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Vortex taking toll on wildlife

A starving juvenile opposum rescued this winter by Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. | Phoprovided by Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation

A starving juvenile opposum rescued this winter by the Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. | Photo provided by Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation

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Updated: April 17, 2014 6:29AM

The Polar Vortex hex!

Ducks are dying, opossums are starving, and songbirds are having a helluva time.

Due to one of the worst winters in recent history and the onslaught of the Polar Vortex, one local animal wildlife rehab center tells Sneed its seen a 100 percent increase over typical animal and waterfowl admissions this year.

“The biggest winter impact has been on diving ducks or fish-eating ducks and juvenile opossums,” said Dawn Keller, founder and president of Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

“They haven’t been able to cut through the ice on the shores of Lake Michigan to find fish,” she said. “They are starving to death; mostly White-winged Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers are huge victims of frozen lakes this winter.”

Field Museum Bird Collection Manager Ben Marks tells Sneed: “The weather is forcing species seeking open water down here in huge numbers. A few weeks ago, there was no open water here.”

As a result, the museum started scooping up as many dead ducks as they could and found they “were well below minimum living weights.”

“Mallards can walk, but many others are not suited for walking and need runways for taking off,” Bates added. “Many were living off small ponds. When the ponds became fished out, they froze up and the ducks starved.

“We are now preparing the ducks for use as scientific specimens to learn weights at which birds can no longer survive.”

Flint Creek has taken in 40 ducks this winter, spending $100 a day to feed the ducks live fish until the weather warms up.

Keller also said the rehab facility has taken in 20 opossums in their first year of life, “who are starving because they can’t find food.”

“What happens with some of the adults in this weather is they probably take advantage of garbage cans,” Keller told Sneed. “Juveniles are not as experienced to know to do that.

“They’ll normally eat things like mice and voles, which are hard to find when you’re inexperienced with snow and ice; grubs; earthworms; bugs and berries and fruit; some birds.”

They were so starved their spines and ribs were readily visible; they can’t handle food right away because their gastrointestinal systems are traumatized, Keller said.

“They’re being rehydrated and given nutrients with an IV until they can be fed,” she said.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Marks said. “But it’s no use trying to save the ducks by walking on ice, which may be thin. Much too dangerous.”

Spring. Come soon. Please.

The numbers game . . .

Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who now holds the record as the longest serving member of the City Council, apparently has one helluva attendance record.

◆ To wit: At a City Club of Chicago celebratory cocktail party for Burke Tuesday night, he claimed he had not missed a single City Council meeting since he began on March 11, 1969.

◆ Amongst the attendees, which included the creme-de-la-creme of the city’s old line political movers and shakers: Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, former Ald. Terry Gabinski; Jay Doherty, Tony Fratto, Al Boumenot, Vince Gavin, Dan McCaffery, Tom Donovan, Bill Griffin, John Carpenter, Dave Gilbert, former Ald. Berny Stone, Gery Chico, Ken Sain, former State Sen. Howie Carroll, Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, brothers Bill and John Daley, Ald. Marge Laurino (39th), Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), former Ald. Tom Allen, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, top cop Garry McCarthy; and all of the Illinois Supreme Court Justices.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Fabio, 55;, 39, and George “Kiki” Cuisance, 81. . . Sunday’s birthdays: Lauren Graham, 47; Alexi Giannoulias, 38, and happy early birthday to Walter W. Filipek, 91.

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