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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 6:47 am | Fair 47º


Ailing Great Blue Heron Recovering At Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network

Rehabbers discover Lompoc bird has older gunshot wounds, is due to lay egg soon

X-rays from the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network discovered an ailing blue heron has pellet wounds and is due to lay an egg soon. The bird was found near Lompoc and is now recovering in Goleta. Click to view larger
X-rays from the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network discovered an ailing blue heron has pellet wounds and is due to lay an egg soon. The bird was found near Lompoc and is now recovering in Goleta. (Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network photo)

An ailing great blue heron rescued from Lompoc and which had old pellet gunshot wounds appears to be recovering at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.

“It’s doing better. It’s improving. It’s standing up now,” said Julia Parker, director of animal affairs.

The ill bird was found last week near the Lompoc Wastewater Treatment Plant on West Central Avenue and admitted to the Goleta rehabilitation facility by an animal control officer.

Upon arriving at the rehab facility, the bird couldn’t stand up, creating concerns about its chance at full recovery.

“It was pretty much down for three days, but it’s recovering really well,” Parker told Noozhawk, adding the bird can now stand on its own. 

The X-rays also revealed surprises.

“When I took it to get X-rayed I was thinking it was going to have a back injury or a broken leg,” Parker said. “And then we saw the gunshot and the egg so it was startling on a couple different levels.”

An ailing blue heron is recovering at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network in Goleta. Click to view larger
An ailing blue heron is recovering at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network in Goleta.  (Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network photo)

Before the heron can be released, another veterinarian will review the X-rays to ensure the bird doesn’t need surgery to have the pellets removed. 

After talking to experts, Parker said, they don’t believe the pellet shots contain lead, which is good news. Lead ammunition can be deadly to birds.

The bird’s natural instincts likely will prevent laying the egg while in captivity, increasing the urgency for her recovery and release. 

“It does have an egg in it so we’re kind of anxious to release it back to Lompoc,” Parker added.

Herons typically lay between three and five eggs, according to the Audubon Society.

It’s also not known if the heron has other eggs in a nest awaiting incubation, or whether she will need to expel the egg for her own health. 

“There’s a lot of mysteries in this right now,” Parker said. 

In the best case scenario, the heron will be released in two days, but the schedule depends on the review of future X-rays.  

Great blue herons, sometimes called cranes, usually live in wetland areas and make nests in trees or bushes near water's edge. The birds are distinctive due to their long legs, lengthy S-shaped neck, and a long pointed bill.

“They’re very elegant birds,” Parker said.

Federal fish and wildlife regulations protect all birds and any wildlife is owned by the state of California, making it a crime to shoot birds except with the necessary permits.

Parker said the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network routinely sees birds with gunshot wounds, but prosecuting those responsible can be difficult due lack of witnesses and evidence.

She added that, during nesting season, people often inadvertently disturb nests by cutting trees down.

“If the nest has an egg or chicks in it then you’re supposed to leave it alone,” Parker said.

Anyone with information regarding the injured bird is urged to call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife tip line at 1.888.334.2258.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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