Zoo Animals Drown in Duluth, Minnesota Flooding

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
Horrific rain and high winds turned city streets into rivers rushing through Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday morning, June 20. Residents say it all happened within about 45 minutes.The raging water caused mudslides and sinkholes and opened craters as deep as 30 feet in some places, city officials state.

It is estimate the city will suffer over $100 million in total losses, including infrastructure damage and widespread private-property destruction, reports

The Lake Superior Zoo, located  about 100 miles north of Minneapolis on the Wisconsin border,  is two-thirds underwater and at least a dozen animals have perished, reports the Guardian.

Duluth police department issued emergency notifications overnight for evacuation as northeast Minnesota received more than six inches of rainfall in 24 hours. But the zoo is in a low-lying area of Duluth and entire sections were quickly submerged.

"We had sheep, a pretty beloved donkey, goats," said zoo spokesman Keeley Johnson. "All but one of the barnyard animals are deceased. The donkey, named Ashley, had been with the zoo for five to 10 years. Only Darla, the miniature horse, survived by “swimming her heart out", according to Johnson.

"It's been a pretty traumatic, horrible day. It's been pretty tough. I got here at 4 a.m. this morning. Words can't even describe it at this point. It's pretty sad," she told the Guardian.

"There are a few bird exhibits located right in the middle of the flood. We anticipate that they are gone, but everyone still has hopes that they might pull through," Johnson added.

The Polar Shores exhibit was reportedly one of the worst hit areas. Water from the nearby creek flooded it to the top of the section, but two seals – named Feisty and Vivienne – were able to swim clear of the exhibit.

The seals swam through a culvert which runs parallel to the zoo under Grand Avenue and emerged on the other side of the road, Johnson said.  That is where they were captured by local police.

Other Polar Shores animals were also able to survive. It was reported that Berlin, the zoo’s polar bear, had escaped the compound, but Johnson told reporters that is not true. Although her exhibit was flooded, Berlin climbed onto the rock wall which surrounds her enclosure, Johnson said, "She didn't wander very far from her exhibit." The zoo veterinarian located Berlin later on Wednesday morning and used a tranquilizer dart to sedate her and move her to a safer location.

The zoo houses 400 animals, including three lions, one Siberian tiger and a grizzly bear, whose exhibits were not threatened by the flood. But the zoo staff fears there will be more losses. "The flood is still here so we won't even able to assess the situation any further until the flood goes down," Johnson said.