The shelter does not usually pick up wildlife or tame animals; this was a very rare case that does not happen often.

In the last year or two, there have been a couple of cases where we have run into quite a few challenging rescues.

The ducklings were no different, and required two shelter staff and a few outside members of the community to come up with a plan to save them.

On a late spring night, the dog manager contacted me about finding some ducklings in the storm drain near ACE Hardware in Park Rapids. She said she and her kids were out for ice cream when they had heard the quiet calls of ducklings in the drain. She claimed she had seen the hen flying around the area about an hour before we had arrived to save the ducks, but she had not been around since.

When I had arrived, the ducklings were in the drain right next to State Hwy. 34. This created some tension, as it was pretty dangerous to be lying in the shoulder of a tourist-filled road. I parked my car about 10 feet from us and the drain with the hazards, hoping to slow traffic down. We had left a message with the local fire department to see if they would be of assistance, however, they were out on a fire call.

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A police officer stopped to see if we had made any progress or if we needed anything. At that time, we were just trying to come up with a game plan on how to get them out of there. It was cold, and I cannot imagine the temperature in the drain with it being damp as well. The ducklings were at least 15 feet down in the drain, and hiding where it was hard to even get a visual on them.

We had begun the rescue, with a slip leash to try and catch the ducklings, which failed, as we could not keep the leash open.

Luckily, a good Samaritan had arrived, decided to join the rescue effort and held a flashlight for us to see what we were doing.

The next idea was using a broom with wire clothes hangers attached to “sweep” the ducklings into a mesh, lightweight bag. This method would have worked, had the ducklings not been tucked away in the corner where they were inaccessible with the broom.

At this point, multiple officers and bystanders had shown up, which had brought more ideas to the table.

With the next plan, we all had questioned if it would work, but we were running out of options. We had used a short, dog cable to hold the mesh bag open that we were using to allow the ducklings to hopefully step into it. Surprisingly, this idea was incredibly successful, and all of the ducklings had fallen or walked right into the bag at separate times.

The next day, ACE Hardware called and said they had found two more ducklings in a storm drain next to their parking lot. They had already retrieved the ducklings, so it was just getting them to their temporary home until we could get them to the wildlife rehabbers later that day.

Luckily, the rehabbers were able to pick the ducklings up extremely quickly and get them into a permanent place where they could be rehabilitated and released back into their homeland. The ducks made it through and have been all released together. A happy ending for these five ducklings!

Holly Packman is the cat manager for the Headwaters Animal Shelter.