A man who lives on Rio Del Mar Boulevard in the unincorporated town of Aptos saw the injured bird sitting on his fence Friday morning and called the Santa Cruz-based Native Animal Rescue for help.
Wildlife experts at the nonprofit organization helped rescue the heron and brought it to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, according to Jay Holcomb, director of the research center.
The research center specializes in treating and rehabilitating aquatic birds.
A bullet had fractured a bone in the bird's wing and veterinarians spent three hours Saturday working to repair it, Holcomb said.
The bird survived the surgery and was alert and standing up in its cage today, which is a good sign, Holcomb said, "but you never know how bones are going to heal."
It is too soon to tell if the bird will be able to fly again, Holcomb said.
Although herons generally don't do well in captivity, the center successfully rehabilitated another great blue heron about a year ago that was found in the town of Santa Cruz. That bird had been shot multiple times, Holcomb said.
Veterinarians are estimating that this bird could be at the center for about four to six weeks while it recovers and its care and feeding is estimated to cost about $3,000.
The rescue center has set up a fund where people can donate money to help pay for the heron's care and treatment.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Game is asking anyone who saw the shooter or has any information about who might have fired on the bird to call the department's tip line at (888) 334-2258.
Great blue herons, which can stand between 3 feet and 4 feet tall and have a wingspan of more than 6 feet, are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and under state laws that prohibit killing or attempting to kill any non-game bird, according to Patrick Foy, a game warden with the Department of Fish and Game.
Under state law, the maximum penalty for shooting a great blue heron would be six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, Foy said.
If the shooter is found, the case could also be prosecuted under federal law by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Foy said.