Emergency calls for an unusual road hazard at Interstate 5's exit 27 northbound on ramp started late Friday morning.
It wasn't trash or an unsecured piece of furniture. This billed, feathered "hazard" — a mother duck and her four web-footed kiddos — was waddling in the road and forced several drivers to swerve erratically around them. Mom had trotted into the area, babies one through four marching close behind.
The hazard may have been a cute one, but for responding Oregon Department of Transportation employees Sergio Mendoza and Jeremiah Griffin, it was still a hazard — for mom, her babies and any passing drivers — just the same. At about noon, they arrived to clear it.
"You never know what you're going to encounter to keep the system safe," Griffin says.
Mendoza arrived on scene first and herded the ducks off onto the road shoulder and corralled them, ODOT officials reported. Then he called Griffin, ODOT assistant district manager, who had been driving back to the district offices from the scene of an early-morning semi-truck crash outside Gold Hill. Griffin came to help.
The two hatched a plan to dig a hole under a nearby fence and herd the ducks through to nearby Bear Creek. They dug the hole and started to guide the panicked birds toward it.
"They did good," Griffin says. "They struggled to figure out the direction we wanted them to go at first."
But the duck family caught on, and one at a time they squeezed through the temporary doorway to the other side of the fence, where they continued on their journey, away from the fast-moving parade of car bumpers and tires. Mendoza and Griffin filled the escape hatch back in, "And we were on our way," Griffin says.
This isn't the first time Griffin has tangled with wildlife at exit 27. In July 2013, he was part of an effort to catch and relocate two Barbados sheep that had been roaming in the area for almost a year.
"For some reason, it seems to be a popular place for wildlife," he says.
See a video of the rescue online at www.mailtribune.com/video.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.