WATCH: Great Blue Heron rehabbed and released at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island

Meet Floyd! He is a Great Blue Heron who was found on the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier about three weeks ago with a mass of fishing line, hooks, and bobbers wrapped around his leg. 

  • He was just released last week at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island after some rehab at the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge. 

“Thankfullyrescuers from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge were able to safely capture Floyd, take him to their shorebird rehabilitation habitat, and give him the care he needed with treatment and antibiotics,” said Misty Rae Ruthrauff, Marketing Director for Saltwater Restaurants.

Saltwater Restaurants’ ongoing S.E.A. (Safety – Environment – Activities) initiativeassists in programs that support beach conservation and welfare campaigns along the Emerald Coast. 

  • Last year, Saltwater Restaurants, Inc. donated $10,000 to Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) to build a shorebird rehabilitation habitat and support the rehabilitation costs for shorebirds that have become injured or orphaned along the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Panhandle area.

“The Great Blue Heron is a bird commonly seen on our beaches, even within the bay and the estuary,” explains Jessica Valek, Okaloosa Coastal Resource Coordinator. “They can be seen all over the place, walking along the beach and checking things out. They’re gorgeous, they’re always looking for food, and they are so much fun to see.”

What’s really unique and important about the Great Blue Heron, especially here in our Florida waters and environment, is that scientists use them as an indicator species. 

“If a Great Blue Heron is inhabiting a specific habitat, that means the habitat, ecosystem, and environment are probably doing pretty well,” explains Valek. “It is a very good thing that they are here on our beaches. The more we see, the better.”

Valek added that if there is an area they used to inhabit for a while but are not there as much anymore, that means that ecosystem might be declining for whatever reason. 

  • “So they are very important in letting scientists know how our ecosystem is doing,” she said.

Ruthrauff and Valek met at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island this past Wednesday to release Floyd.“Floyd is feeling fine and ready to fly,” said Ruthrauff.  Lucky bystanders were able to watch Floyd as he was released and flew out over the Gulf.

To learn more about the S.E.A. initiative, click here.


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