On June 23rd, we admitted a young Sandhill Crane that was found on a couple’s property in Ramsey, Minn., with its parents and sibling, but was having difficulty walking. The property owners gently approached the young one and were able to safely capture it and brought it to the WRC.
Upon admission, it was noticed that the crane had a very swollen leg joint. Our rule-outs included trauma and infection. Radiographs revealed no fractures or dislocations, but moderate soft tissue swelling. We started the crane on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and watched closely for improvement.
After several days of monitoring the crane, Vet Renee decided to take the crane to surgery and open up the joint. She found a lot of pus and necrotic material, both indicative of an infection of some sort. Samples of the pus were sent to the University of Minnesota Diagnostic Laboratory, but no specific bacteria were isolated. The joint was cleaned out and flushed thoroughly. Over the next several days, the crane slowly but surely started to use the leg more and more, and the swelling began to decrease. After several days of monitoring and medications, the crane was deemed ready for release!
In most cases with young cranes, we don’t know where the family is or the crane’s injuries prevent it from being reunited shortly after separation. So the crane typically needs to be fostered with captive parents at another rehabilitation facility (like REGI in Wisconsin, where we have sent several other young cranes).
Another fact that makes reunification challenging, is that cranes imprint very easily. Since we decided to try to reunite this crane with its family, we had to be vigilant of this while it was with us. We limited our interactions with it, and made sure it was skittish of humans before attempting to reunite it with its family. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of returning the young crane to the residence at which it was found.
The owners of the property (who also brought the crane in), had been watching the parents and sibling the entire time the crane was with us via a hidden wildlife camera. Since the family was still around, successful reunification seemed highly probable.
The crane was placed in a temporary pen in the area of the yard where the crane family regularly visits (shown above with one of the parents looking on). Then the property owners sat back and waited. The parents saw the young one, and both parties were very curious about each other and seemed anxious to re-unite.
The owners then opened the pen and allowed the young crane to rejoin its family, which it did. They all went off into the wetlands. The next day we knew the reunion was successful when the family of four was spotted again, and then several times over the next few days via the wildlife camera (here’s one of the shots from the camera):
A successful release is always such a rewarding experience; however, re-uniting a young animal with its family takes on a whole new meaning, and I am so grateful I got to be a part of it!
Many thanks to the Weltes for their interest and support in reuniting the crane with its family, and for sharing these wonderful photos with us.