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Howell Nature Center Successfully Returns a Great Blue Heron to the Wild

The bird spent a week at the Howell Nature Center recovering from a broken toe.

Over the course of its thirty-year history of wildlife rehabilitation, the Howell Nature Center has treated and released over 50,000 injured and orphaned animals and has grown to become the largest and most respected program of its kind in Michigan.

Over the weekend, it added to its successful rehabilitation cases when volunteers released a Great Blue Heron back into the wild.

A resident on the shores of Winans Lake had been observing a Great Blue Heron feeding at the shore for days when she realized that he had not moved from a particular spot. Sensing that the creature was in trouble, she contacted the Hamburg Fire Department for help.

Firefighters waded through the thick, cold muck. When they reached the bird, they found that a snapping turtle had latched onto the bird's toe and would not let go without some serious "coaxing."

Firefighter Nick Miller brought the heron to the Howell Nature Center, where Director Dana DeBenham and Volunteer Coordinator Jan Adamski gently cleaned his feathers and his wounds of muck and mud. Upon further examination, staff Veterinarian Max Biwer found that the snapping turtle's powerful jaws had actually broken the heron's toe.

Treatment of the bird lasted just one week; he needed to make a quick recovery so that he could rejoin his avian fellows on the annual fall migration.

"It's amazing - when they first come in, they're quiet," Biwer said. "You can tell when they're ready to go."

The nature center's Wildlife Rehabilitation Program handles more than 2,300 cases each year.

Biwer said blue herons are not an uncommon animal for the nature center to rehabilitate and that the program sees about a dozen each year.

Most of the animals in the program are successfully released back into the wild, but when the animals are permanently injured or become imprinted on humans, they sometimes join the ranks of Howell Nature Center's "Animal Ambassadors." Animal Ambassadors live in the Wild Wonders Wildlife Park, which is open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They're also available for educational programs, either onsite or offsite.

For more information on the Howell Nature Center's Animal Ambassadors to, visit www.howellnaturecenter.org and click on the Wildlife link in the navigation bar.

Source: Howell Nature Center press release

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