The ducks, even the ducklings, are expendable.

That’s the difficult message from the Minnesota State Patrol in response to a hair-raising video of cars swerving and slamming on the brakes on Interstate 35W to spare a line of ducks waddling across the highway.

“I watched that video and I cringed,” said Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Tiffani Nielson. “People should not stop on the freeway for ducks.”

Nielson knows her advice will not be popular with people who think the motorists did the right thing to avoid the birds.

“It’s definitely a touchy subject … It’s not very kind, but the risk of a crash is high,” Nielson said.

The video, captured by state DOT cameras along I-35W at Hwy. 10 in Mounds View, went viral Wednesday, since it showed a minor miracle of happenstance in which no birds or people were injured.

“I completely understand the connection to a mother duck and her babies, but if there was a crash which resulted in a fatal or serious injury, a driver who stopped for ducks potentially could face a criminal charge,’’ Nielson said.

The patrol advises drivers to keep their eyes on the horizon to avoid debris or animals. But if there isn’t time or space available to swerve, then it becomes “the value of a person versus the value of an animal or wildlife,” said Nielson. “A person getting injured outweighs the value of the ducks.”

“The fact that it happened during a time of high-traffic volume, it was incredible they made it across,” said Carrol Henderson, nongame wildlife program supervisor for the Minnesota DNR. “But I would have to agree with the State Patrol that braking for ducks and swerving in a situation like that places lots of drivers at risk.

“Everybody likes to see wildlife stories with a happy ending. Whether for deer or other creatures like ducks, we all need to look at not placing ourselves at risk in order to save an animal we might otherwise run over.”

Stephanie Bell, an official with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, concurred up to a point, but said drivers carry the burden to be attentive.

“While we would never advise anybody putting themselves or other drivers at risk,” Bell said, “there are many situations where it is reasonable and advised to put on the brakes to avoid hitting an animal.

“This should almost always be possible if the driver is paying attention,” she added.


Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.