VANCOUVER – A sandhill crane, which is a rare sight in the Lower Mainland, may be released back into the wild after losing its leg in a golf accident last year.
“Bunker” lost his leg when it was shattered by a golf ball at a Richmond course.
But now he’s taking his first steps with a prosthetic leg made for him by a U.S. company.
“We’re really happy with how he’s coming along,” said veterinarian Dr. Ken Macquisten.
Macquisten said the crane is adapting well to the prosthetic and taking steps, “which to me indicates it’s really quite comfortable.”
“A two-legged bird doesn’t do very well with one leg,” he added.
When Bunker lost his leg, Macquisten said the first challenge was to figure out if the crane would adapt well to a prosthetic.
Macquisten fitted Bunker with a wood dowel after the operation to amputate his leg, allowing the crane to balance and he was able to take a few steps.
“So the next step was to fashion something a little bit more permanent and comfortable for him, so I went to my shop and we put together a wire-type of apparatus that had acted like a little bit of a basket around the stump,” said Macquisten.
Macquisten then contacted OrthoPets in Denver, CO, which specializes in fitting prosthetic legs for animals. They told him they had never created a leg for a sandhill crane.
Macquisten created a mold of Bunker’s stump, sent it back to OrthoPets and they created a prosthetic.
During the summer, Bunker developed an infection in his good foot, likely due to a pressure sore said Macquisten, but with this new prosthetic he is able to distribute his weight on both legs and can even pivot on his new foot.
“So that’s given us some optimism that maybe, just maybe, we can start thinking about a possible release in the near future,” said Macquisten. If he is released, Bunker would be set free at the golf course, pending management approval.