Wildlife rescue urges drivers to be aware of sandhill cranes near roadways

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MANATEE COUNTY - A protected species of bird may need even more protection due to an alarming number of sandhill cranes being hit by cars in Manatee County lately.

Residents in Lakewood Ranch have seen several get hit in one stretch of road in the past week. But not just bad for the birds, but for drivers too, as cars that swerve to avoid the birds can cause accidents.

That's why wildlife officials are asking everyone to slow down and be alert.

"We get lots of calls on them and they have no fear of cars or traffic; they don't seem to look either way when they cross the road." Ed Straight of Wildlife, Iinc. says they've rescued six in the past month, and there was another that had to be euthanized.

It's a problem he says that's happening all over Manatee County, especially in rural areas. "Sandhill cranes get hit a lot anyways, maybe just more this time of the year."

He thinks it’s because the baby cranes start wandering out of the nests this time of year. “If they're anywhere near the road, it’s not uncommon for them to just dart right out in the road."

Sandhill cranes are migratory birds and therefore protected by state law. You'll mostly see them in pairs, as the creatures mate for life.

And while it's certainly sentimental, that group mentality isn't doing them any favors when it comes to area roads. "Not only does the mother get hit, but quite often the younger ones will be hit also."

This four-mile stretch of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard north of University Parkway seems to be one of the problem spots. Signs along the road tell drivers to be aware of the birds, but as you can see, many cars just don't slow down. "They just have no fear of cars and they have no problem just crossing a road right in front of you."

If you do hit one of these birds, you should stop and see if it's ok. It wouldn't hurt to call one of the wildlife rescue agencies in our area, but you are not required to do so by law.

If you intentionally run over them, you can face fines or prosecution. But if it's a true accident then you won't face any penalties. Just because they are protected doesn't mean they are endangered.