News Releases

Sandhill crane rescued from Orange Lake released

News Release

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Media contact: Karen Parker (FWC), 386-758-0525;
Sarah Carey (UF College of Veterinary Medicine), 352-294-4242;
Rachel Nelson (Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo), 813-935-8553, ext. 212

The release was much less dramatic than the rescue for the sandhill crane that had been pulled from the muck on Orange Lake March 2 by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists.

Members of the veterinary team at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo transported and released the crane on private property near Hawthorne April 3. After being placed on the ground, the bird slowly walked away. A calm release was exactly what biologists wanted for the bird.

“This is a stellar example of teamwork,” said Marty Folk, FWC biologist. “FWC biologists rescued the crane, veterinarians at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine stabilized the bird, and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo staff rehabilitated the animal so it could be released.”

The FWC rescue effort took a team of six people with rope, a kayak and wood planks that the biologists used to reach the trapped birds. The cranes were several hundred feet from shore and stuck in the muck, which one rescuer described as having the consistency of “brownie batter.” Two cranes were rescued, but only one survived.

The crane was taken to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Hospital immediately following the rescue. After stabilization, the survivor was transported to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for care and rehabilitation in a natural environment. The bird responded well and had a healthy appetite.

The site selected for release was optimal habitat for the crane, according to Folk. There are other sandhill cranes in the area, and the low water level of the lake where it was released provides good foraging. The release site is approximately 13 miles from where the bird was rescued.

“We didn’t want to release it too close to Orange Lake. We certainly didn’t want it getting stuck again,” Folk said. “This is a great place for the bird.”

Folk explained that sandhill cranes have a complex social structure, and the newcomer won’t be alone long.

“When the other cranes come in to roost this evening, the released bird will join up with them.”

As the bird was released, it shook its feathers, smoothing down those that had been ruffled during transport. It calmly walked away from its rescuers, took a drink of water, then raised its head and trumpeted.

“That’s a contact call,” Folk said. “It’s announcing its presence to the other cranes in the area.”

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