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Baby sandhill crane rescued after hit-and-run kills parents in Malabar

The bird was taken to Fort Pierce sanctuary

A baby sandhill crane gets checked out and taken to a wildlife sanctuary after being saved by Malabar firefighters when its parents were hit and killed by a car. (Photo: Heather Pepe)
A baby sandhill crane gets checked out and taken to a wildlife sanctuary after being saved by Malabar firefighters when its parents were hit and killed by a car. (Photo: Heather Pepe)


MALABAR, Fla. – With spring comes baby fuzzball sandhill crane hatchlings. 

The tall gangly birds are known to be protective parents when it comes to their downy offspring, making it especially jarring when a chick was left orphaned in Malabar this week. Its parents were struck and killed by a car, according to News 6 partner Florida today.

"Somebody just plowed right through mom and dad and just kept going," said Heather Pepe with Wild Florida Rescue based in Brevard County.  

Malabar firefighters jumped into action Wednesday morning when the crane couple — cranes form lifelong bonds with their mates — were hit by a car on Malabar Road. 

After the wreck, the scared chick began to run, and the firefighters gave chase to capture the vulnerable youngster. 

Workers with Wild Florida Rescue arrived at the scene a short time later to pick up the chick. Thursday, the month-old crane was transported to Creature Safe Place wildlife sanctuary in Fort Pierce. The bird is doing well and is expected to thrive, Pepe said. 

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"They're so sensitive, they can sometimes die in captivity," she said.

Creature Safe Place has the correct facilities for the bird to be raised in captivity, she said. 

Sandhill cranes are an "imperiled" species, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. But just because they're protected doesn't mean jail time for drivers who may accidentally hit one. There are between 4,000 and 5,000 sandhill cranes in the wild in Florida. 

"You're not going to get cuffed for hitting a protected animal," Pepe said. "But it is very cruel to leave the scene, because the animal might die slowly." 

"A lot of times, we have to pull a carcass to the side of the road because the mate will stand in the road grieving its dead partner," Pepe said. 

Pepe knows it's sometimes easy to be careless, but she hopes other motorists will exercise a degree of caution in areas where sandhill cranes are known to frequent. 

"I see them all the time. They blend in the road. I know it's easy to come up on them pretty quickly. There's always that time to just stop or slow down."