OVERLAND PARK — When it comes to animal lovers, birds of a feather flock together.
That was certainly the case last Wednesday in Overland Park when a group of strangers came together to save 10 ducklings trapped in a storm drain.
And it all started thanks to an observant employee at Papa Murphy's
Heather Burns was taking out the trash behind the pizza place located at West 95th Street and Nall Avenue, when a duck in the back parking lot caught her eye.
"She kept walking over this grate with her feet going into the holes, and that’s when I looked at my coworker and said, 'There are babies down there,'" Burns said.
First, she called the city's non-emergency number, only to be told there was nothing they could do.
Then, she took to Facebook, asking for help, where Malinda Sutton responded.
"(The post) said, 'Can anyone help rescue ducklings right behind my work at Papa Murphy’s?' And I thought, 'Oh my goodness, here I go again,'" said Sutton, Burns' friend, who also said this wasn't the first time she rushed to the scene of an injured or trapped animal.
While Sutton was among the first to arrive, someone else shared Burns' post on the Lost and Found Pets of Johnson County, Kansas, Facebook page.
And that's when complete strangers started showing up, including Michele Sampson and her boyfriend, Rusty.
"If I know there is an animal in need or a human and need for that matter, I can’t sleep I have to go I have to do some thing," Sampson said.
They were joined by two other men, including Kirk Matta, a man with a tree trimming business who rescue groups often call to help rescue trapped animals.
Together, they tried everything they could to pry open the grate.
"We chiseled the concrete away from the grate, and every few, you know, every maybe half an hour we said, 'OK let’s see if we can move it.' Nope, nothing," Sutton said.
After three hours using every tool they could get their hands on with no sign of prying the grate loose, the team started to worry, knowing a storm would be there before dawn.
Then, finally, a breakthrough. The grate started to budge just enough for the men to use two by fours, chains and a tire jack, to lift it the rest of the way.
The women estimate the top of the grate weighed several hundred pounds, and said it took the men every bit of strength they had to heft it to the side.
Finally, Matta was able to descend a rusty ladder on the side of the drain and climb to the ducklings huddled together 10 to 15 feet below.
He handed them up, two by two, and they gently placed the birds in a cardboard box.
"Time didn’t matter," Sampson said. "We just all came together and we were bound to get those babies out of there."
Sutton said the rescue was unbelievable.
"We were all exhilarated," Sutton said. "We were all like, 'Oh my gosh, this is happening!' And we were just beyond happy that we got these little ducklings to safety."
The ducklings are now at Operation Wildlife, an animal rehabilition center in Linnwood, Kansas.
As for these strangers, drawn together by a common cause, they've formed a bond and have started an a chat group to keep in touch.
They anticipate they'll see each other again soon, perhaps on another animal rescue mission.
As for the ducklings, Operation Wildlife hopes to return to the area where they were found and search for the mother duck with the hopes of reuniting them.
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