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Heron dies after getting hook on tree limb

It turned out that the great blue heron rescuers thought to be alive this week at the top of a fir tree on the north side of Eagle Harbor had been dead several days before rescuers were called.

Mike Pratt, the director of wildlife services for West Sound Wildlife Shelter, said he got a call Tuesday from a woman living on Lovell Avenue Southwest who said there was a heron dangling upside down from a limb near the top of a tree estimated to be about 100 feet tall.

“It was a real wooded area,” Pratt said, “and the caller thought the heron was alive.”

Pratt went to the scene and it appeared the heron was still moving so he called for help from Ryan Walsh, the owner of Kitsap Peninsula Tree Service and a regular volunteer for the shelter.

When Walsh reached the heron, however, he discovered that the bird was dead and the movement was being caused by crows eating the carcass.

Pratt said he eventually learned that another neighbor had seen the heron hanging from the tree a few says earlier but didn’t think of calling the shelter “because she didn’t think there was anything that could be done for it.”

One of the heron’s toes was entangled in a fishing line, Pratt said.

“It must have got caught in the line when it was fishing at low tide and then when it landed in the tree the line hooked onto a limb,” he said. “It was something we see several times a year, either with fishing lines and herons or owls getting hooked by kite strings.”

Pratt said he didn’t know if he would have called Walsh if he’d known the heron was dead.

“Ryan helps us a lot, with eagle nests and other things where only someone like him can safely climb up that high,” he said. “But it’s dangerous and we don’t want him doing it unless it’s an emergency situation. But if the bird’s alive, we’re going help relieve it of its pain and stress even if it eventually dies.”

Pratt said more and more people are calling the shelter when wildlife is in danger, but people need to be reminded of the amount of stress the human population puts on the island’s wildlife.

“People need to call us immediately if they see anything that looks like an emergency,” Pratt said. “You never know ... maybe the animal can be saved.”

Pratt said the shelter has been “extremely busy” this year.

“It seems like more people are finding us and we are getting more calls from all over the West Sound area,” he said.

The West Sound Wildlife Shelter’s phone number is 855-9057. It is located at 7501 NE Dolphin Dr.

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