Yesterday was an exciting day at WRC. The Great Blue Heron chicks rescued in the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through north Minneapolis on May 22 were moved to large outdoor flight pens, their final stage of rehabilitation.
About 30 songbirds raised in our Avian Nursery also made the journey with the herons to their new outdoor caging.
The “celebrity-status” of the herons alone makes the move newsworthy, but it also has larger implications for WRC. To fully explain I have to go back a few years.
In July of 2008, WRC’s Board of Directors held a strategic planning session that resulted in a sweeping, far-ranging vision for WRC’s future. We looked at it as an opportunity to dream a bit about our future, to “make no small plans,”
Our vision was to create the Wildlife Health System; a network of facilities that would better serve the needs of the people who bring us animals and the wild animals who need our care. Our current Roseville facility would serve as the flagship medical facility, providing the best possible care for injured animals and training the next generation of veterinarians.
We also envisioned satellite facilities to respond to the increased demand for our services for healthy, orphaned animals. Facilities would need ample outdoor caging, to reduce the stress of human contact and provide species with specific care. An ideal location in the south metro was subsequently identified.
Several months later the economy collapsed and WRC, like the rest of the community, hunkered down in survival mode. Fortunately, we survived and last year even retired the remaining debt on our Roseville clinic. Relieved of that debt, during the last year we began planning to expand our physical capacity to respond to the increasing demand from the public and our patients.
This spring, we finished construction on several large outdoor flight cages at the southern facility in Inver Grove Heights. This will be the final stage rehabilitation site for the majority of our nursery patients. It’s vital that they acclimate to the outdoors, away from humans, prior to release.
So it is fitting that the first patients in our new outdoor facility are the herons. Their plight struck a collective nerve in the community. Watching them spread their wings in their new outdoor flight pens, is symbolic not only of survival, but of WRC’s ability to spread its wings to meet the needs of future generations.
It’s a small, first step in what we hope is a “big plan” and a soaring journey.