Great rescue and release stories are so fulfilling, so complete, so full cycle. The following story fits the bill and has given me a great opportunity to crawl on my soap box.
July 18th 2013
In July I was working as a contractor for Game and Fish at Woods Canyon Lake as a Bald Eagle Nest watcher. We were told by fisherman that a Great Blue heron had been on the shore being fed fish by fisherman. It was a fledgling that had fishing line wrapped around its neck, and we found out later also wrapped around its tongue.
We were told by fishermen at Woods Canyon Lake that a heron with fishing line wrapped around its neck had been seen close to people on the shore. They had been giving it fish, but it wasn’t able to eat them. After two days of kayaking the lake looking for the heron I found it by the boat dock right next to people. I was able to net it easily because at this point it was pretty emaciated, and I drove it down to Liberty Wildlife immediately where it stayed for over a month. The status of the heron was uncertain and that it might not make it because of how long it had gone without eating. It also had to have half its tongue amputated because it had become necrotic due to the fishing line that compromised the circulation of blood to it. No one was sure if the bird could eat without part of its tongue.
During its recuperation at Liberty it was determined that the heron was able to eat normally with only half of its tongue. After five weeks it had gained weight and was ready to go! I was so happy and relieved to find out that it had survived and could be released back at Woods Canyon Lake, and that I got to release it! I love animals, so much and it makes me so sad when we humans are the cause of their sufferings.
It was a wonderful and beautiful day as Amy Madara-Yagla and I watched the heron quickly get out of the carrier but only flew a couple of rocks away from us. We watched it for about a half an hour, and it eventually went down to the shore and appeared to be foraging. We knew our work was done and successful. I left there with my hopes high that it would have a long life and that I would see that heron next year when I am up at the lake.
Thanks to the fishermen who noticed, to Lisa who expended so much effort on behalf of the heron and to the folks at Liberty who assisted in the recovery….this story has a very happy ending.
Now watch me climb on my soap box. Fishermen folks I know how easy it is to get a tangled line and how easy it is to reel it off, cut it and discard it so that you can finish your fishing….but please, please, please pick it up and discard it. There are established containers for that purpose. Also, if the fish breaks the line and escapes hooked and dragging the invisible line, there isn’t much you can do. So, this is where the rest of us come into play. If you are hiking, picnicking, birding, or in some other way enjoying the out of doors around a water way…make it part of your payback to scope for the dangerous line.
I have hardly been out in the lake or river areas that I haven’t seen monofilament line…innocuous looking deadly in reality. Pretty much all eagle nests have monofilament line and hooks lurking in them, and that is probably true of other shoreline nests. We have had babies wrapped in line that cut through limbs, necks, crops as the baby grew until it killed them. The calls about ducks, herons, geese and other water area birds encountering this stealthy killer are numerous and usually deadly.
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 3426.
Well, the intake rate is slowing noticeably and we’re near the end of Baby Bird Season 2013. Now, as we approach the new Education Season, a cleanup in the Ed trailer was accomplished last week. On Sunday, Dr. Sorum brought his portable ultrasound unit which was invaluable for diagnosing some issues with a couple of animals. We’ll see some issues with a couple of our education snakes, plus, we’re into the release season and we had one lucky family set two GHOs free after their rehabilitation at Liberty…
Yes, the schools are back in session, so our education volunteers are gearing up for another year of introducing the citizens of Arizona (especially the kids!) to their wild neighbors. Each year, we put on several hundred presentations with our non-releasable, trained ambassadors who get up close and personal with the school children and adults. The most frequently heard comment is usually, “I’ve never been this close to a real owl/hawk/eagle before!”
Vet night had the usual cast of kestrels, GHOs, HaHas and RTHs, plus a couple of our own educational snakes. We had two that were having some difficulty completing their molt so the Med Services team provided them with some help shedding their skin. During this process, it was noticed that in addition to the shedding issues, Juanita, our hybrid king snake, also presented what appeared to be a mass near her vent. This is where Dr. Sorum’s portable techno-equipment came in handy! (see below)
First up was an unfortunate great horned owl who presented some serious eye problems. The injury, probably from a collision with a window or other structure, has caused the bird’s right retina to become detached. The left eye is also suspected to be without vision at this time so more examinations are in order.
In a totally non-invasive manner, the ultrasound device show that juanita may have a kidney problem. Hopefully, this can be cured with other treatments that don’t require a more intrusive approach.
Two of our orphan GHOs from this year got to enter the world of the wild last week. In a beautiful setting with lots of cover and lots of prey available (the prime ingredients for a successful release), these two young birds were set free by two young humans who seemed to enjoy the chance to be the last part of their rehabilitation. Flying off in the late afternoon, they now have to fend for themselves in the big, wide world! Good luck, kids!