Emporia State Makes Way for Ducks

April 20, 2017

Eight Pekin ducks will call Emporia State University’s Wooster Lake home beginning Friday, April 21. The ducks will have their own houses and will eventually be named. 

Not sure what a Pekin duck is? Just picture an Aflac commercial, said Mark Runge, director of University Facilities.

“They bond to people better than other ducks do,” he explained.

Although being friendly around people seems fun, Runge urged caution to folks who want to feed the ducks.

“Human food is fatal to these ducks,” he said.

The ducks will feed on grubs they find in the banks of the lake as well as minnows and small fish in the lake. ESU facilities workers will be installing duck feeder stations so people will have proper food to throw out for the ducks.

When plans to introduce ducks in Wooster Lake first began, Runge discovered ESU already had an expert on staff. Patrick Renfro, an HVAC specialist in the general maintenance shop, has been raising ducks on his rural Lyon County property for nearly 20 years.

When Renfro releases the ducks into their new habitat, they will already have homes. ESU workers used cedar siding from the former president’s house to build eight duck houses on the east bank of Wooster.

Each duck will have a different-colored leg band for identification. ESU officials have asked each elementary school and the preschool in Emporia’s USD 253 along with the Center for Early Childhood Education on campus to name a duck. Once that’s done, the names will be put on their houses, so students who visit will know which duck is “theirs.”

The ducks will live at Wooster Lake for three seasons and spend winters at Renfro’s farm.

The eight ducks are a mix of male and female.

“We hope that we will have some ducklings next spring,” said ESU President Allison Garrett.

Ducklings at ESU is especially fitting considering the ESU Special Collections and Archives houses the May Massee Collection. A popular piece of the collection are sketches by Robert McCloskey, who illustrated the 1941 book “Make Way for Ducklings,” about two ducks raising their ducklings by the Charles River in Boston. A digital display from the May Massee Collection, including McCloskey’s illustrations also opens Friday at the William Allen White Library on the ESU campus.

Massee was the children’s book editor who established two of the first three “junior books” divisions in major publishing houses in the United States — Doubleday, Page and Company and Viking Press. 

The collection includes original book illustrations, manuscript materials, published books, photographs, audio and video tapes of authors, artists, designers, typographers, and printers whose skills Massee combined to create quality books for children and young adults.





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