Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rescue Mission Follows a Careless Driving Death

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Rescue Mission Follows a Careless Driving Death

Article excerpt

Micky Sanders' peaceful Sunday afternoon drive in the Palmer Ranch development came to an abrupt end when she saw a car hit and kill a sandhill crane in the middle of the road.

The driver of the black, foreign car was talking or texting on her cellphone when she hit the bird, Sanders says. Afterward, the woman slowed for a moment, then took off.

Sanders couldn't do that, especially when she saw the bird's chick, probably no more than a couple of weeks old, running in panic in the grass along the road.

So there she was, on McIntosh Road south of Central Sarasota Parkway, joined by the occupants of two other cars, trying to keep a young sandhill crane from darting back into the roadway as cars continued to speed by.

Meanwhile, someone called the Wildlife Center of Venice, which dispatched a volunteer, who joined the rescue party and eventually netted the chick. The adventure took about two hours on May 5. The chick is doing fine at the center, where an adult crane is serving as surrogate parent until the pair can be released together.

"It was so tiny," Sanders says. "I couldn't sleep that night. I was so upset by what happened."

The episode has several noteworthy elements.

Of course, it's another entry in the annals of distracted driving. Sandhill cranes don't dart into the road like deer. They move slowly and gracefully. So if a driver hits one in the center of the road, that driver isn't paying attention, or simply doesn't care.

In this case, the sandhill crane could just as easily have been a human.

If so, maybe the driver wouldn't have left the scene. Sandhill cranes are federally protected through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the subspecies that lives in Florida is listed as threatened, but there's no penalty for hitting the bird with a car.

Or a golf ball, the second-most common cause of injuries to the cranes in our area, says Kevin Barton, who runs the wildlife rehab center on Border Road in Venice.

"What upsets me is that there would be a fine if she hit a mailbox or a stop sign," he says. "So there are some ironies."

Sandhill cranes are among Barton's favorites, which puts him in good company around the world. …

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