Great blue heron returned to the wild after being rescued near Airdrie
CALGARY – A great blue heron, currently suffering from apparent cabin fever, has been released in Fish Creek Provincial Park nearly a week after being found in distress.
Two wildlife photographers were north of Airdrie on Nov. 6 when they spotted a struggling great blue heron. Guy Kinney and his good friend Allison Prentice noticed the heron had clumps of ice frozen to its feathers.
"It looked like it tried to jump up and fly but couldn’t," said Kinney. "I could see something as it turned on its breast and it turned out to be a great big ice cube."
The pair quickly put a rescue plan together when they realized the large migratory bird was freezing and struggling in the snow alongside a creek. They used a blanket to capture the bird and carry it back to their vehicle.
Kinney carried it back up to the road and Prentice held the weak bird on her lap for the 25 minute drive to the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation near Madden.
"What was really surprising was not a movement, nothing from him," recounted Prentice. "We had him covered with only his beak out, not nothing, I couldn’t feel a breath come out of him, not a movement."
Upon arrival at the AIWC facility, the heron was placed in an incubator. An examination confirmed the bird was suffering the effects of severe hypothermia.
"Most likely what happened to this bird, considering how good of condition the bird was in, he had found a great hunting spot, he was exploiting that hunting spot, and then there was a cold snap,” said Erin Casper, rehabilitation manager of the rescue facility.
Once its core temperature rose to normal levels, the bird was found to be in excellent health. Biologists say the great blue heron would likely have died if the photographers had not rescued it.
After a week-long stay at the institute, volunteers took the heron south to Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary to release it.
"With the current good weather outlook, and her crankiness being at the Institute, it has now been decided that in her best interest she can be released back to the wild,” said Kinney.
Prentice was allowed to open the cage and set the heron free. "I would be fibbing if I said that didn’t bring a couple of tears to watch him glide, have a sunny day for him to head on out and be warm."
For more information about the conservation organization visit Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation