Earlier this week, Miller-Driscoll Elementary School students learned a great lesson about how humans can help wildlife, when educators from Woodcock Nature Center helped rescue a mother mallard duck and her four ducklings from the school’s inner courtyard. Woodcock’s Jennifer Bradshaw and Sarah Breznen helped relocate the birds to a place that would provide a more natural environment to find food, shelter–and a necessary bit of distance from humans.

The duck had built her nest in the school’s courtyard, and 13 ducklings hatched, but over the course of a couple of weeks only four survived. “It was most likely because they had no food for quite some time. There is a lovely little man made pond in the courtyard but it doesn’t contain any aquatic plants or vegetation which is what they need to survive and be healthy,” Bradshaw explains.

She also knew that continuous contact with humans could have cause the ducklings to become imprinted on people, something that would ultimately put the birds at risk. “If they became imprinted and unable to learn valuable and imperative ‘Duck stuff’–like how to forage for food, fear of humans, etc.–this wouldn’t be a good situation. These ducklings need to learn how to find their food in the wild if there is hope of survival.”

Bradshaw encourages anyone in a similar situation to get in touch with the wildlife educators at Woodcock, or other animal welfare and rescue organizations. “A teacher from M-D reached out to me to ask questions and see if they needed to be moved. The answer was and always will be yes,” she says.

When Bradshaw and Breznen arrived at the school, the biggest problem was trying to keep the mother duck from flying off. “It is always the best scenario if we can get mama and ducklings together and relocate. It took almost two hours of patiently gaining her trust and keeping the babies within earshot to try and get a net over her. All the stars aligned and we were able to catch the surviving four ducklings and mama. It was exhausting!” recounts Bradshaw.

The women walked the duck family across the parking lot to a pond off Belden Hill Rd..

“When we released them it was the best feeling ever,” says Bradshaw. “They happily swam off and as we watched, the Daddy flew in to join his family. I truly love my job and all the good we do! It was even better to know that we were able to have engaging conversations with students and teachers. This was a learning experience for many of the faculty and students at M-D.”