I was taloned this morning by a Red-tailed hawk. This hawk tuned up at the Cornell Wildlife Heath Center (WHC) a few days ago in someone's truck; they had found the bird on the side of the road eating road-kill and seemingly unable to fly. The hawk was in great body condition but some swelling over the wrist joint, and few X-rays later revealed that it has some sort of dislocation and reshaping of the ulna. It's unclear whether this is an old injury and the bird has been doing just fine, or if it's a newer injury and it will effect the bird's ability to survive in the wild. All I know is that almost 12 hours later and the base of my right thumb aches! The bird is full of energy and very "bright, alert & responsive", or "BAR" in veterinary speak, which is good, but makes it a handful! I was taking it out of its cage to administer its medications, and it grabbed the fleshy base of my thumb. it happened quickly, and there are just a few small incision marks and little blood, but damn, those talons must have gone deeper that I realized! Ow!
In the cage next door is my dear Christmas angel, Herodotus. We don't name animals, for many reasons, but this lovely Barred Owl somehow begged for a more personal identity than case 740411. He was brought in just after Christmas after someone saw him fall out of a tree. He was in really bad shape, appeared to be missing an eye, and was almost euthanized on the spot. However, he had no broken bones, so I asked if he could have 24 hours. We had had to put down 3 other owls over Christmas who all came to us with badly broken wings, and I wanted to try to save at least one. Well, less than 24 hours later after intense fluid therapy, his eye had inflated. It was clearly beyond repair, but at least it meant that he was rehydrating. Apparent dizziness& disorientation on day2 led us to suspect that the infection in the bad eye was spreading to the central nervous system, but after 12 hours of antibiotic treatment, he was standing up again. When an animal is as emaciated as Herodotus, you can't feed them too much or they can die. So, little by little we fed Herodotus with special formula, very diluted at first, and now a week later he is eating bits of mice all on his own! See picture!
And this is a picture of Lucy Goosey. Of course, it is uncertain if she IS a she, but it seems like she somehow! Lucy is a Canada goose, who came to us around Thanksgiving with a broken leg and a broken wing, both on the right side. Both were repaired by the superstar Cornell wildlife vets, and look how well she looks after 6 weeks! She has also slowly come to think of the treatment area at Cornell as her home and often wanders about if her cage door is open. this is good physical therapy for her, and she is getting better by the day. As someone who has had to deal with orthopedic surgery, I am very sympathetic!
Sadly, today we had to put down a paralyzed Red-tailed hawk and a Canada goose whose entire humerus (that's the arm bone) was sticking out of its wing. Both of them had no chance of recovering a life with dignity. After all, it's not just about if these wild animals can survive, but if they can survive and have a good quality of life. Every time Lucy walked by this other goose's cage he would check her out. I find that species recognition somehow very wonderful.
We also received 2 Eastern Screech Owls today from rehabilitators who need to have their severe eye injuries checked. Stay tuned on that.
And another Barred Owl is just about ready to go to a rehabilitator, the step before being re-released. She came to us a few weeks ago with severe wing lacerations and nerve damage that affected her toes; they couldn't move on their own and without toes and talons, raptors cannot survive (NB: raptor beaks may look super scary, but it's their toes and talons that are the real danger!). But after a few weeks, and specially designed shoes, this bird is doing great and has become a real demanding, beak clacking (that’s what owls will do if they are annoyed with you), mouse eating wild animal...and that's the goal! We call her Click-Clack or Clacky! I plan to bring her to a rehabilittor this weekend, who, in exchange, will give me two more owls to bring to Cornell (they need eye check-ups too- owls seem to have a lot of eye injuries), and send me back with my first patients for Wild Things Sanctuary: a Blue-spotted salamander & a Northern flying squirrel! yippppeee!