SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A favorite summer pastime in Sioux Falls is taking an evening stroll through a city park and enjoy the sites like ducks and geese swimming nearby. But during this time of year, waterfowl face some serious hazards once they’re out of the pond or river.
We first showed you this Dow Rummel duck rescue a month ago. Three little ducklings, couldn’t quite follow in the footsteps of mom’s webbed feet, so they fell through a grate in the parking lot.
“Mom, she’s walking over the grate herself and she can make it, but the little ones fall in and she doesn’t even realize it and pretty soon she’s back there standing over the grate squawking to try to get them back out,” Dow Rummel maintenance manager Dan Johnson said on May 3.
The Dow Rummel maintenance staff, used to these types of mallard emergencies, safely retrieved the AWOL waterfowl and reunited them with mom. But wildlife experts don’t always see such happy endings when it comes to ducklings in distress.
“Every year, we get calls and invariably a hen duck will get run over on the road and people are very concerned about the fate of the duckling and makes for a difficult situation,” Game, Fish & Parks Regional Supervisor Emmett Keyser said.
Well-meaning people, trying to help, often don’t realize that their direct contact with the ducklings can create a harmful dependency on humans and make the ducks even more vulnerable in the wild.
“A lot of times we just advise people to release them on a pond when there are other ducklings present and the unfortunate thing is a lot times, that’s not very successful at all,” Keyser said.
But the odds of survival for orphaned baby ducks are a lot better now thanks to the efforts of one Sioux Falls man. Mike Hillman is a federally-permitted duck rehab specialist. He raises ducklings at his home with the goal of eventually returning them to the wild. It’s a mission of mercy that’s no day by the pool.
“A lot of work, a lot of hours, a lot of sacrifices,” Hillman said.
Raising these ducklings requires Hillman to feed them, keep them clean and protect them from predators, all while having the least amount of direct contact as possible. We’ll show you how Hillman has earned the nickname of “Duckman” in tonight’s Eye On KELOLAND, at 10.