A Carrboro police officer rescued a great blue heron trapped in fishing line and ice this week, a riskier rescue than even he realized at the time.
The heron, now in rehabilitation, was in Morgan Creek near University Lake when its wing got tangled in fishing line hanging from a branch over the water. As the temperature plunged, freezing the water’s surface, the bird got stuck in the ice.
“With all our calls we never know what to expect,” officer Tim Shine said Friday.
When he and officer E. Velasquez arrived, some children told them the bird had been stuck for a couple of days and that they had been tossing bread out to it.
Shine, an outdoorsman, grabbed exposed tree roots as he slid down the creek bank and then stood on a rock.
The water was frozen Thursday afternoon, but not all the way. He took a step and landed knee deep in water.
He took off his jacket and tossed it over the bird, trying to cover its head. But the bird was watching and shifted, he said. The jacket landed over the body, exposing the long beak the heron uses to spear its prey, mostly fish and frogs but sometimes small rodents.
“I knew how fast they are, and I knew how sharp those beaks must be with how they hunt for food,” Shine said.
He pulled on the branch, but the bird remained just out of reach.
Resident David Reid, who had called 911 about the bird, said he and his children Olivia and Tristan then found a 20-foot branch they used as a lever against a tree to pull the branch toward the bank.
That got the heron closer, and Shine grabbed the beak as fast as he could.
“At that point you could tell the bird was really tired,” he said. “Once I had it I just picked it up and bear hugged it. It didn’t put up any struggle.”
Next Shine had to get himself and the bird back up the hill.
He reached out, someone grabbed him by the belt and hoisted him to level land.
Velasquez put electrical tape around the bird’s beak. A firefighter cut the fishing line.
They are the most dangerous bird we have in North Carolina. They can put that beak through your skull.
Kindra Mammone, CLAWS Inc.
Hadley the heron
A wildlife officer referred Shine to CLAWS Inc., a wildlife rehabilitation group founded in 2004 run out of executive director Kindra Mammone’s home.
The bird, nicknamed Hadley the Heron by the Carrboro Police Department, was doing well Friday, where its story had generated 688 likes on the department’s Facebook page.
The heron suffered soft-tissue damage on the creek and may need a month or two to heal, Mammone said.
She said it’s good that the officers taped the beak.
“These birds can actually kill you,” she said, stressing that people should contact CLAWS or another expert if they find one. “They are the most dangerous bird we have in North Carolina. They can put that beak through your skull.”
This bird, though, was very weak, “which is probably why the officer didn’t get hurt,” Mammone said. “He was not strong enough to stand on his own.”
Eventually, if the heron continues to eat, it will be moved to a 100-foot flight cage and then released. In the wild they can live 15 years.
Shine, a hunter, fisherman and kayaker, didn’t know all that when he rescued the bird.
But it’s all in a day’s work.
The people who called about the bird told him they weren’t even sure they should be calling the police. But Shine said “we get that pretty much every other day.” He’s been called to catch squirrels and snakes, even deliver a pizza once.
“There’s no weird call to police officers,” he said.
To reach CLAWS Inc.
If you have a wildlife emergency or to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation, call CLAWS Inc. at 919-619-0776.