WILMINGTON - Wendy Hall was distraught.
Hall runs Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington, and she was brought a great blue heron earlier this week that had been severely injured when two local young men threw a rock at it.
She wanted to bring the heron to Cornell University in Ithaca, where experts at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center might be able to help heal the bird. She was frantically planning to drive it down as soon as she possibly could.
This great blue heron had to be euthanized after two local men threw a large rock at it near the Jay Covered Bridge on Monday.
(Photo — Lora Bushey)
One of the only things that allowed her to calm down was going outside to look at the other animals on her refuge and remembering how much joy they bring her. But then she'd go back to where the heron was fighting to stay alive, and she'd get upset all over again.
When Hall's onsite veterinarian examined the bird Tuesday, the vet told her that there was nothing that even Cornell's experts could possible do for it.
The heron's wing was severely damaged - shattered - and would have needed amputation. His leg was completely severed at the knee, so that would have needed to be cut off, too.
A heron can't survive with only one wing and one leg. A great blue heron is a large wading bird native to North America, Central America, the West Indies and the Galapagos Islands. It has long legs and a long neck and beak so it can stand in water and reach down to snap up fish and other wildlife.
"So we couldn't have saved him," Hall said Wednesday, the day after the heron was euthanized.
She pulls a plastic shopping bag from the refrigerator and unsheathes the now-cold bird.
"Look at this," she says, choking on her words. "This beautiful animal."
The bird's entire right side is raw, with deep gashes in its wing, and its leg can be placed into unnatural positions since it is so detached from the body.
A number of people watched as Ryan F. Slater, 22, of Wilmington, and Michael Martindale Jr., 28, of Jay, threw a large rock at the bird Monday on the east branch of the AuSable River near the Jay Covered Bridge, according to a report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
A concerned witness reported the incident, along with the license plate number of the vehicle the two men were driving. State police and DEC environmental conservation officers investigated the incident.
Both men were arrested, and each was charged with wounding protected wildlife and taking a protected bird. Each violation has a maximum possible penalty of $250, so each man faces up to $500 in possible penalties.
They're due in Town of Jay Court later this month.
Bird was loved locally
"What a scumbag," said Anastasia Dierna, one of the refuge's volunteers who showed up Wednesday, after Hall told her the story. "That just makes me angry."
What makes Hall really mad is that the bird was loved locally. People from Jay would regularly bring their lunches down to the river just to watch the heron while they ate.
"It brought so much pleasure to so many people," Hall said.
She notes that it's part of the tourist trade of the Adirondacks for visitors to view the wildlife.
Hall said she could tell that the heron was very healthy before it was struck by the rock through several physical indicators.
"This animal was very powerful," Hall said while inspecting the heron. "You could tell by the strength of the bone."
It was a beautiful animal, with beautiful green eyes, Hall said, and she plans to do a pastel of the photos she took of the bird before it died.
It's hard to say if Hall would be satisfied with a $500 penalty, the highest possible punishment.
"People should be punished severely," she said several times Wednesday while talking about the incident.
Hall plans to keep the bird and use it for educational purposes.
"I'm not going to waste this wonderful creature," she said.
Hall, her husband Steve, son Alex and intern Jonas Borkholder are working on building an educational barn at the refuge. Her husband uses wolves to teach people about how important predators are to the natural environment.
Other animals hurt
Though the heron is a rather extreme case, Hall sees animals hurt intentionally by humans all the time. Through the refuge and rehab center, she's part of a network of facilities across the country where injured animals are sent if they can't be released into the wild.
She's got a number of birds at her refuge now that have been victims of deliberate abuse from humans.
"I've had it with the abuse that these animals go through," Hall said.
There are several birds on site that were shot, some by BB guns, including a Swainson's hawk, a rough-legged hawk, a turkey vulture and two ravens.
All those birds are protected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
"It's highly illegal to shoot them or to do anything with them, even rehab them unless you have the right permits," Hall said.
Hall said farmers often shoot birds thinking the animals are eating their livestock.
"There's so much that people do not understand about the value of these animals to us," Hall said.
Hall says she began taking care of animals when she was 5 years old, but then she went to be a human nurse in New York City for 30 years. Once she retired, she moved to Wilmington and opened up the refuge on 50 acres of untouched forest on Springfield Road. The site is free and open to the public, though they accept donations.
At the refuge, they hold a habitat awareness day every year and try to teach people how animals are a necessary part of the environment.
"They're not just animals that are put here to amuse us humans," Hall said. "They have a purpose, they are a part of nature, and we have to stop destroying their habitat, and we have to stop destroying them."
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.