While we know that we are doing the best wildlife rehabilitation possible, we can’t always prove it. But, sometimes we can. Here’s a great example.
On September 15, 2012 our Hotline received a call about a bald eagle at Canyon Lake (see blog of 11-17-12). He was on the shore and had been for days and was being fed by benevolent fishermen who realized he wasn’t able to fly much less hunt for himself. To add to the drama, another bald eagle was flying above and everyone assumed it was a mate. The reality was that he was in a territorial dispute with the eagle above who wanted this bachelor bald out of its territory. But, he wasn’t going anywhere in his condition.
John G. answered the call from the Hotline and was dispatched to rescue the eagle which he did. The eagle was assessed and found to have a broken humerus….not a good diagnosis for a bird as large as an eagle with the demanding needs of strong flight. The humerus is a large bone in the upper wing and is critical to the act of flying and needs to be exceptionally strong to handle the stresses of flight….breaks are a challenge to heal and often leave the bird unable to fly if they aren’t handled perfectly. Ouch!
Dr. Orr performed the surgery and pinned the wing; time to heal the bone was allowed; supportive care given; and strengthening time in a flight cage was provided when it was appropriate. And, shazaam, the eagle was flying with precision and strength to everyone’s delight. But, what you can see in a sixty foot flight cage with forced aerobic training can’t always duplicate what they are confronted with in the wild.
Now, as it happens, the Game and Fish eagle experts were interested in finding out where these bachelor eagles go when they have no mate and have no territory. The data is very sketchy and inquiring minds must know. So, the healed bald eagle was fitted with telemetry that was designed to stay with the bird and was solar powered. The fear of battery loss was not an issue. As long as the sun was out the bird could be tracked in its travels.
We do have a great deal of data about where the babies go after they fledge. In late June and July they high tail it to areas like the northwest, Minnesota, Michigan and even down to Baja, to find plentiful foods when their hunting skills are still at the novice level. They start coming back to their birth areas in the fall. The do this all by themselves….they are hard wired to make this migration.
But, we didn’t have any idea where the bachelors, those new adults with no mate and no territory, got off to…they seem to disappear…but to destinations unknown. And, by now you are probably wondering what this has to do with good rehab. Stay with me.
So, the eagle is fitted with solar powered telemetry in January after a couple of months of rehabbing a broken wing. He was released at Lake Roosevelt where other bachelor eagles are known to hang out during part of the year. Then he left the lake and flew towards Young, AZ….almost 190 miles. The next reading, a short while later, had him at the AZ Strip. Then the next reading, 2 days later, found him 750 miles away from Arizona in Central Oregon, where he remains today….lapping it up in the life of luxury…all of this on a deftly repaired badly broken wing. This happens when the break was fresh and expertly pinned, when supportive care is done correctly, when strength building is properly managed…in other words when good rehab takes place. This is proof positive of what we already know. Good wildlife rehabilitation doesn’t happen everywhere, but it does at Liberty Wildlife!
The bonus is that now the local eagle experts know where at least one bachelor goes to hang out before settling down to the serious business of fighting for a territory, winning a mate, and continuing the cycle so that the sky will remain blessed with our national symbol.
And, one last thing…it was reported on Sunday that a bald eagle was seen eating a rabbit a block and a half from Liberty Wildlife. Now for those of you who don’t know, we aren’t near a lake or a canal and certainly not ocean, but there it was feeding so close to us….I can’t help but wonder if it is one of the ones we have raised…returning to its”sort of” natal territory….home at least for the time we were helping it. If someone says there is a bald eagle in their back yard….don’t scoff like I often have….it very well might have been one.
This Week at Liberty
The intake total for the year is now at 1498.
Last week Carol was working the Hotline and got 22 calls on one shift…and that’s probably not a record! The Orphan Care volunteers are valiantly struggling to keep abreast of things and the other support groups (Med Services, Daily Care, Night Owl team, Hotline and R&T) are working through the rising temperatures to keep the well-oiled machine that is Liberty Wildlife humming. This week, I highlight some more of the youthful patients that are in our care at this time…
The well trained and amply experienced Med Services team at Liberty always provide skilled care for the animals who arrive at our window. From the injured harris’ hawks to the gorgeous gilded flicker, the treatment is the best that can be provided. (It’s easy to see why the feathers of the flicker are powerful medicine to the native Americans to whom we, as the Non-eagle Feather Repository, supply these treasures when we are able.)
Sometimes the patients are so small that special materials are improvised to aid in their treatment. While a small width of ‘vet-wrap’ can be used on a small dove leg, for a baby quail with an injured leg, a piece of scotch tape is sometimes used for splinting material. This provides the stabilization required while not adding a lot of weight to tiny injured bones.
Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine how some of the birds ever survive what they have to go through after they hatch. Black crowned night herons are a good example. The ungainly little birds usually hatch high up in trees near water and sometimes fall a long way as they leave their nests. With long legs and long necks, the stresses of a high-G drop can lead to a myriad of problems. But that makes them stronger overall and they turn into beautiful birds as adults. (I discovered that doing a Google search for “baby black crowned night heron” will turn up some of my photos from previous TW@L blogs!)
AND NOW, THIS WEEK’S BABY GALLERY…
A safe and pleasant Memorial Day from TW@L!!!!!