WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — The sound of a baby Sandhill Crane crying out for its parents is heartbreaking.
"He was crying the whole time. He cried the whole 45 minutes," said Jessica Bryant, who found one in a marsh on State Road 56 after both its parents and baby sibling, on two separate days, were run over by cars in Wesley Chapel across from the Wiregrass Mall. At least four other adult cranes have been killed in the last 10 days in that area.
"People drive too fast in the area. I feel like our area has a lot of Sandhill cranes this time of year when they do have their little babies," said Bryant.
The baby crane is safe now at the Owls Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife in Odessa. Kris Porter says neighbors and a post on social media helped them rescue the baby.
"It did blow up. We had everybody stopping and looking and they found him before he got hit by a car," Porter said.
She says some people have a lack of respect for wildlife in that area.
"I’ve worked with animals for 35 years, so I’m kind of used to the humanity of people. It could be really really good, but then there is the other end [of people] where the animals that we live around are just a thing," said Porter.
She says sometimes people will inch really close to the cranes, even tap them with their car trying to get them to move. She says that won't work, and is cruel. Patience is the only thing that will allow them to cross safely.
"He is walking along doing his thing, he is thinking open grassland, he doesn’t think of roads and he doesn’t know what a car is," Porter said about the mentality of a crane. "People say why can’t they just pick another territory because it’s ingrained in their mind where they’re supposed to be. They don’t get buildings and roads."
"I don’t like seeing them laid out in the middle of the road because people want slow down out here," said Bryant.
Porter says even though these birds are protected, its hard to catch the drivers who kill them.
"You would literally have to stand there with an FWC officer, see the bird get hit for them to get cited. It’s a huge problem for the officers to have hearsay," she said.
Bryant would like to see the speed limit drop from 55 to 40 or 45. The Florida Department of Transportation says speed limits are set based on the number of traffic lanes but will look into the area.
The Florida Highway Patrol says it will talk with the district to see if it can get more officers out there patrolling.
Porter says that baby will get looked over by folks at Busch Gardens before it gets paired with another rescued baby crane and released after they grow into adults.