Zoo aviary collapses 4 ducks flee, then 2 return The culprit? All that heavy snow

February 24, 1993|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

In a delayed effect from Sunday's heavy snow, the walk-through marsh aviary of the Baltimore Zoo's Maryland Wilderness section collapsed and four ducks took advantage of ripped netting to fly the coop -- at least temporarily.

None of the 37 birds occupying the open-air exhibit was hurt, but the collapse discovered by keepers Monday morning caused thousands of dollars in damage that will force the closing of the aviary, probably until April, said Brian A. Rutledge, the zoo director.

The collapse, he said, was caused by temperature changes that first began melting the snow and then caused it to freeze over the net openings. Tons of snow and ice proved to be too heavy for the structure as a heavy wooden perimeter support pole and a center cable snapped, and the fabric enclosing the approximately 10,000-square-foot exhibit ripped apart.

The aviary, which cost about $225,000 to build, opened in the fall of 1989 as one of several major components of the eight-acre Lyn P. Meyerhoff Maryland Wilderness and Children's Zoo. During the summer, it is home to more than 50 birds of 13 different species, along with a variety of stream-dwelling creatures.

In late fall, birds that would normally migrate for the winter were moved indoors, leaving two owls and 35 ducks of seven species to inhabit the exhibit -- which also includes a human-size oriole nest and lily pads for children to hop across.

The year-round inhabitants also are indoors now, including two of the escaped ducks that decided to return the same way they left -- through the open netting.

"Usually when you have an escaped animal, that's how you get them back -- open the door and get out of the way," Mr. Rutledge said. Still missing are two green-wing teals.

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