Cold winter tough on Wisconsin's diving ducks - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Cold winter tough on Wisconsin's diving ducks

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Frozen waterways have left some of the state's ducks with little to eat during a winter that has been unusually cold, even by Wisconsin standards.

An animal rehabilitation clinic in Cato has taken in more than a dozen hungry birds this winter, according to a report by HTR Media reported Wednesday. That number is up from only a handful during average winters.

"They are not having a good winter," said Jim Knickelbine, executive director of Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve in Two Rivers. "They're expending more energy trying to find food than they normally do and all the cold weather is causing them to use up their energy reserves. As a result, they're malnourished."

Some Wisconsin ducks don't migrate and keep diving into waters for food during winter months. When shallow waters freeze over, the birds usually head to the shores of Lake Michigan to dive for minnows there. But this year,even  Lake Michigan is three-quarters frozen.

"What this means is that these ducks have to go into the middle of the lake to reach water," duck rehabilitator Susan Theys said. "Some of them can't dive deep enough to get the food and most of it (consisting of minnows and mussels) isn't in the middle, it's along the lakeshore."

Ducks have been found along lakeshores, lying in streets and meandering through towns looking for anything to eat.

"A duck was in the roadway and a woman almost hit it," Manitowoc police officer Katie Walters said. "It flew and landed on its back and then it flipped itself over and climbed up on a snowbank and just lay there until I picked it up and put it in a pet carrier."

Theys said her group, Wildlife of Wisconsin, has taken in birds that are underweight and eat 4 or 5 pounds of minnows per day to gain back weight.

Wildlife Of Wisconsin and groups like it plump up the birds before returning them to Lake Michigan.
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