I had intended to resume twice-monthly updates this month, with the end of the holidays, but life and work intervened. Editing schedule was fairly heavy, end-of-year reports to state and feds are due (and still not completed) and I was trying to get everything organized for my annual pilgrimage to New York.
The poor little flyer I ranted about last month began having seizures again, one after another, and I ended up having to euthanize him. This is what happens when unlicensed individuals with no training decide they can attempt to rehab an animal. The poor fellow lost his life because of someone else’s stupidity and arrogance.
The cat-attacked robin, however, had a nice set of tail feathers grow back in. As soon as they were long enough to give him an in-flight rudder, I released him. He was quite a happy camper!
The three female red tails were transferred to Bubba & Friends
raptor rehab, two for flight conditioning and one for assessment as an educational bird. The first year’s broken wing isn’t healing properly and it looks as if she’ll be nonreleasable. At last report from Steve Hicks of Bubba & Friends
, the two mature birds are doing well in flight pens and the first year looks promising as an ed bird.
The screech with the broken wing will not be releasable; he will also become an ed bird. Fortunately, he also has a fairly good personality…for a screech…
I did, however receive another screech who was releasable after a few days’ observation. His intake involves one of those “What???” tales…The call came in at 10:30 pm. The caller had hit a “mama” owl but rescued the “baby”. This was just before Christmas, and while there might possibly have been eggs in the nest, this was the wrong time of year for “baby” owls, much less “baby” owls out of the nest and flying around. I guessed it was actually a screech who’d been chased by a barred owl, as barreds will eat screeches. I explained to the caller what to do for the night, as we were a good distance from each other.
The next morning, I met the caller and companions halfway and sure enough, when they uncovered the owl, it was a good-sized female screech. I explained that this was an adult bird and asked what the larger owl looked like. The people, however, were still fixated on the screech—were screeches extinct? Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue to keep the smart-arse replies from popping out…I explained that if they were extinct, they wouldn’t have a living, breathing specimen in the cage and asked again what the larger owl looked like. “I dunno—an owl. We thought it was a duck at first.”
Duck…owl…I’m not seeing the resemblance there. I pull out my cell phone and show them a photo of a barred owl. “That’s it! Looks just like a duck!”
Seriously, folks, I can’t make up stuff this good!
ANYway, the “extinct, duck-chased” screech stayed with me for a few days for observation, as the callers shouldn’t have been able to capture the bird had there not been some sort of issue. All I could figure was shock and exhaustion, as she ate well for me and was alert and aggressive.
I also received three more flying squirrels, after having to get the game warden involved. The caller this time was from a county where there is a licensed rehabber, whom I know well. She was out of commission for health reasons and had referred the people with the flyers to me. I was more than willing to take the little rascals, and the caller said they’d had them for only a few hours. I explained what to do to get them through the night and made arrangements to meet them halfway, with time to be determined the next morning.
The next morning, no call…I called the number I had…No answer. I kept trying and finally got through and they began hemming and hawing. I knew they planned to keep the flyers, even though the only care advice I gave them was Pedialyte or sugar water for the night, until they could get them to me. I called the game warden for that area and explained the situation. Less than 15 minutes later, I received a call asking me if I could come all the way to pick up the flyers, as the callers had suddenly developed car problems—not enough gas or some such excuse. After bringing the game warden into the picture, I was certainly not abandoning these babies, so I agreed to drive all the way.
In the meantime, I called the other rehabber to apprise her of the situation and double-check their tale. Turns out they’d called her 24 hours before they’d gotten in touch with me, asking how to raise the flyers. She told them it was against state law, that she couldn’t take them, and referred them to me. When I met the people and picked up the flyers, I mentioned that I knew they’d had the babies for 48 hours, and they swore this was not true. Whatever…I asked what they’d been feeding aside from sugar water. They’d “looked online” and “saw to give them nuts”, but all they had was applesauce.
So…for 48 hours, these young, growing flyers had the equivalent of an all-candy diet. Folks, the Internet is NOT the source for information on feeding wildlife. There’s all sorts of crap out there that will kill or seriously debilitate a wild animal if you follow the instructions you find online! Applesauce and nuts are CANDY for squirrels, not real, nutritious food. Would you feed your child nothing but candy??
At any rate, I’ve had the little rascals for nearly a month now, and they’ve had a proper diet and are doing just fine. They and the older flyer are all together now and are wilding up nicely. By early spring, when the weather warms up, they should be releasable to join the colony of flyers that lives in the woods around my house.
This Eastern towhee wasn’t as lucky. He came in with no apparent injuries, nothing indicating pesticide poisoning—no real reason for him to be grounded. X-rays revealed nothing, but his tail skewed to the right, so we guessed he was a window-strike victim and gave him something to reduce any swelling that might have occurred as a result of the surmised window strike. He died less than 12 hours after intake, and we’re still not sure why.
This red shoulder came in Christmas Eve. The finder saw the car in front of him clip the bird and not even slow down, so he stopped and called 911, who called me. While nothing appeared to be broken and there was no bleeding from any orifices on intake, he apparently had internal injuries, as he died shortly after I got him home.
On New Year’s Eve, I received a barred owl who’d gotten hung in a barbed wire fence. I shudder when I hear those words, because usually the entangled bird—most often a great horned or barred owl—will have a totally mangled wing, calling for euthanasia. This guy was lucky; he had no breaks and minimal raw flesh, so after a week or so of R&R at LWR, he was good to go. No photos of his release; he launched his feathered butt out of the box like there was a rocket beneath him and headed straight for the densest thicket he could find!
Over the long weekend, I made my annual pilgrimage to NYC and met up with quite a few of the folks I’d been chatting with on the NYC/NYU hawkcam. To my delight, the Long Island rehabbers, Bobby & Cathy Horvath, were also able to join us. Bobby & Cathy and I had been chatting/emailing for several months and had planned to try and meet because we share similar philosophies on wildlife rehab. Despite the frigid temps, the Horvaths were able to provide the chatters with an educational program and we were able to talk shop for a while. It’s always nice to extend your network of professional contacts to include folks who work in a totally different setting!
While in the city, I received a call from a game warden back home with a broad winged hawk who’d been found near railroad tracks in his home base city. I explained what he needed to do until I could get home to pick up the bird and since I was dealing with a game warden, my instructions were actually followed!
The broad wing, a female based on weight and foot size, has a right-wing injury; X-rays showed no breaks or dislocations, so we’re operating on the assumption that she has one of two issues: soft tissue injury or a fractured scapula, which doesn’t always show in an x-ray. The treatment for both is basically the same: time and meds. She’s also very thin so I’m treating for capillaria, as well. Keep your fingers crossed for this lady as we continue to monitor her situation.
And just today I got a call from near the Georgia-Florida line about a screech owl extricated from barbed wire. I explained that I could meet the caller halfway and he balked at driving an hour to meet me, so I referred him to another rehabber about the same distance away, one of the five of us south of Atlanta who’re licensed for raptors. I’ll be honest; it irritates the crap out of me when people call with an injured, ill or orphaned animal and then don’t have the decency to meet me or another rehabber halfway. And I’ll lay you odds he didn’t contact the other rehabber, either, as the last comment the caller made was that he was near Okefenokee and was waiting on someone from there to get back with him. NO ONE connected with Okefenokee Swamp is a licensed rehabber. I’ve been through this in past years with people from that area, and I pointed out to the caller that this could create problems for everyone concerned—the caller as well as the person at Okefenokee he surrendered the bird to. Didn’t seem to matter to him, and to be quite frank, at some point you just have to pick your battles. The bird was more than likely, based on his description, going to require euthanasia. As harsh as it sounds, it just wasn’t worth my time and gas to drive nearly to Florida and back to retrieve a screech who would then require another trip in the opposite direction to be put down. That would have taken up the better part of my day, and I do have other animals under my care who DO have a chance at release and need my attention. Sometimes it’s a matter of gritting your teeth and reminding yourself that you not only can’t save them all; you also can’t be responsible for rescuing them all. And yes, that reality sucks—on both counts.
I’ll have all the 2011 stats done by the next update, for those of you who like looking at numbers.