In a real-life version of the classic children’s book, “Make Way for Ducklings,” the Baltimore Fire Department rescued eight baby mallards Friday after they tumbled down a storm drain on the Johns Hopkins University campus.
Jill Rosen, a senior media relations representative for the university, said that the ducklings were waddling behind a larger duck — presumably their mother or father — at about 1 p.m. when they crossed a main driveway on the campus near Keswick Road and N. 41st. St. The birds didn’t deviate when their path took them directly over the drain, which was covered by an open iron grille. The large duck’s large webbed feet carried it safely across. But, the babies were tiny.
“One by one, they fell through the slats in the grate,” Rosen said. “Only one of the nine babies made it through.”
The big duck was frantic. In the video of the rescue, viewers can see the bird huddled a few feet from the grate, its neck held down, seemingly unsure what to do.
“She walked back and forth and back and forth, making little squeaking noises,” Rosen said.
A crowd began to gather. Onlookers tried to remove the grille, but it was too heavy. Someone called for help. Withing minutes, the Baltimore Fire Department Truck Company Number 25 pulled up. Firefighters pried the grate off the drain with a crowbar and then climbed into the hole via a ladder built into the drain’s side. Within minutes, they had placed eight baby birds into a cardboard box — they were wet and indignant but otherwise unharmed -- and hoisted them out of the hole.
As the ducks were tipped out of the box and onto the lawn near their parent, a huge cheer went up. Seven ducklings immediately lined up behind the big duck and continued on their journey, while two ducklings inexplicably were left behind. Rosen said that communications specialist Amy Lunday was dispatched by her animal-loving boss, Susan Ridge, to take the laggards to the Phoenix Wildlife Center, where they were placed inside an existing mallard population.
Rosen noted that the rescue was reminiscent of Robert McCloskey’s beloved 1942 children’s book, which climaxes with a police officer stopping traffic to allow a family of 9 mallards (the mother and eight babies) to cross a busy street on the way to their new home.
“It was a tense moment,” she said, “but it was a very happy ending.”