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The call came in the middle of the night: the creek has flooded, the zoo is swamped and the polar bear has managed to swim out of his enclosure.
As zoo officials in this Minnesota town rushed to capture the bear and rescue as many animals as they could on Wednesday, one man spotted what looked like an injured dog on the side of the road.
He pulled over and realised it was Feisty the seal.
“I was dumfounded,” Donald Melton said.
Melton moved his car so his headlights were shining on the seal in an attempt to keep her safe while he tried to get help. He soon spotted a fire truck and flagged the crew down.
“If it wasn't for me, I think (the) truck would've hit her,” he said.
Instead, they helped him watch over Feisty and another seal who'd swum onto Grand Avenue until zoo officials could arrive.
Luckily the polar bear didn't get as far. It was spotted at the top of its exhibit and zoo officials were able to tranquilise the soaking beast and get it to safety.
At least 11 barnyard animals - including a beloved donkey named Ashley - weren't as lucky.
“That was the most tragic aspect of the flood,” said Susan Wolniakowski, director of guest services at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota.
“It's just been a devastating day to lose so many animals at once like that. They're all our family.”
The zoo also lost a snowy owl and a turkey vulture. A raven was also missing, but it may have escaped.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was set to tour the flood-ravaged town on Thursday.
Heavy rains and flash flooding turned roads into rivers and sinkholes and emergency crews used boats to shuttle swamped residents to dry land, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
An eight-year-old boy escaped with just some cuts and bruises after being swept into a culvert and dragged through the rushing water for five or six blocks.
Several people also had to be rescued from vehicles trapped in the flood. - Sapa-AFP