Celebrating the wildlife releases of the PAWS Wildlife Center
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by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist
On November 5th, 2003, a nearly four-foot tall bird stood alone in a parking lot in Blaine, Washington. She was not there by choice. Her right wing was hanging down at an odd angle, and she was unable to do the one thing that her instincts were undoubtedly telling her to do... fly away. Confused, afraid, and in pain, she desperately needed help. Fortunately for her, it is difficult for a four-foot tall bird in the middle of a parking lot to go unnoticed. It was not long before help arrived.
Help came in the form of construction workers who spotted the injured great blue heron and took her to Wildlife Rescue, Inc. in Bellingham.
A radiograph of heron 03-4343 showing her fractured metacarpal bones.
Radiographs taken at PAWS showed the extent of heron 03-4343's injuries. Both the major and minor metacarpal bones at the end of her right wing were fractured, and she had also suffered a fracture of the left clavicle. The fractured clavicle was fairly well-aligned, and seemed likely to heal on its own; however, the metacarpal fracture would require surgery if the bird was to have any chance of flying again. She had a very long road ahead of her, but the heron proved over the following weeks and months that she was a survivor.
Heron 03-4343 bursts out of the carrier to freedom.
On March 22nd, 2004, the great blue heron was once again in Blaine, but this time she was not in a parking lot. She sat in a carrier on the beach at Semiahmoo County Park, completely unaware of the what was about to happen to her.
The heron puts her newly-healed wing to good use.
The carrier door was opened and the heron found herself facing an enormous bay with a seemingly endless beach. She burst from the carrier, propelling herself rapidly with her legs. She stretched her wings skyward and then swept them down powerfully, giving her even more forward momentum. After several more wing beats her feet left the ground, and the heron crossed the remaining 30 yards to the water's edge on a cushion of air.
Once airborne, the heron headed straight for the water.
As the heron stood in the water taking in her new surroundings, gulls, crows, and other local wildlife could be heard calling all around. The heron paid little attention to any of them, but she took an immediate interest when a bald eagle vocalized at the south end of the bay. Her neck craned in the direction of the call, and her body language betrayed her discomfort with this particular neighbor. She decided that she would prefer to put some distance between herself and that voice, and she took flight once again.
After putting some distance between herself and the eagle, the heron relaxed and took in her new surroundings.
As the curious heron departed, 03-4343's head came back up, and she resumed her relaxed pose. The sun shined brightly on her feathers, and her plumes blew gently in the breeze. She looked just like a hundred other herons that I have seen standing in the water on a sunny day. She looked beautiful. That is how I left her, and I took her identity as PAWS case # 03-4343 with me. Her life and her identity were once again her own.
Wildlife Release tally: March 24th to March 30th, 2004
Wildlife Release tally: 2004
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