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Family of ducks dodge danger in Duluth

A mallard and her eight ducklings were enjoying the family's first swim together in Lake Superior on Tuesday morning after a harrowing jump off a rooftop and commute through downtown traffic.

Ducks
This family of ducks survived a perilous journey from a downtown rooftop to Lake Superior on Tuesday morning. The mallard and her eight ducklings needed the help of Daniel and Theresa Johnson of Duluth. (Submitted photo)

A mallard and her eight ducklings were enjoying the family's first swim together in Lake Superior on Tuesday morning after a harrowing jump off a rooftop and commute through downtown traffic.

The ducks hatched on the roof of the Orpheum Building at Second Avenue East -- the second such downtown Duluth rooftop duck hatching in four years -- and then jumped down to Superior Street.

"They seemed a little stunned at first. But then they recovered and started following their mother,'' said Teresa Johnson of Duluth.

Teresa's husband, Daniel, owner of the downtown Johnson's Auto Repair of Duluth, first noticed a few of the babies huddled near a downtown doorway. He called Teresa, who grew up on a farm, to come and help. She arrived to see one duckling make the free-fall to the sidewalk. Three others refused to jump and someone carried them down, Teresa Johnson said.

The downtown wildlife drama unfolded about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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At first, mother duck left the scene because of the gathering crowd of people, Teresa Johnson said. But Johnson shooed most of the gawkers away, at the suggestion of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the hen mallard returned.

Teresa and son Brent then stopped traffic on Superior Street while they herded the duck family toward the lake.

"They pretty much followed the mom and we sort of kept them going the right direction,'' Brent Johnson said. "We got across the street and then onto the upper Lakewalk (over Interstate 35). But then the hen flew across the railroad tracks, and the little ones then started jumping off the bridge to follow her.''

Once again, the ducklings, tiny wings flapping, survived the fall. But they couldn't make it over the tracks.

"I had to help them over,'' Brent said. "And then they couldn't get up onto the board of the boardwalk, so I helped them there, too.''

The duck family eventually made it to Lake Superior "where they were all swimming and eating when we left them,'' Brent Johnson said.

In 2006 a hen mallard hatched several ducklings on the roof of the Greysolon Plaza building. The ducks were rescued and moved to a cemetery pond in Duluth.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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