Where in the World Is Wally?
Some mothers are nurturing and selfless. My mother was not that mother. (Not her fault, that’s just the way children were treated by her generation.) Some mothers raise self-reliant children and never laugh when their children get hurt. I am not that mother. (Not my proudest moment, but a funny story for a later time.) Some mothers love unconditionally and will always accept their children back. Wally’s mother is not that mother.
Wally, as we have dubbed the juvenile sandhill crane that was hit by a car in front of the Punta Gorda Wal-Mart on April 18th, has been returned to his home territory. His broken leg healed comparatively quickly and although it is not perfectly straight, it is stable enough for him to walk on it. After an absence of only four weeks, Wally was reunited with his family. The parents and sibling’s whereabouts were monitored during his recovery and as soon as he was deemed ready for release, he was taken to a field where they were grazing.
The heartwarming reunion we had hoped for turned into a disappointing cold shoulder when Wally approached his family. The other juvenile pecked him on the head. Then the mother pecked him on the head. Not to be the odd man out, the father then pecked Wally on the head. At that point Wally hustled out of their immediate vicinity. As long as he remained in the periphery of where they were grazing, they tolerated his presence. Whenever he tried to get too close to them, they chased him off a short way.
Sandhill cranes often lay two to three eggs, but rarely raise more than one chick to fledging. It may have actually been beneficial for Wally to have spent some time at PRWC while recovering from his wounds. The parents may have rejected him even if he hadn’t been separated from them and his short time away helped him to become more independent. While in captivity he was paired with one of our resident cranes, Chickie Pants, who kept him from being fatally stressed and showed him the ropes—eating crane kibble out of a bucket, exercising by pacing up and down a narrow corridor, etc.
Wally may not have been accepted back into the fold of his family, but if he remains in the area with them, he will learn all that he needs to know to be a successful crane by watching them from a short distance. He can already fly and is familiar with the territory, so this is definitely the best chance he has at a normal life. If he remains in captivity much longer he risks physical and psychological damage that would be irreversible.
Every release by PRWC is bittersweet. We always want what is best for everyone. Sometimes it is not always easy to tell when it is time to let go. During those times, it takes an act of faith that everything will work out the way it should. In the words of one of my favourite philosophers, John Lennon,“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”