Seal photo from Facebook
DULUTH, Minn. - The Lake Superior Zoo says it has lost several animals in the damaging flood waters.
A zoo spokeswoman says a "beloved" donkey named Ashley died as well as sheep and goats in the zoo's barnyard area. Parts of the zoo were under water, including the train depot.
The flooding enabled the zoo's polar bear, Berlin, to escape her exhibit. Police spokesman Jim Hansen says officers helped zoo staff track down the bear overnight. It was tranquilized and returned to its cage. Hansen says even though a big, white object might be easy to find in the dark, it was still unnerving for the officers.
"Obviously, our entire staff is devastated," the zoo"s director of Animal Management Peter Pruett said in a news release.
One uplifting storyline involves the zoo's seal who was found outside the grounds on the side of Grand Avenue. Duluth resident Donald Melton was up late because of his newborn daughter and was checking out his Facebook page when he saw a posting by Duluth Police that a cross street near his was being closed due to flooding.
"I figured, well, the baby is sleeping," Melton says. "I will take a little ride down there and find out what's going on and see how bad it is."
A Duluth squad soon passed and he decided to follow and see where it was going. At that point, Melton noticed what he thought was an injured dog on the side of the road. He pulled over, walked over to check it out and found that the animal wasn't a dog, but a seal.
"I was a little dumbfounded," Melton laughed. "At first I had to think, 'Do we have seals? We don't have seals.'"
Eventually another motorist pulled over and the two kept watch on the wayward mammal until Duluth Fire and Rescue drove up and took the seal back to the zoo.
"I just wanted to get out and pet him, but I didn't want to mess with a wild animal either," Melton says. "I don't know what the trainers do at the zoo, but I just wanted to keep him safe."
Melton said he was glad fire crews came by because the seal never would have fit in the back of his Saturn.
"In the picture, he's kind of bug-eyed, but really he didn't look like that," Melton says. "He kind of looked like Snuffleupagus or a puppy dog. His eyelids were down most of the time. He looked pretty relaxed."
No animals considered dangerous left the permiter fence of the zoo.
The polar bear and two seals from the Lake Superior Zoo could be cared for by the Como Park Zoo during the cleanup process, according to Como Park Zoo Media Relations Coordinator Matt Reinartz.
Reinartz said that they have offered to provide a home for the animals.
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