I've seen duct tape used to fix just about everything you can imagine, but I never thought I would add "Great Blue Heron leg" to the list. Now, to be clear, the heron's leg was not fixed solely by duct tape. The splint that stabilized the fractured bone in his lower leg also included a plastic tube, gauze padding and, at one point, a rubber band. But duct tape was used to cover it all and keep it clean and dry. In the photo below you can see the heron wearing his splint a few weeks after admission.
Part of what makes working with injured wildlife so challenging is that there are no ready-made, species-specific commercial products to meet many of our treatment and husbandry needs. There is no "Herons-R-Us" that we can call to order a splint for a fractured right tarsometatarsus. Instead, we must improvise. And in the more than thirty years that we have been working with wildlife, we have gotten very good at it.
Our duct-taped heron is a prime example of our success. He was brought to PAWS on June 23 after being found on the ground below his nest on the main campus of the University of Washington. A young bird, he had likely just attempted, and failed at, his first flight. His broken leg was the result. After three weeks in care at PAWS, including a few different renditions of the improvised splint, the heron's leg had healed. He spent another month at the center practicing his flight skills to ensure that he would not experience a repeat of his first, unfortunate flight.
On August 14, we released the heron at the University of Washington's Arboretum. The photos below showing his departure are a testament to the work of the staff, volunteers and supporters of the PAWS Wildlife Center. They are also further evidence that duct tape really can fix everything.