‘Quack’ fire crew gets down for ducks

By Sara Bruestle | May 16, 2012
Courtesy of: Mukilteo Fire Department Mukilteo fire fighter Jeff Shields rescues a duckling that fell into a storm drain on the Mukilteo Speedway on May 9.

Mukilteo firefighters rescued ducklings from a storm drain on the Mukilteo Speedway May 9 in what they jokingly refer to as “The Great Duck Rescue.”

Three ducklings fell into the storm drain in front of Whidbey Island Bank near Harbour Pointe Boulevard S.W. around 5:45 p.m. as they followed their mother across the Mukilteo Speedway. Firefighters rescued two; the third likely found its way out.

A driver, worried for the ducks’ safety in commuter traffic, had pulled over and tried to shoo them off the Speedway, but in the process, the ducklings fell into the drain. The mother ran off.

“It appears they’re from out of the area, and they’re not familiar with the sewer system,” joked firefighter Jeff Shields.

Another driver saw them fall and called the fire station. A Mukilteo Fire crew arrived minutes later with a bucket, some rope and a tool they usually use to get through a locked door.

The crews heard the quacking of the ducklings in the drain, and opened the cover to see two ducks down in the water. A third duck was not seen but could be heard swimming in the drainage pipe.

The crew tied the rope to the bucket and lowered it down into the drain to scoop up the ducklings. Essentially, they were “fishing” for ducks.

“There’s a large number of the types of calls that we go on that you’re not trained for,” Shields said. “You just have improvise in some way, so that’s what we did.”

The ducks got spooked by the bucket, and swam away from the drain opening. The crew tried again. They lowered the bucket as quietly as possible. A duck swam in. Lucky duck!

They weren’t as lucky with the second duckling. They fished and fished again, trying to lure the duck back to the opening by emulating its mother and letting it hear the quacks of its saved sibling.

Who quacked? Without a Bird Call app to help them with the rescue, firefighter Kris Perry made a stab at quacking sounds. The crew still teases her about it.

“I think it was Kris’s duck calls that were the turning point in getting the ducks rescued,” Shields said. “Had she not emulated the mother, they’d probably still be stuck down there now.”

“I think they imprinted on you,” Perry said.

By 6:40 p.m., the crew had rescued two of the ducks from the drain. The third was not seen, although it could be heard. Its quacks sounded farther and farther away as it swam down the pipe.

“The pipe went down about another block and then out to a culvert, so my suspicion is that he was the smartest of the three and found his own way out back to Mom,” Shields said.

The mother duck was last seen waddling near the culvert, just about a block north of the drain.

“The mom took off – either that or she was shopping at QFC,” Shields said.

The crew relocated the two ducklings to the water by the culvert to be reunited with their mother.

“Everything we’ve researched is that the mother duck will stay in the area, that they’re fairly protective, and it’s just a matter of us getting out of the area before she’ll come back and get her kids,” Shields said.

Why did the ducks cross the road? It’s no joke – it’s duck season. The Mukilteo Police Department advises drivers to watch for crossing ducks. Over the past month, the Animal Control officer has been dispatched to pick up several ducks that have been hit and killed by cars.

Several ducks have been seen crossing Harbour Pointe Boulevard between St. Andrews Drive and Double Eagle Drive. Slow down and let the ducks either cross the road or make their way back onto the grassy areas.

If you see an injured duck, call 911 for assistance. Injured ducks that are picked up by Animal Control are transported to the PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood. You can also take them to the center if Animal Control is not on duty.

Contact PAWS at 425-787-2500, ext. 817 for the wildlife center. If calling after hours, use ext. 490.

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