Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Do the chickens have large talons?"

This afternoon, I went out to do a shift at my volunteer job. When I got there, not much was going on, just the regular chores, scrubbing floors, cleaning cages, prepping food. No one was in the treatment room, so I poked my head into the Critical Care Ward (CCW) and said hi to one of the other volunteers who was cleaning the floor. After the customary "Hello's, How are you doings?" she asked if I had seen the new Bald Eagle we got in. I hadn't so I walked over to see him. He was sitting at the back of his cage, and I could tell his right wing was injured by the green bandage on it. He was a smaller eagle (~4300g) but notheless still a huge bird compared to what we typically deal with. I admired him, and noted that due to his plumage, he probably was just getting to be mature, probably in his fifth or sixth year of life.

We went about our normal chores, feeding, medicating and cleaning up after all the other birds. The only things left to do for the day were to give the eagle some fluid, as well as change his bandage. The veterinarian wasn't around, so we just kind of hung out for a while waiting on her to drop by the center. She finally called and told us she would be by shortly and we could work on him.

When she got in, she told us she had been in surgery on a Cockatiel. She told us to go get the eagle so we could begin work on him. The other two volunteers who are both girls didn't seem to into grabbing him, so I grabbed the special, extra thick eagle gloves and headed into the CCW.

When I opened his cage, he was with his back to me. I eventually coaxed him into turned around so that I had a clear shot at his feet. ** After a few seconds to get myself psyced up to grab a 9.5 pound bird with a 7 feet wingspan, I thrust my hand and grab for his ankles. I capture him, pull him out of the cage and into a safe area where he can thrash and not injure himself further. He thrashes his wings, flails his head, and gnashes his talons. At one point, he even got my hand with his beak. It hurt through the thick leather.

Once he was under control and I was able to cradle him, we carried him into the treatment room. Doc, cut away his bandages to reveal a nasty wound that was beginning to fester. Without his system pumped full of antibiotics, he would be goner.

Treatment included undressing, washing, and redressing the wound. Which was all very painful, this was evident because he began to thrash and try to get loose from my grip. We gave him a shot of Butorphenal (SP) to help ease the pain, and take the edge off. Then, we gave him fluids and put him back into his cage to rest for the night.

The good news is that even though part of his wing is dying, and will have to be removed, he will probably live. He just won't be returned to the wild. His options now, are to become an education bird and do outreach, or to become a blood donor for other eagles who are turned into rehab centers.

It is not clear how he became injured. I don't' think he was found near a highway, he doesn't appear to have been caught in a fence, and the X-rays were negative for a gun shot wound. It doesn't appear as though there was any malicious intent to cause his injury. But, at least he got to us, and we will be able to help him. At least he is getting the care he needs. At least he didn't end up like these eagles.

I'm not scheduled to volunteer again until next week, but I'll try to go out and get a picture of him.

It was really neat working on him. Working with all the birds is fun, but it is especially neat when such a special bird comes in like a Bald Eagle.

** It's at this point, as I stare at the birds massive talons that in my head I hear Napoleon Dynamite say, "Do the chickens have large talons?"

Mood: Feeling like I've made a difference.
Music: New Found Glory


Blogger Dacia said...

When I was in high school I volunteered at a wildlife rehab center and worked with birds of prey. Never had a bald eagle, but I worked with a bunch of great horned owls, red tailed hawks and turkey vultures. They are really incredible creatures.

8:23 AM  

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