Recently we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of calls we have received regarding sandhill cranes. These birds are tall beautiful long legged and have a red heart shaped patch on their heads. There are two different subspecies of sandhills, the Florida sandhill cranes and the Great Lake sandhill cranes. While the Florida sandhills call our area home year round, the Great Lakes are migratory and only spend from about November to April here in Florida. This means that this time of year our sandhill population is about doubled. This naturally means double the trouble they get into of course, but we have seen more than double the birds from the same time last year! Based on the injuries we have seen most of them have been related to human impact. The two main causes of injury we have seen are car strike and entanglement.
One of the things that we as people do that increase a crane’s chance of being hit by a car is feed them. When cranes are fed by people it reduces their natural fear of people and they as a result spend more time in areas where people are. Some people also unknowingly tempt the cranes closer to road ways by throwing edible trash out car windows. Feeding cranes has created such problems for their species that in 2002 a law was passed making it illegal to feed them.
The second major injury is something that is completely related to human impact, entanglement. A good portion of the calls we have received involved the crane being entangled in fishing debris. Since they naturally nest and forage along shorelines they all too often find themselves tangled with fishing litter. Their survival rate from these occurrences depends on how quickly they are able to get treatment and how severe the resulting injuries are. Sadly most people don’t notice the cranes problem until the line has become embedded and swelling and infection have set in which can affect the crane’s overall health.
We hope that by sharing this information it will encourage people to develop more environmentally responsible habits. We also want to stress how vital it is to treat entanglements quickly. One of the things that often delays treatment is people just don’t know who to call. If you find any sick, injured, or suspected orphaned wildlife we would like to remind you to give us or another permitted rehabilitator a call. We also ask that you consider making a donation to Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife so that we may continue our work to conserve and protect wildlife in the Tampa Bay Area.
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