Duct Tape Fixes Everything

There’s a common saying that “duct tape fixes everything.”

PAWS Wildlife Center has proved the old adage true, once again, by adding “Great Blue Heron leg” to the list of duct tape fixes.

Now, to be clear, the heron’s leg was not fixed solely by duct tape. The splint that stabilized the fractured bone in his lower leg also included a plastic tube, gauze padding, and at one point, a rubber band. The duct tape was used to cover it all and keep it clean and dry.

Part of what makes working with injured wildlife so challenging is that there are no ready-made, species-specific commercial products to meet many of our treatment and husbandry needs. There is no “Herons-R-Us” that we can call to order a splint for a fractured right tarsometatarsus. Instead, we have to improvise. In the more than thirty years we’ve been caring for wildlife, we’ve learned to combine medicine with imagination to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

The duct-taped heron is a prime example of using what we have on hand for a successful outcome. He was brought to PAWS on June 23 after being found on the ground below his nest on the University of Washington main campus. As a young bird, he had likely just attempted, and failed at, his first flight. This resulted in a broken leg. After we cared for him for three weeks, including the improvised splint, the heron’s leg had healed. He spent another month at the center practicing his flight skills. On August 14, we released the fully healed heron at the University of Washington’s Arboretum. His confident departure was a testament to the dedication of the staff, volunteers and supporters of the PAWS Wildlife Center. Further evidence that duct tape and a little ingenuity goes a long way.

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