The famous Afroduck, a duck that has patrolled the waters of Mirror Lake for years, was found dead in the lake on Wednesday.
The cause of death is currently unknown.
Afroduck, a Crested Pekin duck, was one of the many ducks that swam in Mirror Lake and captured a certain admiration from many students because of its appearance — a tuft of feathers on its head that many said resembled an afro.
“I saw Afroduck being fed just before 8 a.m. close to Mirror Lake Creamery. I then received a Snapchat around 10:15 a.m. of Afroduck dead on the ice,” said Holden Hutchinson, a fourth-year in animal sciences.
Dustin Sorensen, a first-year in exploration, said he was the person who broke the news by posting pictures of the deceased duck on Yik Yak.
“I posted three of them,” Sorensen said. “Nobody believed me.”
Around 1 p.m. a small crowd of students stood and watched as a maintenance crew worked to retrieve Afroduck’s body from the lake, but the ice was too thick for the workers and they initially abandoned the recovery effort.
In 2015 many students feared Afroduck had died because it was missing, until it reappeared at Mirror Lake that November.
“He’s been here for a long time, beyond six years,” said Jacob Simko, a fourth-year in chemical engineering.
The body of Afroduck was eventually recovered by Chelsea Hothem, a third-year in evolution, ecology and organismal biology and a research assistant at OSU’s Museum of Biological Diversity, with the help of OSU students and a long stick.
Hothem was sent to collect Afroduck by her boss, Stephanie Malinich, the tetrapod collection manager at the museum, with the hopes that they could preserve the animal.
“My boss was like ‘bring Afroduck to me,’” Hothem said.
Malinic said she hoped to have Afro Duck “prepped and ready” for display by the museum’s open house, scheduled for April 23.
“It’s actually the only day we’re open to the public. Last year we had 2,000 visitors, and we hope people will come out to see Afroduck,” she said. “We’re also looking into a GoFundMe to get the duck mounted and on display so students can see it all the time.”
The GoFundMe page, Immortalize Afro Duck Fund, created by Hothem, had exceeded its $500 goal by $65 as of 9:15 p.m., Wednesday.
“As much as I’d like to give him a viking burial on the lake, I think it’ll be great that he’ll be able to live forever,” Hothem said.
She added the museum doesn’t have a quote, but that the average rates for this sort of specimen is around $500 and they will speak with their taxidermist to determine the cost at a later date. Hothem said they hope to purchase a high-quality display cabinet, which could cost up to $2,000, with extra funds that might be raised.
Afroduck would join a collection of roughly 20,000 birds at the museum should it be taxidermied, and would be different than other specimens because he is “famous,” Hothem said.
“We hope he’ll just be mounted on some post looking all regal,” she said. “I really hope we can have like, some epic shrine. That would be awesome. That would be so awesome.”
Malinich said that during the process of preserving the duck, she hopes to figure out the age, cause of death and sex, although it’s not a guarantee that that will be possible.
Malinich said she had seen Afroduck at Mirror Lake on and off since her freshman year in 2010, but could not confirm if the duck who died on Wednesday was the same one.
Hothem, too, said she had memories of the duck.
“I’ve always just loved him like we all do. I would just regularly go to Mirror Lake and hang out with him sometimes, you know?” she said. “He was just such a cute duck. He made everybody happy. I was so happy when he came back after they drained the lake.”
After collecting Afroduck, Hothem saw Sophia Harrison, a first-year in international studies, lay a rose on the lake’s edge in honor of the recently deceased animal.
“He deserves it,” Harrison said.
Social media have been inundated with pictures of Afroduck. Snapchat has created a filter that reads, “RIP Afroduck. Moment of silence tonight at 7 p.m.” Some students have even started a fundraising page in order to raise money for a bronze statue that would serve as a memorial. Others have suggested athletes should wear a patch on jerseys in order to honor the late duck.
Afroduck spawned multiple Twitter accounts claiming his or her namesake during his residency at the lake. One of the accounts, @OSUAfroDuck, tweeted to its nearly 800 followers at 1:35 p.m., “Damn y’all, see everybody on the other side.”
In addition to the moment of silence on Wednesday, students have organized an Afroduck remembrance ceremony through Facebook that is set for Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. beside Mirror Lake. The Facebook event has more than 2,400 RSVPs.
“Afroduck was a common connecting ground for everyone. Everyone loved him,” said Aaron D’Amore, one of the creators of the event and a first-year in evolution and ecology.
D’Amore said he is confident people will show up to the event because of the OSU community’s seemingly universal love of the duck.
“Our community lost a hero. Someone who floated tall against tyranny and communism with the extraordinary power to brighten anyone’s day. A visionary. A leader of a generation. Someone who opened their abode to the thousands on that one cold night in November. Someone who showed all of us resilience through summer’s heat and winter’s cold,” the event description reads. “Afroduck truly embodied what it meant to be a Buckeye and will be missed dearly.”
Malinich said the typical lifespan of a Crested Pekin duck is about five years, so it’s possible that the death of Afroduck was just the latest of the many Afroducks who have swam in Mirror Lake over the years.
But with proper preservation, Malinich said, the Museum of Biological Diversity will be able to keep the Afroduck legend alive — or at least stuffed and mounted — for 500 years.
Correction Jan. 28: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the duck to be a Crested Peking, when in fact it is a Crested Pekin.