Good deed for the day

It was a busy morning and by the time afternoon chores were done there wasn’t much light for photos. Undaunted, I got in the truck and drove to take a closer look at a place that I know well, down by the river. There is water running across this property, a tributary of Chatham Run which drains into the Susquehanna. There are ruins of some interesting stone locks there and I wanted a closer look. I arrived and proceeded to take a few photos by the water. Having exhausted the possibilities on my side of the creek I climbed the south wall of the lock thinking I might get some images looking to the north. After a few moments I noticed movement in the shallows. I looked and saw a Great Blue Heron on the far side of the creek. This presented a fine photographic opportunity. After shooting a few photos it was clear that my short zoom wasn’t going to allow me to get in close enough. I thought that crossing the creek might scare the bird so I did my best to make some threatening sounds in the hope that the bird would take flight … then I could catch of few images of this very large heron as it made its way skyward. I hissed and shouted but the bird didn’t move. I persisted and then noticed that one of the bird’s legs seemed to be hung up in a snag of debris. I continued making noises and came to the conclusion that the poor bird was good and stuck.I walked to the road, crossed the bridge which spanned the creek, and then made my way back through the woods to the locks – this time, on the other side of the run. As I descended the steep bank to the water I noticed that the bird was not only stuck but also distressed and exhausted. As I came near, all the time thinking that the bird would give one last heave and free itself, I heard the sickening clink of chain as the bird struggled – one of its toes was caught in a coil spring foot trap. I put down my camera and approached the prisoner. If you should ever find an animal caught in one of these traps your concern should be, first and foremost, for your own safety. If you can approach the distraught animal safely, follow these steps to open the trap to release the animal. Manipulate the trap so that it lays flat. The levers on either side of the jaws will be straight up, having been tripped by tension stored in the two stout springs. Pushing both levers down (by stepping on one and pushing the other down with a free hand) will load the springs and thereby release pressure on the jaws. These will open and release the animal. Be careful … pushing the levers as you have has put the springs under tension. Release the levers slowly – do not allow them to snap closed or you might catch a finger. Having released the animal I removed the trap from the creek. Rather than tossing it aside I thew it into the bed of the truck. One less foot trap isn’t going to impact the status of Pennsylvania’s fur industry. You should know that The Great Blue Heron is protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. I watched the bemused bird as it hobbled away; it turned and then took easily to the air. I’d put good odds that this bird will live to see the light of yet another day and to grace our local waterways and wetlands. Although the use of the foot hold trap has been banned in Massachusetts its use is entirely legal in Pennsylvania as it is in most other states.

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