Makeshift "Sandals" allows rescued great blue heron to walk again

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - It's a unique story that one wildlife rescue group is calling a 'miracle.'

A great blue heron was rescued from Ironto by two biologists during a hike in the New River Valley more than a week ago.

When the biologists who were hunting for a rare species of birds' habitat found the heron, it was weak, unable to stand and had a slim chance of survival.

Knowing what to do, the two biologists gently put the bird in their backpack and contacted the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center.

After quick action from veterinarians and expert rehabbers at the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center in Roanoke, the bird is expected to survive.

Dr. Dian D'Orazio says the bird didn't put up a fight when it was first brought to the center, which isn't a good sign for a wild animal.

Unable to eat, D'Orazio says staff there had to tube feed the heron several times a day for the first three days it was in their care. They began running a series of tests to check for anemia and other diseases.

Once the heron was able to eat on its own, it was crucial the heron had fresh fish to survive. The husband of one of the dedicated staff members, who just happens to love to fish, caught fresh meals from a nearby stream so the bird could survive.

While the heron began eating, it still struggled to stand or even walk. That's when D'Orazio knew something more needed to be done.

To aid in his recovery, Dr. D'Orazio made the heron orthopedic shoes or "sandals" as the staff lovingly calls them, along with knee braces.

What may seem to be an unusual solution turned out to be exactly what was needed.

One week later, the bird is able to stand and even fly.

"One of the reasons I love doing this, is the fact that you have to weigh the risks of putting your hands on these animals," D'Orazio said. "Because anytime you do something to them that they are not used to, like put shoes on their feet, it's a stress to them...so kind of trouble shooting is what we all enjoy doing."

Although she knew it was a risk, it was one that paid off. The method worked!

The great blue heron is expected to be released next week, however, it will be leaving it's sandals behind.

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