Great Blue Heron #24-0361

March 24, 2024
Rescue Location
Augusta County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Wing fracture
Current Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated

On March 24, veterinary intern Dr. Natalie helped rescue an injured Great Blue Heron in Augusta County. A private citizen had seen the heron in the area for several days and reported that it was not able to fly. While staff are usually too busy treating animals at the Center to go out and rescue wildlife, Dr. Natalie happened to be nearby and set out to locate the bird. With the original finder’s help, Dr. Natalie was able to safely contain and transport the heron to the Center within minutes.

Designated as Great Blue Heron #24-0361 upon admission, the veterinary team’s intake exam revealed that the bird was in good body condition but moderately dehydrated. A physical exam quickly showed the reason this heron had been unable to fly – a complete metacarpal [wrist] fracture was felt on the right wing. There was a small laceration and fresh blood near the site of the injury, and fibrous callous was felt near the fracture – signs that the injury had likely occurred during the past few days.

Great Blue Heron anesthetized on exam table Because the injury was recent and the fracture hadn't healed improperly, surgical repair was possible. However, the prognosis for the patient was still considered to be poor. Great Blue Herons have a comparatively low rate of successful rehabilitation in captive settings, in part due to their susceptibility to capture myopathy (stress-induced damage to internal organs that can lead to death). With this in mind, the veterinary team set a strict “no-talking” rule for the treatment area following its arrival. “No one was allowed to speak a word when working near the heron or in neighboring rooms … I really think this has helped prevent captured myopathy this far," Dr. Natalie shared.

While the veterinary team planned the bird's surgery, the heron received fluids and vitamins to correct its dehydration, pain medications, and anti-inflammatories. The heron was placed in the Center’s indoor holding area to rest overnight.

Veterinarian performing fracture repair surgery on a Great Blue HeronOn the afternoon of March 25, Senior Veterinary Intern Dr. Olivia began the heron's operation. While the heron was under anesthesia and being closely monitored, Dr. Olivia used a surgical drill to insert a total of five small, metal pins directly into the bone, above and below the fracture. After closing the incision site, radiographs were taken to confirm the proper placement of the pins, and an acrylic bar was used to connect the pins – creating a stable, immobilized orientation for the fractured bone to heal. The surgery was considered to be a success, and the heron was placed back in its crate to recover.

During the next three days, the pin sites were routinely checked and cleaned to ensure they were infection-free and intact. Pleased with the healing process thus far, the veterinary team determined the heron was ready to transition to an outdoor enclosure – an environment further away from the activity of the indoor clinic and less stressful for the bird.

On April 9, the veterinary staff reported that the pin sites have remained clean and intact, the fracture site has remained properly aligned, and the incision site has completely healed. Repeat radiographs to check the fracture are planned for the week of April 15 – until then, this Great Blue Heron will remain in a quiet outdoor enclosure and continue to heal.

You can help support our work with native wildlife.

Your donation will help provide veterinary medical care to this heron and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.