Frozen Lake Michigan endangers the lives of ducks

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Our dreadful winter conditions are threatening the lives of ducks. The reason -- there's been so much ice on Lake Michigan.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center has cared for an unusually high number of ducks this winter.

"What happens is they see a parking lot, an alleyway and it's covered with water because of the melt we've had recently. And so they think it's a waterway, they fly down and once they get down, they realize this is not water," said wildlife rescuer Chris Staupe.

"They actually need to run on the surface of the water to take off again. So if they land in a snowbank, they're grounded and they're in really big trouble," said wildlife manager Scott Diehl.

The main problem for most of those diving ducks is thick ice, blocking them from their prey.

"We've all seen ducks tipped up with just their butts sticking up in the air; those are dabblers or puddle ducks and they feed near the surface. These other ducks are really divers and they feed anywhere from three to 30 feet below the surface," said Diehl.

Diehl said during an average winter, he'll treat about five ducks. This winter, more than 30 have come in.

The rescuers feed the ducks, then bathe them -- making sure their feathers are waterproof before releasing them. For some, it's a long process.

Officials with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center say a couple of ducks are just another day or two from being ready for release.

If you see any ducks away from the water that appear to be in distress, you're encouraged to call the Wisconsin Humane Society at 414-431-6137 -- and they'll come pick them up.