A Slim Chance06/15/2023 07:00AM ● By Erin Campbell
From Steamboat Magazine Home Edition 2023
Have you ever seen a rancher rope a crane? That’s what happened last November when a greater sandhill crane was spotted on a ranch in Walden picking at an elk carcass, unable to fly. As part-time residents of the Yampa Valley, this species of crane typically leaves the area in mid-September en route to warmer wintering grounds farther south. As winter approached, it was unusual to see the bird lingering. With the help of some gentle and caring cowboys, the crane was carefully roped and transported to Steamboat Springs by horse trailer.
The injured crane was confirmed to have a broken wing and needed care from local nonprofit Born Free Wildlife Rehabilitation. For the past 30 years, Tracy Bye has cared for wild animals in need with a mission of releasing each one back into the wild. Upon arrival at Born Free, the underweight and injured crane was aptly named Slim, and given a temporary home in a cozy, heated barn.
A crane release in the midst of a Yampa Valley winter – especially this past winter – was not easy, so Tracy asked for help from two local high schoolers who also happen to be expert birders and photographers. Grey Barbier and Noah Brinkman were not only experienced in crane rescue, but also knew exactly where Slim needed to go for her release. Having recently been to Delta, Grey and Noah knew there were thousands of sandhill cranes wintering in the area. A region known for growing corn, Delta sits at an elevation of 4,875 feet and has a mild winter climate. After a successful rehabilitation and with the approval of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Tracy, Grey and Noah left for Delta on Monday, Jan. 9, to release Slim back to her own kind.