Sandhill crane hit by car at Walmart now recovering

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. -- With spring now here, the sounds of baby birds are in the air. Some of the most noticeable families taking flight in our area are the sandhill cranes, with many of them currently learning the ropes from mom and dad.

One family of cranes has taken up residence at an area Walmart, but their domestic bliss was shattered recently by a careless driver that left one of the babies in serious condition. Now a local wildlife center is doing what it can to bring about a reunion.

"They form such a family bond," says Robin Jenkins, general manager and staff vet at the Peace River Wildlife Center. "Someone got impatient with the wait and drove around the stopped vehicles and hit one of the baby cranes."

The bird was immediately brought to the Peace River Wildlife Center in Punta Gorda.

"We took an x-ray and determined his leg was broken by the car," Jenkins says.

"Wallie," as the crane is now known, needed some serious help fast.

"He was in pretty bad shape,” Jenkins says. “The first 24-48 hours, we were force feeding him. Getting him fluids."

Just 10 days later, Wallie is learning the ropes from another of the center’s patients -- a crossed-beak sandhill crane known as "Chickie Pants".

"That was very reassuring for the baby crane to be with another member of the same species," says Jenkins.

Wallie is just one of Peace River’s patients. It's that time of year when babies of all sorts are bounding forth, which keeps the center’s 70-plus volunteers pretty busy.

"This time of year is insane,” Jenkins says. “We are getting 10-20 patients admitted everyday."

Peace River takes in more than 2,000 wild animals every year. Those which can not be returned to their natural habitat find a permanent home here. Visitors can check out Peace River seven days a week, with the staff hoping to educate the public on the many species that live in Florida, and reminding the public how to get along with the rest of the Suncoast’s inhabitants.

"We've slapped our condos and our roads down in the middle of their habitats<” Jenkins says. “We need to be a little respectful of them still being here."

We can assume it's a lesson Wallie hopes we will all remember. It’s a lesson he won’t soon forget.

"If he has a little but of malformation of the leg it will be an interesting story to tell his bird friends down the road some time," Jenkins says.