The young Great Blue Heron at Devil’s Lake State Park are getting big. This means that they are occasionally falling from their nests, once that happens, their odds of survival are pretty slim. There have already been reports AND photos posted to social media this year. But we increase their chances of survival.
The most important thing we can do is stay out from under the rookery. It’s not always possible, especially as the rookery seems to have expanded across the road this year, but as much as we can, Stay OUT! Do not walk the trails directly under the rookery. Do not try to sneak under the trees for photo opportunities. If there is a chick on the ground, people walking under the trees will prevent the parents from caring for the baby. Don’t walk under the trees.
Second, keep your dogs on leashes at all times. I’ve lost count of how many off-leash dogs I’ve seen running around group camp and around the rookery. Loose dogs and baby heron will not end well for the baby.
If you see a chick down, don’t rush in to photograph it. Leave it alone and notify park staff. Sure, if you have a camera with a zoom lens and want to get a shot, go for it (from a distance). But do not approach the chick to get a cell phone shot. You’re too close.
Spread the word. Tell others. Let people know not to walk under the rookery right now. Report off-leash dogs in the area.
The truth is, some baby heron who fall just won’t survive. Either the fall or other injury kills them, their parents won’t care for them or even some predator will get them. This is just life. But in this unique case, where the heron rookery is surrounded by campgrounds and trails cut right through the beneath their nests.. humans and their pets are most likely the largest risks. We need to be aware and responsible. Nobody really needs to post another heron pic to Instagram or Facebook this year, especially if it puts the new chicks at risk.
In the end, it all boils down to protection. The most important thing we can do for a fallen chick is to stay out of the rookery, keep pets out of the rookery, spread the word and if you are really worried, notify park staff.
Soon the chicks will be flying and able to take care of themselves, but while they’re a fledging over the next few weeks, we need to show some respect.
Food For Thought