Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Check out this seasons "Owner Spotlight" article Subaru Drive Magazine at http://www.drive.subaru.com/ Many thanks to Monteen and her case of education owls for being part of it! Here she is loving on Sam. Please consider supporting her and her non-profit organization hawlktalk.org
It ain’t over till……..
On Sunday evening, around 6:30 pm, I got a call which read on Caller ID "Fannin Regional Hosp". I thought, crap, it's the hospital calling to collect money from me for something they forgot to bill last year! The voice on the other end said "ahh, hi there.....I got your number from the emergency clinic, and I wondered if you could help me". Instantly, I thought, why the heck is someone calling ME from the E-clinic? Did they needed help identify a poisonous snake that bit someone or had one of my friends been in an accident? She went on..."we have a falcon that flew into the window at the hospital and it's just laying here". I said, "Ok....I can come. You are just about 6 minutes from me but I needed to find my gloves and get a crate in the car and I will be on my way". She said: "we will be standing on the side of the hospital near the heliport waiting for you".
I was literally there in around 7 minutes and saw a group of people standing in the cold evening air, no coats, all waiving at me. Two men in blue medical jump suits (obvious pilots) and two nurses in scrubs greeted me. Instantly I saw the bird, face down not moving in the grass. Someone pointed out where it had the collision with the window - there were a lot of scuff marks and feathers lying around.
I knelt down and put my hands around the bird's bluish body, wings folded into his sides. As soon as I flipped him over I knew it was a Coopers because of the coloring and the purple in his mouth. I knew that it was not good as finding this bird face down and lifeless most often indicated severe trauma and there would be little chance of helping it at this point. One of the nurses told me she came out to stand with it because the crows were dive bombing it.
There was little to no reaction from the bird. Eyes mostly closed, mouth open, labored breathing, lifeless legs, claws/talons limp and closed. I quietly said to myself, "oh buddy". In seconds it felt like the temp dropped 10 degrees, as a half dozen nurses and doctors were now gathered around in a huddle.
I told them it was a Coopers Hawk and probably going after his last meal of the day; (maybe of its life), when it flew into the black reflecting window. I told them it looked "pretty low" and that I would do my best.
I thanked them for calling me and told the one nurse I would call her back to get the information for the paperwork. She said to me, "at least he won't be suffering dying out here tonight". There was a huge storm-front coming and we all knew the chances of this bird making it on its own, injured and on the ground was about zero. Knowing nurses and doctors, and how they treat their patients and respond to the situation at hand, they all knew it did not look good and I did not have to say anything more. The mood was somber. One of the nurses asked if she could call me tomorrow for an update and I told her absolutely.
I rolled up a towel, place the bird in the little makeshift nest right side up; (supporting its head and neck), put him in the crate and headed home. I figured the bird was now about 2 hours post impact, and did not hold a chance in the world of recovering. Like the nurse said, I thought, well at least it will have a peaceful passing in a quiet and warm stress free place.
When we got home, I administered oral Metacam with some oral fluids, and gave him an injection of Vit B in his breast. I quickly felt for possible fractures (which there seemed to be none) and laid it back down gently. Unfortunately, there was little to no reaction with the exam, and the only life was the swallowing action when I give it fluids. I did not hold much hope. I decided not to bother it again until the morning.
Around 6:00 am, Monday morning, I went about my morning routine feeding the cats, cleaning litter boxes, signing on my PC and showering. Around 8:30 am, I opened the door to my rehab recovery room to see if I would need to make arrangements for his disposal. I dreaded going in there because it would throw me off the entire day but again, I got myself ready for the worst.
Much to my total surprise and delight I found him standing! At first I could not see his head, and thought that he'd sustained a broken neck, but after saying "buddy are you there", his little head (that was tucked under his wing) came forward and looked right at me. I was pretty shocked and extremely pleased to see him alive yet alone slightly alert. I gave this bird less than a 10% chance to make it through the night and here he was standing!
Based on instructions from my "Muse Monteen", I gave him two small mice doused with medication and fluids about mid-day, (I know...gross huh - but this is the part of rehab that you have to just accept). He cooperated and ate them both with little to no resistance. I put him back in the crate until that evening. Monday around 6:30 pm I check on him again and gave him a second round of medication and a small amount of oral fluids. Now he's showing more signs of life. Good! But not out of the woods yet. Typically with Coopers Hawks, they are one of the hardest to have in recovery or captivity post injury, as they are extremely high strung, uncooperative and defensive by nature. Tell any "Bird of Prey" rehabber or Falconer you have a Coppers Hawk and they will say "I'm sorry!"
Tuesday morning came, and he was still flat footed in his cage although I put a low perch in the crate the night before. He’d not eaten the food I left either so I knew that I would have to muscle him, most likely wrap him like a taco and force feed him in order to get fluids and medication in for this second day.
This time, it was an all out battle. He was using his feet and talons to push me away. In about 5 minutes I got him on his back, wrapped and medicated. I could see that his wings were fully extended and there seemed to be neither breaks nor pelvic injuries. Amazing and such a relief and a GOOD SIGN AGAIN! He was acting everything like an angry Coopers Hawk. VERY VERY GOOD! Back in the carrier until Tuesday night.
I knew that he had one more change to use the perch or I would have to make the hard decision; (along with recommendations from the vet) on if there is a potential for neurological damage and if so he would need to be euthanized. I did not want to keep him going too long in a confined space because he would start to thrash around and injure his plumage or himself further.
Wednesday morning came. I work up, and could not wait to look in his enclosure. This time, he was sound asleep with his head tucked under his wing but...........he was on the perch!!!!!!!!!!!! He was grasping and holding on like a champ!
Today, about 50 hour post rescue, was his liberation day. At 9:30 in the morning, I took his crate to my upper side porch and opened it. He flew to the fence line in about 1 minute, looked around, heard the birds chirping, and in about another minute, took the most beautiful flight about 100 feet away into the protection of the trees. I made a big sigh of relief and felt fulfilled.
What a wonderful experience. Someone asked me why we rehabbers intervene with nature and don’t just allow nature to take its course, especially in this case for a bird that was almost clinically dead. I said, well, for this one bird it makes all the difference in the world. It's not his fault there was a big shiny, black, reflective, cold, hard barrier in his way, confusing him and ultimately could have led to his demise. In this instance, it only cost me my time, and about $15 to rehab him for those three days. It was worth every minute and every penny. It gives me hope and reinforces my belief that I am making a difference. His condition and treatment gave me more knowledge about head trauma injuries, and now I know more about timing, and treatment.
More so than anything, it gave the nurses and doctors who found him and cared enough about him, the satisfaction that because of their actions, they saved a very precious and worthy life. Because of their quick response and tenacity to find someone to help, that kind of compassion allowed this bird to goes on to live a healthy life, hopefully away from windows!
..................so this fat lady was singing this morning, as my little Coopers (at one point who was nicknamed Son of Satin) is doing his birdie thing out there where he belongs – among the trees and in the wild!
I can't believe how many birds of prey I have gotten calls on so far this year!!!!!!!!!!!! No possums, no ground hogs, very few squirrels but the owls and hawks are out of control! So far I have had a hand in the rescue/triage/rehab/transport and/or release of three Screech Owls, two Barred, a Redtail Hawk, a Red Shouldered Hawk, and a Coopers Hawk. I have been helping triage and transport for now until I am licensed. It's been fun and very educational! Below is little Woodstock. He was re-released just under 24 hours post his impact injury, thanks to some great folks in the north GA mountains. They told me they were coming back home late one night from celebrating Val's birthday and she saw him on the road and made her husband stop the car. He had a bad headache but was released back to his home territory within a day. It's EXTREMELY important in rehab to take the exact location address from the surrendering party in order to ensure animals that are injured are re-released back to the same area. Did you know there is a VERY delicate balance with the overall carrying capacity with animals in the wild. We could really mess things up if we release them back to foreign area. Did you know that 20% of the animals taken from the wild, when re-released actually survive. That's why it's critical we release them back to their actual home range, as many of them have mates, as well as have a territory which they carefully have established over their life time. So please think twice before you kidnap ANY animal from the wild; (90% of all babies are NOT abandoned or injured) and call a wildlife rehabber BEFORE you decide to intervene with any wild animal!