Recently, our vets at the Animal Care Center received a call from a local wildlife rehabilitator who had rescued a sandhill crane.
Sandhill cranes are commonly seen in central Florida, usually wandering along roads, near water, and on golf courses—which unfortunately puts them at risk for various injuries from human activities, such as being hit by cars or golf balls. Someone saw this bird walking across a golf course with its mate and their chick when the bird was hit by a golf ball. This person then called a wildlife rehabilitator, who saw that the bird wasn’t walking properly and called us—and it’s a good thing she did!
Radiographs showed this crane had a severe fracture of one of its upper leg bones. If a person breaks a bone, he or she might get a cast and be told not to walk on it for a few weeks, but with birds, it’s not quite so simple. For one thing, birds’ bones are mostly hollow, which makes them lighter so the bird can fly, but also makes it harder to fix a broken bone. This bird needed emergency surgery.
To fix the broken bone, Dr. Alex Cole first used a special drill to install five small pins perpendicularly into the separate pieces of the bone.
To keep the pieces of bone from shifting out of alignment, Dr. Cole then attached what is called an external fixator—a metal rod that runs along the outside of the leg to keep the pins (and the pieces of bone) in place while the leg heals.
After installing the pins, Dr. Cole checked the alignment of everything with another set of radiographs.
Once Dr. Cole was satisfied with the alignment of the pins, he cut off the extra metal and wrapped the leg. Later, as the broken bone heals, our vets can remove the pins.
This was one lucky crane—especially lucky that someone was watching out for her and called the wildlife rehabilitator, who called us! Not only did this crane pull through the surgery well, but as of the writing of this blog post, she is already walking on her injured leg. Hopefully soon she can be released back into the wild.
If you see injured wildlife where you live, you can call your local veterinarian. Veterinarians in Florida have lists of certified wildlife rehabilitators who are qualified to rescue and care for injured wildlife.
Treating injured wildlife is a big part of what our veterinary staff does at the Animal Care Center. What treatments have you seen happen during your visit to Busch Gardens?