Lucky ducks unstuck: Waco crews rescue daring ducklings from drain

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Birds of a feather…don’t always flock together.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

A Waco police officer and three Waco firefighters had a ‘wild’ rescue Friday after ducklings who crossed two frontage roads got stuck in a drain feet away from the interstate.

"You don't actually think it's going to end (with) all of them ending up together,” said Waco Police Officer Janae Draper.

A KWTX news crew had to swerve to avoid hitting a family of ducks crossing the I-35S exit near Central Texas Marketplace around 7:30pm.

The ducks stopped in brush on the right shoulder of the interstate, but mom and dad flew away, leaving at least ten ducklings surrounded by traffic.

The Waco PD non-emergency line was called after six ducklings were rescued and the other four fell into a drain.

"It was one of those 'am I being tricked, or is this really real?'" said Draper when she got the call. "You hear about those on TV and stuff like that, but you don't actually think that it can happen or it's like real-life.”

Once Draper got to the scene and evaluated the situation, she immediately knew what to do.

"Fire came out here, they did a lot of the heavy lifting,” said Draper.

The firefighters who responded, Chris Littleton, Brady Skinner, and Tyler Stephens, were able to use tools to remove the heavy metal grate on top of the drain.

Two put on rain boots and went down a ladder to get into the drain, but it spooked the baby birds, and they waddled further away.

As they worked on a new strategy, the ducklings returned; firefighters blocked off one side of the drain and caught three of them...but they were a duck short.

"When we got the first three out - there's still one more stuck down there,” said Draper. “I guess it got scared and shot off down the drainage ditch."

The new goal is to get to the end of the drain which Draper finds about 100 yards away; it’s not easy to get to, and the clock is working against them as daylight turns to darkness.

However, when they make it down to the end of the drain…there’s a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that brightens everyone’s spirits: mom and dad duck show up.

"While I was down there, two ducks just like, I guess they scared me and I scared them but I figured ‘ok, this has got to be mom and dad,’” said Draper.

They released all nine of the rescued ducklings to see if they would swim to the adult ducks: they did.

As the family starts to leave, the last duckling finds the end of the drain.

A little disoriented, Draper jumps into the water and takes the duckling upstream to make sure he catches up to his family.

“I rescued ducks!” Draper yelled with joy. “It's why I love my job, you never know what you're going to get and what you're going to get into.”

It was a first for everyone involved.

“That’s the first duck rescue I’ve ever been on,” said Littleton.

KWTX was there to capture the touching rescue on camera which didn't stop with the ducks; the responders pulled each other up over the guardrails to safety.

"It was one of those things, we all put our heads together and the end result was fantastic,” said Draper of the joint effort.

Thanks so some quick-thinking, teamwork, and a little muscle the family of ducks was back together, safe and sound.

Draper believed the ducks could sense they were trying to help.

"It's like they knew, so it was good, it was a happy ending,” said Draper. “It couldn't have worked out any better.”

Draper said even the tiniest of lives was worth saving.

“Rescuing ducks out of a drain is just as important as anything we do,” said Draper. “It's a great day, it's an end to a great day."