezes over," she said.
As there are no native wild white ducks in the area, the two white ducks found would have been a type of domestic duck, she said.
"They may have been accustomed to being fed by humans," said Hewitt.
Carpenter said someone she interviewed confirmed that the white ducks had been pets of a nearby family that moved.
Carpenter was uncertain if animal abandonment provisions are in place for domestic ducks.
Residents around Buckeye Park routinely feed the ducks, she added.
McBride is concerned that many of the ducks that he regularly sees at the park have been missing lately, he said.
The missing ducks include McBride's mallard and two other white ducks.
The Marietta Police Department is also investigating the dead ducks, said Capt. Jeff Waite.
"We'll investigate and find out what killed them if possible and then take it from there," he said.
If someone killed the ducks, that person would likely face an animal cruelty charge, he said.
Animal cruelty is a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.