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Wisconsin Lifts Ill Baby Crane Back to Health

B.C., found with a metal object in its stomach, was treated at the University of Wisconsin before being released into the wild.


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A wild sandhill crane named B.C., top left, fell ill after swallowing a metal washer. After its removal and her rehabilitation, B.C., seen at bottom, tested her wings during flights with a foster parent.

Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin veterinary staff have bid farewell to a young sandhill crane they saved from possible death.

The crane, then a sick baby, was spotted in late July in Cherokee Marsh, a wetland in Dane County, Wis. The bird walked with difficulty, drawing the attention of an observer and a team from the Humane Society’s Four Lakes Wildlife Center.

Blood work and radiographs done on the captured crane revealed a couple of problems.

“We quickly discovered this baby crane had high levels of lead in her bloodstream as well as what looked like a metal washer stuck in her stomach,” said the wildlife center’s Brooke Lewis, CVT.

The crane, nicknamed B.C., was taken to the Special Species Health Service at Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. It was there that clinical assistant professor Christoph Mans, DrMedVet, Dipl. ACZM, suggested using endoscopy to remove the obstruction.

“The endoscopic procedure is noninvasive and faster and safer than surgery, so it’s the treatment of choice for removal of foreign bodies from the stomach of most birds,” Dr. Mans said.

The procedure was performed by veterinarians Lily Parkinson, DVM, and Tatiana Ferreira, DVM, MS, Ph.D., and certified veterinary technicians Terri Gregson and Nicole Sinclair. The team inserted an endoscope down the bird’s throat and into the digestive tract so they could see the metal object. They then used a long wire grasper to remove the washer.

Step two was getting B.C. into the air. Her lead levels falling, B.C. was placed in the care of licensed wildlife rehabilitator Patrick Comfert at his property in Rock County.

B.C. was able to socialize with other cranes.

“One crane in particular, named Junior, B.C. used as a surrogate mother,” Comfert said.

In early fall, B.C. and Junior took short daytime flights.

“As the season progressed, she started foraging with local wild cranes and expanding her exploratory circle in preparation for migration,” the university reported. “She also became less comfortable with human contact, a sure sign she was ready to re-enter the wild.

And that’s what she did. B.C. and Junior stopped returning to Comfert’s place at night.

The experts suspected that the pair joined other cranes for the southern migration.

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