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July 28, 2014

SFWC Rescues Mottled Ducklings from Storm Drain

Thanks to a quick response from the SFWC’s rescue team, six mottled ducklings found their way from a storm drain back to the wild

  • One of the mottled ducklings after they were rescued from a storm drain. Shelby Proie/The HSUS

  • One of the mottled ducklings after they were rescued from a storm drain. Shelby Proie/The HSUS

  • All six ducklings enjoying their new digs after being moved from inside the veterinary clinic. Shelby Proie/The HSUS

  • After six weeks of treatment, the ducklings are ready to be released! Shelby Proie/The HSUS

  • The ducklings are back out in the wild, together, where they belong. Shelby Proie/The HSUS

  • The ducklings are back out in the wild, together, where they belong. Shelby Proie/The HSUS

The South Florida Wildlife Center's rescue team works daily with the South Florida community to rescue wildlife from life-threatening situations. One of the more frequent calls the team receives is to help orphaned or injured ducklings. Because the climate is so mild in South Florida, baby season extends well beyond springtime, so ducklings are frequent year-round visitors to the SFWC veterinary center.

In early May we got a call about a group of ducklings who had fallen through the grating covering a storm drain. When our rescue team arrived, they found six very active, distressed mottled ducklings who were quite vocal about being down in the drain, separated from their mother. Although the ducklings were certainly in a precarious situation, their loud protestations and continued activity meant they were probably in relatively good health.

Once on the scene, our rescue team lifted off the heavy drain cover and began to try to coax the ducklings out with mother duck sounds. After a few minutes, they were able to scoop the babies up with a net and began to look for the mother. Many times when we are called to rescue ducklings, the mother is waiting nearby, which means that as long as the ducklings are healthy they can be sent on their way with mom. Unfortunately, this time the mother could not be located, so the ducklings were loaded into our wildlife ambulance and brought to our veterinary facility.

Although ducklings are common visitors to the SFWC, it is not as common to see mottled ducklings. Mottled ducks, found only in peninsular Florida, are often called the Florida duck or Florida mallard because of their specific geographic territory.

Mottled ducks spend their entire lives within the state, and the species has inhabited Florida for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the long-term well-being of the mottled duck is threatened by crossbreeding with closely related mallards. We felt fortunate to be able to rescue and save these precious Florida treasures.

Rescues like this are possible because of your support. Please consider making a donation to support the life-saving work that we do.

Once the ducklings arrived at our veterinary center, they were evaluated and found to be in good health, but very young. To help them deal with the separation from their mother, they were set up in a small enclosure within the clinic with a heat lamp and a small stuffed animal for them to cuddle up against. Most of the ducklings we see at the SFWC come in as single orphans and need to share space with another for socialization. The fact that these ducklings came in together meant they could learn socialization skills from each other, which was a big plus.

The ducklings improved daily and were eventually able to move to an outdoor habitat, where they could get better acclimated to life in the wild. Dr. Renata Schneider, Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at the SFWC, noted how amazing it was to watch as the ducklings grew from babies to young adults: “Their transformation was just so quick. One week they looked so small and young, and within a few short weeks they had already grown in their adult plumage and looked like they were ready to take on the world.”

Thanks to the expert care they received at the SFWC, the ducklings were able to be released back into the wild together as healthy and strong young adults after just six weeks. If you find injured or orphaned wildlife in the South Florida area, be sure to call the South Florida Wildlife Center at 954-524-4302 or 866-SOS-WILD.

Watch a video of the ducklings' release (along with a few other duckling patients from the SFWC)

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