WASATCH COUNTY, Utah – On Friday, August 27, a conservation officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) received a report of a sandhill crane that damaged a vehicle at River’s Edge Campground near Heber City.
During the investigation, the officer found that his car had suffered the damage. The officer later learned that another resident’s vehicle had also been damaged by the bird within the past two weeks.
The campsite manager confirmed the bird has damaged several vehicles and other RV property in recent years.
The bird’s aggression had not been reported to DWR prior to the incident last week.
Although the campsite manager tried to scare the bird away over the years, he consistently returned and acted similarly.
After contacting the veterinarians at DWR and Utah State University (USU), officials learned that the birds were behaving abnormally and exhibiting symptoms common to a neurological condition such as West Nile virus or toxin ingestion.
DWR was recommended to euthanize the bird and its partner (a female sand hill crane that also visited the area) and perform an autopsy to assess their behavior.
According to Faith Jolley, DWR public information officer, the DWR considered the bird’s behavior to be a public safety issue.
Because of possible conflicts of interest, the PWR officer whose vehicle was damaged was not involved in the decision to euthanize the birds.
After the arrival of the DWR biologists, the birds flew from the campsite to nearby public land. The DWR staff located the birds there and the male was euthanized. The female bird flew away and could not be located.
The male sand hill crane was delivered to the USU laboratory on August 30 for an autopsy and disease / toxin testing. The results of the tests are not yet available to the DWR.
“We understand that this has been a difficult experience for many wildlife enthusiasts in the area. Our job is to manage wildlife, but also to keep the public safe, ”said Jolley.
“The DWR followed its euthanization policy in this incident to repair damage and prevent potential public health threats from the sand hill cranes. Although these cranes may be used to being around people at this campsite, they are still wild animals and can be dangerous if they lose their fear of people.
“Some of the information online suggests our conservation officer is under investigation, but that is not correct. Our officer followed the protocol as well as our euthanasia guidelines for dealing with wildlife that could pose a public safety issue. “