When it came to jumping into a sewer to rescue nine screaming baby animals, Cara Gross did not duck the job.
A mallard duck mother was running frantically back and forth on the street Tuesday morning when the Mount Sinai mother of three went with her father-in-law, Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross, to a rescue request at the nearby Hamlet at Willow Creek, a residential community overlooking a golf course.
Cries echoed up from the pipes running under the street, and among the rescuers, including maintenance workers, she was the only one petite enough to jump down into the storm drain.
“Once a mother, always a mother — that was my mindset,” said Gross, 38.
The muck stunk up her workout clothes and $280 running shoes, but worse was to come.
On her hands and knees, Gross saw a pipe that was too small for her to crawl into and the ducks were in the middle of the pipe.
“They would swim close and swim away,” she said. “I wished I could shrink myself, but that wasn’t happening.”
SPCA Chief Gross asked the maintenance workers to hook together two garden hoses from nearby homes and use them to shoot water down one end of the street drain to “flush” the ducklings toward his daughter-in-law.
At 1 p.m., two hours after arriving, rescuers had nine ducklings in hand and took them to the mother duck, which had by then gone with two of her other ducklings to a nearby pond.
“As soon as they saw the water, they ran like crooks into the water,” the SPCA chief said.
All except one. It was wobbly and the Grosses took it to the Selden Animal Hospital, where it was cleaned and its feathers were blown dry. It was being monitored overnight.
No bones appeared to be broken, so the duckling might just have been in shock, the rescuers said.
When it’s well, it will be returned to the pond area where they left the mallard family, including another duck that may have been the father, the Grosses said.
“It was a team effort,” said Gross, the sewer diver. “It was a feel-good thing to do.”
Hours after cleaning up, she said she could still smell the stink, but she had another feel-good moment.
When her three young children went to the pool, the mother said, they saw a lone mallard duck swimming there. It then flew off.
“Who knows?” Gross said. “Maybe it was a sign, like ‘thank you.’ ”