March 6, 2012

It has been a weird winter so far and we are anticipating an early wild baby season.  I wanted to remind our wildlife rescuers of what we are currently able to accept and how we need to manage certain species.

We accept all baby mammals, but caution rescuers to not directly handle bats, as we did have a RABIES POSITIVE bat brought into the office last summer.  We do not recommend attempting to feed baby mammals, as most are dehydrated when presented to us and full strength (or the wrong type of) formula can cause severe, sometimes fatal diarrhea in already dehydrated babies.

We accept all species of birds-the vast majority of our wild bird species are federally protected and therefore governed by strict guidelines.  For these species, this is how cases are handled after a thorough medical assessment (often including radiographs):

  • Mild window strikes, weather-related hypothermia (mostly songbirds and small raptors)-bird is given fluids, other supportive meds as needed, rested in an incubator overnight to reevaluate for possible immediate release the next morning.
  • Minor injuries-treated as needed, transferred to a federally-licensed rehabilitator for further care and reconditioning for release.
  • Major injuries/orthopedic injuries requiring surgical repair-if the bird has a high chance of release, we will provide orthopedic surgery (and all followup evaluation necessary) and place with a rehabilitator.  If the bird is not likely to be releasable based on it’s injury, we will network with rehabilitators to determine if a permanent captive placement is possible before proceeding with definative care.  Unfortunately, if the bird cannot be placed, we are required by federal law to provide humane euthanasia.
  • Illness-birds that present to us not injured but obviously ill fall into two categories:  Contagious diseases such as avian poxvirus, trichomonas in doves, mycoplasma conjunctivitis in house finches-as these pose a substantial risk to the rest of the population and treatment cannot eliminate a carrier state, these birds are humanely euthanized.   Many other cases are treatable-for instance, we had a Great Horned Owl come in last year with a trichomonas infection (this is the gorgeous owl whose picture is on our facebook page).  As raptors are not the natural host species for this parasitic infection, she had to have acquired it from feeding on an infected dove or pigeon (we did experience an outbreak in these species last year).  Her mouth was full of plaques so that she could no longer eat and her eyes were crusted shut.  She had crawled into a home seeking a warm place to die.  We really thought we would have to euthanize her, but when we determined her only real problem was the infection, we treated her aggressively, surgically debrided the plaques from her mouth, and pretty soon she was trying to kill us like any self-respecting Great Horned Owl should.   She was released at the mouth of East Canyon.

We also accept non-protected species such as starlings and house sparrows and will hand-raise those babies ourselves as rehabilitators will not take them.  We have a flight cage so they can learn to feed themselves and have a soft release.  For rescuers wishing to learn to hand-raise these species we do provide training once we have determined the birds are not of a protected species (it is illegal for anyone to have protected birds in their possession, no matter how well meaning, without proper licensing).

A special note regarding pigeons:  We received a large number of young feral pigeons last year.  For those that are completely feathered and eating on their own, we can finish raising them and get them released, but for the really young ones that still need parental care/hand-feeding, we do not have the resources to provide this.  We sadly had a few we had to euthanize last year. It breaks our hearts to have to do this!  Pigeons can be discouraged from nesting in a particular location by simply repeatedly destroying/pulling down the nest, or eggs can be placed in the freezer to stop them from developing.  If you are more persistent than the parent birds, they will eventually give up and move on.   If there is anyone interested in accepting baby pigeons to raise, please contact us.

I will try to post updates of interest here, so check back here or on our facebook page for an announcement.  If anyone has any particular questions that may be of interest to our clientele in general that you would like me to address in my infinite spare time (ha ha), feel free to submit them on our contact page.

Dr. Harris