Hoots, Howls, and Hollers
In May of 1993 a volunteer at Liberty Wildlife saw him lumbering, as only a desert tortoise can do, down the middle of Cactus and Scottsdale Roads. Granted those pathways were smaller then…mere roads rather than the major thoroughfares that they are today… but tortoise vs the hurtling beast on wheels is still no match. He was snatched up in the nick of time and brought in to Liberty Wildlife.
Even at that time he had the look of a weathered old one. He had a hole in his shell as if he had tangled with a dog or possibly a coyote. The scales on his front legs were worn as if he had spent time trying to escape from some unknown place. He looked as if he had been around the block a few times. And there he was cruising down the road in search of more adventure or a lady friend.
The regulations say that if a tortoise is handled or brought into captivity it cannot be released back into the wild, an effort to prohibit potential diseases from spreading into a wild population of tortoises. So we applied to have “Grandpa” added to our education group.
Since then he has hibernated half of the year like all good tortoises do and educated a delighted public the rest of the time. In 2004 we noticed that he was not eliminating correctly and x-rays showed that he had bladder stones. Bummer! Dr. Orr performed surgery to remove the stones by going through the lateral side on the back leg…easier than the more evasive surgery going through the shell. He got well and went back to his normal life of sleeping half the year and educating the rest of the time.
We began to notice that he was sleeping longer and often had to be awakened from his hibernation. Grandpa was getting old. We noticed again that he was not eliminating correctly and new x rays showed more stones. Dr. Driggers agreed to do the surgery this time and because of adhesions and scar tissue from the last surgery it was necessary to go through the shell. Apparently it is possible to tell a lot about a tortoise from the condition of the shell. And, what we were told was that Grandpa was probably between 70 and 75 years old!! He is in moderate kidney failure and probably doesn’t have a lot of years left in him. He won’t hibernate this year and is regularly given subcutaneous fluids to make his life as easy as possible.
Now lest you think this is one sad story, let me tell you, it isn’t. Grandpa has been one cool beast. He had a home in the walkway of the eagle enclosure and to our golden eagle, Phoenix, he was a terrifying thing…possibly a walking rock or something worse. Whenever Phoenix, a grand predator himself, saw the grazing tortoise he would hackle and flee to the rear of his flight cage…Grandpa ruled. Whenever there was a female tortoise on the property awaiting placement, Grandpa spent relentless hours attempting to escape his enclosure to keep a date with the lady down the aisle way…and guess what…he usually was nabbed scurrying down the way hoping to reach the visitor before he was caught.
He has been around for a long time. Think what all he has seen in those 70+years….no talk of polluted skies, global warming, polar vortexes, and maybe no atomic bombs…who knows? What we do know is that among other things he has been a stud-ly guy, a tormentor of golden eagles and an A-One educator. He will go into semi-retirement and spend hours dreaming about his past adventures, hopefully with a big smile on his face.
This Week @ Liberty
The intake total is now at 236.
We’re moving on with a few patients, and doing more Educational programs and training for our volunteers. This all comes along with the usual rehab work and projects that recur during the year. Susie and her OC team are getting ready for the kick-off of the Baby Bird Season at the annual Baby Bird Shower on March 21. The Hyatt shows and the Verde Canyon Rail Road programs are going on nicely, and everyone is preparing for Wishes for Wildlife 2015 in May. If you pledged support for the Birdies for Charities program at the WMPO golf tournament, you should have gotten your statement last week (I guess the weather held down the number of birdies this year as my own bill was smaller than it has been!) In any case, things are moving forward so let’s take a look at what happened recently…
A short while ago, Liberty held an advanced class for Rescue and Transport volunteers who wanted to expand their knowledge. The main thrust of the class was waterfowl and some techniques that have been known to work in rescuing ducks, geese and pelicans. It was a full house with SRO seating as the volunteers exchanged ideas and stories about the added challenge of rescuing birds who can swim to avoid capture. Thanks to all who attended!
Speaking of waterfowl, the day after the class was when we got the call about the 5 swans and their encounter with the oil on a lake in Sun City. All five were brought to Liberty for “degreasing” and feeding until the lake was cleaned of the oil which finally occurred last week. Tim and I drove them back to their home lake in Sun City and we left 5 very happy swans behind as they again cruised their familiar waters, much to the delight of the resident homeowners.
Another cormorant arrived last week totally entangled with red fishing line. The nylon string was wrapped around his feet, legs, and neck in what surely would have killed him without our intervention. Luckily, he was found and rescued soon after his exposure and the line had not been on him long enough to cause permanent injury. Rebecca and Alex were able to remove the filament and he was allowed to go into the outside waterfowl enclosure to recuperate and de-stress prior to release.
The pens on the north side of the facility looked and sounded even more like a barnyard than usual last week as a miniature goat showed up at the door. It seems she was a pet that had gotten loose from a local neighbor, went on walkabout, and followed a man who was out and about himself. Knowing what we do, he stopped by the facility and we took the animal in for safe keeping while posting signs around the neighborhood. One of our volunteers posted a notice on FaceBook and soon the friendly goat was back with its owners after making some new friends along the way.
Recently a great horned owl came in with an injury to its left eye. Calls were made to the clinic that handles our special eye problems and surgery was scheduled. Prior to the operation, Dr. Urbanz prescribed some soothing ointment which the Med Services team applied daily. Last week the owl had surgery on its eye and is now doing well as it recuperates at the Liberty facility.
Sometimes we have a bird in rehab that is ready for release – except it has damaged some of its flight feathers. If we have a supply of similar feathers on hand, we use a process called “imping” or implanting. This is where a donor feather is mechanically joined to the host bird’s existing broken shaft. A strut of wood or other light, strong material is glued into the new shaft and then the other end is in turn glued into the one still attached to the bird. This natural prosthetic works very well and will remain with the bird until it molts again, replacing it with a whole new feather. Last week, Jan and Rebecca performed this process on several birds at Liberty, including kestrels and cooper’s hawks.
Never let it be said that Liberty doesn’t fully appreciate all of our volunteers – and all they do for us! Recently the Friday team was treated to a buffet of good food by the team lead who wanted them to know how highly they are regarded by everyone! Carol took this picture of Donna and Cecile enjoying the spread of goodies as they worked.
Someone from Texas recently brought in a baby fox squirrel that had somehow hitched a ride to Phoenix with them. The little guy has become a favorite in the ICU and is in the running for “Cutest critter on the property” – at least this month!