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Ducklings rescued by California Highway Patrol

Watch this little orphaned duckling be weighed while Assistant Director of Animal Care, Paulette Smith-Ruiz tells his amazing story! Trouble viewing the video? Click to watch it on YouTube.
Officer Burrage in the tunnel. Photo from CHP
Officer Burrage in the tunnel. Photo from CHP

CHP makes way for ducklings

California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer, Kenji Burrage got the alert that there was a duck acting strangely on the side of Doyle Drive just off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

The officer went to investigate, and found mama Mallard frantically flapping back and forth and quacking at her baby ducklings trapped in a drainage tunnel under the highway.

Officer Burrage immediately climbed into the tunnel and started rescuing the ducklings. One apparently took off down a side tunnel, requiring considerable effort to retrieve.

As the ducklings were rescued from the tunnel, the officers placed them gently in the back seat of a patrol car. Apparently rescuing ducklings is not unusual for officers, and the back seat of the patrol car makes an effective enclosure for the little ones.

Story continues below...

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Help us feed our ducklings!

What do ducklings at WildCare eat? Lettuce! Lots of Romaine lettuce and other leafy greens!

During the peak of "Duckling Season," our little Mallard patients can eat over three cases of Romaine lettuce a week.

Will you support our “Case Fund” today? Help us buy three cases of lettuce a week for our duckling patients during “Duckling Season” over the next three months! Each case of Romaine lettuce costs $22, so we need to raise $792 to purchase the 36 cases of lettuce we'll need to feed our duckling patients this spring.

Please click here to support the “Case Fund”

Ducklings at WildCare. Photo by Kate Lynch
Give now!
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Mother duck with ducklings. Photo courtesy of CHP
This photo was taken by CHP officers after they successfully reunited mama Mallard with (almost all of) her ducklings. Photo from CHP
Examining the duckling. Photo by Alison Hermance
After his extraordinary adventures, this duckling receives an exam at WildCare.
Photo by Alison Hermance
Duckling being weighed. Photo by Alison Hermance
 The duckling (and his new siblings at WildCare) are weighed regularly to make sure they're growing and gaining weight. Photo by Alison Hermance
Officer Barclay releasing the duckling. Photo by Alison Herm
Officer Andrew Barclay enjoyed releasing the CHP-rescued duckling into his new home in the wild. Photo by Alison Hermance


Once all of the babies were contained in the back of the vehicle, the officers knew they needed to get them and their mother (who couldn't be captured) away from the highway and down to water.

A mother Mallard herds her family together by listening to their constant peeping, so the officers knew she would stay with her babies as long as she could hear them.

They lowered the windows of the patrol car so she could hear the high-pitched calls of the baby ducks, and then they drove slowly down toward the waterfront.

Gratifyingly, the mother Mallard followed the voices of her little ones and waddled the distance to the water. The officers stopped the vehicle when they reached a safe spot, and gently lifted the ducklings out of the patrol car. Once on the ground, the babies ran to their quacking mother, who shepherded them away. The officers drove away pleased that they had been able to save this little family.

But then they heard a distinctive "peep-peep!" from the back of the patrol car. One little duckling had gotten himself wedged under the car seat and hadn't been released with his siblings! The officers quickly circled back to the waterfront, but mama duck and her family were long gone. This fluffy duckling was now an orphan.

Fortunately, Officer Burrage knew about WildCare.

He gently tucked the duckling into the pouch of the saddlebag on his CHP motorcycle, and headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to bring him to our care. When they arrived at WildCare, the duckling was none the worse for wear after his adventure.

WildCare Assistant Director of Animal Care, Paulette Smith-Ruiz admitted the duckling to the Wildlife Hospital, all the time joking with Officer Burrage that the baby must be the smallest "juvenile delinquent" he'd ever had in custody.

Paulette weighed the duckling and checked him for injuries.. She then placed him in an incubator with seven other similarly-aged Mallard ducklings. At this time of year, WildCare can have over 100 Mallard ducklings in care, so our "jail bird" fit in just fine.

He and his new siblings spent the next months gorging themselves on Romaine lettuce and specially-formulated duckling mash. WildCare reminds readers to never feed ducks bread— these birds need a varied diet full of leafy greens to stay healthy, and bread fills them up, but has no nutritional value. Read more about why feeding ducks human food is dangerous to their health...

Finally, after nearly two months in care, this duckling and his fellows were old enough to be released back into the wild.

The duckling group included our "juvenile delinquent" duckling, as well as a little orphaned rescued from a construction area at the Loch Lomond Marina by a concerned family, and another orphan rescued by a teacher's aide (to the delight of her students!) at a Kentfield elementary school. All of these ducklings' rescuers were thrilled to hear that their little patients had grown up healthy and were ready to return to their natural habitat!

Release day was slightly overcast at the beautiful San Geronimo Golf Course in West Marin. CHP Officer Andrew Barclay arrived to help release the officers' rescued duckling, and the mother and daughter that had rescued the Loch Lomond duckling also joined in the fun. With the help of a golf course staff member, all the ducklings were released into a duckweed-laden pond.... where they sat. And ate.

When, after 20 minutes, the ducks were still happily nibbling weeds just a foot or so from the bank, the release group considered the release a job well done. Obviously these ducks were going to be just fine! With congratulations all around, they left the ducks to their new lives in the wild.

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 Watch Officer Barclay and a San Geronimo Golf Course staff member release the ducklings to their new home! They seemed very happy to be plopped into a lake full of delicious duckweed.
Trouble viewing the video? Click to watch it on YouTube.

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