Searching For A Bird’s Eye View

The majority of our blogs are written from the perspective of patient caregiver or community educator. We describe patients and their condition, or explain various ways we should (or shouldn’t) interact with wildlife – particularly as it relates to urban settings. Sarah, a Thursday PM volunteer, takes a twist to our standard writings and contemplates her relationship to our wild patients as she writes about it from how she might imagine their point of view.

“The other morning, I woke with a sniffle and a sneeze. At first I blamed it on inhaling too much incense cedar pollen when arranging festive greenery for the holidays. But half a day and tons of sneezes later, I knew I was just sick, suffering from what turned out to be a full-blown sinus infection.

Of course, being sick meant missing my last Chintimini volunteer shift of 2017. As I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself for not getting to clean bird poop off walls or behead dead mice for a raptor’s dinner, I suddenly realized that I could look at being sick as an opportunity to relate to the winged and non-winged convalescents at Chintimini Wildlife Center (CWC) in an entirely a new way. For the record: I do not eat mice and I generally manage to not poop on walls. Those aren’t the areas of relating I’m getting at. Rather, it’s that I could not reliably gauge my caregiver’s intentions toward me as I recovered.

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It’s true my caregiver is a loving, domesticated (at times unscrupulous) beast, and there does exist greater understanding between domesticated animals and humans relative to that between wild animals and humans. Even so, how can I really know whether my cat was sleeping on my feet to keep them cozy OR if it she was merely setting an ‘alarm’ to ensure she wouldn’t miss a potential feeding opportunity if I got up to rewarm my tea? Being on the other side of this inter-species interaction made me wonder: If I can’t discern my beloved cat’s intentions, how can I presume to understand the thoughts of injured wildlife anymore than they can understand mine?

One of CWC’s primary goals is to provide “a place where impacted wildlife can receive quality care while being treated with the respect and admiration that is their due.” BOTH domesticated and wild animals deserve respect; however, the ways in which we express those values look very different in practice.

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You won’t find volunteers with bigger hearts than those of CWC. And it is wonderful to see how rewarding it is for community members who successfully deliver struggling wildlife to safety. Empathy is such a rush!! It just makes you want to help every single patient in every way possible!! This is such a good thing…to a point.

Such states of unbridled empathy also come with the risk of forgetting that our patients are, in fact, wild creatures, not pets or babies to be held and petted and talked to.

Handling wildlife in this manner can potentially cause even the very best of intentions to backfire. But more than simply acknowledging our inability to read animals’ minds, we need also to realize, internally, that empathy is not a license to thrust human conceptions of ‘soothing care’ onto creatures completely unaccustomed to them.

This fundamental respect for wildlife is not limited to volunteers at wildlife care centers, nor is it limited only to encounters with sick, injured, or lost wildlife.

Rather, we all share the responsibility of treating wildlife with the utmost respect and awe. They are not just around to pose with you for selfies! If you find yourself struggling in the quest to tame your empathy, the following ‘approximations’ may be an illuminating place to start:

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Can You Relate?
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To understand why injured, lost, or sick wildlife don’t seem ‘to like’ you:
Imagine waking to a strange environment with no clue as to how you got there. Notice the creatures hovering above you. Didn’t you just see these guys in a re-run of The X-Files? Why are they just staring at you? Oh no, are they poking you?! Personally, if I woke up to find myself kidnapped by aliens in a real-life X-Files scenario I might find it a little disconcerting.

To understand why wildlife patients don’t understand that we’re trying to
help them:
Remember how scary it was to get vaccinations as a child, not understanding that it was actually in your best interest? There’s a reason the nurse had to lure you into the exam room with lollipops.

To understand why maintaining healthy fear of humans is desirable:
Do you remember when you learned not to touch a hot stovetop? Animals released to the wild must continue to avoid humans in the future, possibly saving their or their offsprings’ lives.”

Sarah, Thursday PM Volunteer

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Bald Eagle – Patient #18-0035

Every patient who comes through the doors of Chintimini’s clinic is special, no matter what size or species. From the smallest newborn squirrel to a large bobcat; scaled snakes, furry raccoons, and all of our feathered patients – each one is cared for in the hopes of a full recovery.

There’s something to be said, however, about eagles. They’re majestic. They’re symbolic, fierce predators. And each year we take in a few that we are privileged to care for.

Claudia Benfield, one of Chintimini’s guest bloggers and a Friday night shift leader writes about her most recent experience with a Bald Eagle patient:

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“On January 19, I had a very special Friday night shift. When I got to Chintimini, I found out that there was an injured Bald Eagle coming from Brownsville. I immediately started getting ready for his arrival. I started to think about the steps I would need my shift to take to successfully admit him. I thought about which cage in the ICU would be the least stressful for him to be in. I covered the cage doors to create a dark atmosphere and carefully placed all the correct type of bedding inside. Then, we finally got the call that they were on their way with the eagle. I was a little bit nervous as this would be a very special patient and I wanted everything to go smoothly.

When the Bald Eagle arrived, he was in a small cage. It was the only cage they had on hand. The people that had brought him to us wanted their cage back so I began the process of getting him out. I was the only one on my shift who had ever held a Bald Eagle before so it was a big teaching moment for everyone. We started to try to get him out of the small cage into a larger one. While my coworkers held the cage up, I slipped the bottom of the small cage out causing the eagle to slip on out into the bigger cage. When he was out, I managed to wrap the eagle in a towel. I picked the eagle up and took him to our Treatment Room for a quick examination. He was very strong, but we needed to be able to give the Animal Care Directors an idea of what may be wrong with him. After a short examination we figured out that he probably had a broken wing. We put him in his cage and waited for the Animal Care Director to come in.

Once the Animal Care Director was there, I got the eagle out of the cage once more so she could give it treatments, tube feeding and further examinations. She also wrapped up the wing, gave it some medicine and drew some blood to test for lead poisoning. The test for lead poisoning had a negative result. I held the eagle the whole time. He was a very active and strong eagle. While I have held Bald Eagles before this, I had never mustered up the courage to get them from the cage myself. Honestly, I have always been frightened of that step and this time there was not a backup person to hand the eagle to me. It’s times like these where this type of work teaches a person the amount of inner strength one has and builds confidence in oneself. If I am to be honest, I was very excited that we got a Bald Eagle, but at the same time I was so scared and honored to be able to help such a majestic bird. My coworkers helped out the whole time and it was such a good team effort. The whole admission of this eagle took us the entire night. I was so grateful to have great volunteers on our shift that were able to take care of all the other animals while a few of us took care of the eagle. I am hoping that we will be able to rehabilitate the Bald Eagle and eventually release him into the wild again.”

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Over the weekend of January 20th, this Bald Eagle underwent surgery to repair a shattered ulna caused by some type of projectile. It is incredibly unfortunate that he suffered at the hands of someone’s careless act, however he was welcomed to Chintimini Wildlife Center by many kind and caring people. He received surgery by Dr. Claire Peterson (thank you, Claire!) and will have round-the-clock, high quality & compassionate care by our Animal Care Directors and fantastic volunteers. Though he has a long road ahead of him, we are hopeful for a successful recovery.

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Co-existing with Wildlife: How You Can Help Keep The Peace

Whether you live in the suburbs or on ten acres, you have probably encountered wildlife at some point. Perhaps it was a hawk perched on a fence in the distance or a doe and her fawn trotting across the road in front of you. Or maybe you spotted the elusive opossum late one night while taking out the trash. There are a few things you can do to avoid conflict and to keep the peace with our wild neighbors:

Keep Trashcans Tightly Closed

This may seem obvious, but all wildlife looks for shelter, warmth, and food. By unintentionally providing a supply of food you may be inviting wildlife to settle in like an unwanted houseguest. Secure garbage cans and compost bins with fasteners such as bungee cords to keep animals out. You may also want to keep your barbecue clean of food debris and pick up fallen fruit from your trees. Try to keep your home less attractive to wildlife by eliminating warm, dark places and avoid leaving food out overnight.

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Raccoon

Your Pet Matters

An important part of being a pet owner is ensuring their health and safety. Always keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations, feed them indoors, and use a leash when out for a walk. By being a responsible pet owner you are considering their wellbeing. Equally important, you are decreasing the likelihood of a pet and wildlife conflict.

Educate Yourself

Do you know your local wildlife? Certain animals have developed a bad reputation over the years. It’s time to dispel the myths and get to know the true nature of your neighborhood’s “nuisance” animals. You might be surprised with what you find out! For example, did you know that bats really don’t want to fly into your hair? They are afraid of humans and try to avoid us as much as possible! Bats aren’t pests either – they eat the pests and help to keep insect populations under control. Did you know that opossums are highly resistant to rabies and are also excellent at keeping garden pests at bay? They love to dine on cockroaches, spiders, and slugs. They are usually non-aggressive and keep to themselves unless disturbed. A little research will make you a more informed citizen and local ecosystem protector!

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Hoary Bat

Consider Alternative “Pest” Control

Glue traps are inhumane and do not target only nuisance animals. Birds, bats, snakes, and even small house pets can become trapped in the sticky glue. Some people may also think that live trapping is a good idea, however animals caught in traps will likely suffer from stress, injuries, or even death. Sadly, any wild animal not legally permitted to be relocated is then required to be killed by the trapper. Keep in mind that if your home is attractive to wildlife it is likely there will be another animal waiting to move in as soon as the space is available.

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Western Striped Skunk

So what’s a person to do? Luckily there are alternatives!

Many companies are moving towards a more humane way of dealing with wildlife. When hiring help, always ask questions. What methods do they use? Insist on ethical, humane techniques. Your local wildlife rehabilitation expert may have excellent referrals to pass along. They may also have simple, inexpensive options for deterring wild animals without trapping or killing them.

There are many resources available to help us handle unexpected encounters with wildlife humanely. Peaceful co-existence is something we can all work together to achieve. Our communities can be better places to live if we resolve wildlife conflicts with care and compassion.

Written by: Erika Seirup

The Good, The Bad, But Not Ugly…

Friday night volunteer and Shift Leader, Claudia Benfield, writes about the variety of patients she encounters during one of her shifts:

I started my shift trying to find an injured Great Blue Heron that had been hanging around for a few days in a particular spot in Albany.  The people who saw it said it had a broken wing so he was supposed be easy to catch.  When I got there I found the person who owned that particular land.  She was very nice and walked around the entire field with me for about an hour looking for the heron, but it was nowhere to be found.

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Great Blue Heron, Photo Credit: Audubon

When I got to the clinic, a Wild Turkey was being treated for what looked like some pretty extensive and serious injuries.  I have always thought of them to be a very beautiful bird.  When you get a closer look at them you see all of the different beautiful colors on them.  This turkey had lacerations on his leg and chest area.  One of the chest injuries in particular was very bad and when staff examined the injury, they knew that the best thing for him would be to give him mercy and end his pain.  He was very beautiful and it is always a difficult decision to make.

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Wild Turkey, Photo Credit: Audubon

The final patient of the night is actually another one of my favorite birds. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was in for a surprise…We got what I had thought to be our normal Northern Flicker that had been caught by a cat.  He had a severe injury on his wing.  I cleaned the wound as best I could and wrapped the wing.  I hoped that he could be rehabilitated.  At that moment I was mainly concerned about his injuries and how to make him comfy for a night. What I didn’t know was that I was overlooking the type of Flicker he was.  All I knew at the time was that he was squirming a lot and that it was difficult to wrap his wing!  When a patient comes in we try to quickly assess the injuries and make them comfortable so that the patient can have time to de-stress. The stress of everything going on alone can kill them, so it’s important for us to always keep that in mind. I also know that the Animal Care Directors will follow up with a more thorough exam once the patient has had the time to rest.  My job was to make the Flicker comfortable.

I didn’t think he was such a rare bird for our area!  The next morning I found out that he was a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, a rare migrant to the Willamette Valley and that they are usually found on the East Coast and in the forests of Canada and Alaska.  Our area usually has the Red-shafted variety.

So it was another amazing evening indeed!  Maybe it was good that I didn’t find the Great Blue Heron.  And, yes, it was a bad ending for the Turkey.  But there’s no ugly in this story… that Northern Flicker was so beautiful and I can only keep the hope that he can be rehabilitated.

Busy Season at CWC!

You may have heard the term “busy season” thrown around before, particularly if you’ve called into Chintimini Wildlife Center’s clinic anytime between early spring and late fall. Have you ever wondered what it really meant though?

Many people experience a busy season in their line of work – think of accountants or real estate agents. Gardeners, domestic animal shelters, and even school teachers may experience busy seasons. Here at Chintimini Wildlife Center, busy season means an influx of patients (babies in particular!) and a decrease in volunteer availability. It means more emergency phone calls, ‘round the clock feedings, and extended work hours.

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A nestling Red-tailed Hawk with a fractured wing was in our care earlier this year.

Chintimini relies heavily on the help and support of volunteers, many of whom are students attending college at Oregon State University. When the term ends and summer begins, many students return home and are thus unable to continue volunteering. This inevitably leaves the clinic short-staffed, just when the patient load begins to drastically increase. This year alone we have already admitted over 1,200 patients – during busy season we average about 5-10 new patients every single day!

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Two orphaned Grey Fox kits. Photo Credit: Gazette GT

So, why the increase in patients? For the most part, it is injured or orphaned baby animals we are caring for. Occasionally, we have a well-intentioned person unknowingly remove a young animal from its family and environment. In that scenario, we do our best to try to reunite them with their parents. But overall, we receive hundreds of baby birds that fall from destroyed nests, are injured by outdoor cats, or are orphaned for unknown reasons. These baby birds must be fed every 15-20 minutes from sun up to sun down. This is no easy task! We assign at least one volunteer to the baby bird room on each of the three daily shifts, seven days a week! We also care for baby mammals, all of which require bottle, syringe, or tube feedings with specialized diets.

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A pair of Juvenile Steller’s Jays being tong fed their meal.                        Photo credit: Corvallis GT

On top of all baby care, we still admit many critical patients that are not babies. With the beautiful Oregon weather comes more human activity outdoors. More people out means more people finding wildlife in need of immediate care. We see so many animals that have been hit by cars, slammed into windows, or been malnourished for various reasons. Most days our ICU cages are at max capacity.

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This Barred Owl was hit by a car and needed care in our ICU.

Aside from the intensity of the clinic, the youth programs are in full swing with their
summer camps and activities. There are many events and open houses happening all
summer long, and the Raptor Education Program is working hard, training the education raptors and attending events throughout the community.

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A few representatives from our Raptor Education Program (REP) went to “Movies in the Park” in Salem for their Harry Potter film night and did an educational presentation about owls for over 100 audience members.

As you probably know, Chintimini relies on the help of the community, volunteers, and
donors to run smoothly and continue providing great care to our wildlife friends. If you are able, please consider donating to Chintimini Wildlife Center – there are many mouths to feed during busy season and every little bit helps us with medicine, medical supplies, and nutritious diets for all of our patients while they recover and prepare for life back out in the wild!

Erika, Assistant Animal Care Staff

White Bread is Quack! Ditch the Bread and Feed Waterfowl a Natural Snack.

Many bird enthusiasts get their first interactions with birds by feeding the ducks and geese at local ponds. Knowing how to provide them with healthy diets will not only be beneficial to local waterfowl populations, it will also allow future generations of people to enjoy the same pastime.

White bread, the most common food that is fed to local waterfowl, is also the least nutritious and causes a number of health issues including a debilitating disease called Angel Wing. The Angel Wing condition is brought on as a result of a high-calorie diet, one extremely high in protein and carbohydrates, and low in Vitamins D, E and Manganese. This low nutrient diet causes the feathers to grow at a faster rate than the rest of their body, causing the bird’s wings to point out laterally, rather than resting against the body, leaving the bird flightless and vulnerable to predators.

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Cackling Goose with Angel Wing Disease

Ducks and Geese are omnivorous, meaning they eat food from both animal and plant origin. So feeding them foods high in nutrients, minerals and vitamins that would be similar to the natural insects, mollusks, seeds, grains, and plants they would find in the wild,  keep them healthy and happy. Below are listed alternatives to white bread that allow you to enjoy a day of feeding the waterfowl at your local park!

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– Melanie Ripley, Wednesday AM Shift Leader

 

Level 2 Training

Every year CWC offers volunteers a chance to gain hands-on experience with additional training beyond what they normally encounter on shift. Considered a “beyond the basics” course, volunteers practice performing initial examinations, administering subcutaneous fluids, tube feeding, and wing wraps for wing fractures. We use deceased patients so volunteers can be more thorough and not have to worry about time constraints.

Here’s a look at one volunteer’s experience at the Level 2 Training that took place earlier this year:

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A Hawk in Pink

Emily Anne Martin, Sunday AM Shift Leader

Where the heck did all of these people come from?!

I inwardly exclaimed as I turned my car into the parking entrance for Chintimini Wildlife Center. I’d just arrived to complete the Level 2 Volunteer Training and was thrown for a loop when I realized that for the first time since I began volunteering in 2016, I may not be able to find a parking spot. On the other hand, it was rather refreshing to take a break from my previous thoughts; I’d spent most of the drive trying to wrack my brain as I struggled to remember medical techniques or animal handling methods  I had been taught in college. Apparently there is some truth to the old phrase “use it or lose it.”

I wasn’t discouraged though. Refocusing on the task at hand, I hurried down to the yurt and joined some of the dozen or so individuals milling around the building. I glanced around and didn’t immediately recognize anyone. Still, it was exciting to get to interact with some of the other shift volunteers and I immediately began chatting with one lovely young woman until we received the call to come inside the yurt.

We blinked as our eyes adjusted to the dim interior of the yurt, while all of the students crowded around the tables. I became intrigued as I looked over the odd assortment of syringes, gauze, and tubes within each container. Our attention was called to the center of the room as Jeff, the Executive Director, stepped up to the stage and introduced himself and the other workshop leaders who came to help out. We were given a general overview of what would be covered during the workshop. They told us that we would be learning how to assess and evaluate a patient when it is first brought in, how to administer subcutaneous fluid treatment and specialized feedings, and finally, how to bandage and stabilize broken bones or fractures.

I felt a sense of déjà vu as Mary and another staff volunteer proceeded to start the PowerPoint. Sitting there at the small table, with my notebook and pen in hand, it almost felt like I was back in college. Once the workshop began however, my eyes were glued to the screen and my pen scribbled furiously over the paper.

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In the beginning, we concentrated on the impact of stress to a patient’s well-being. The staff emphasized that minimizing auditory, visual and physical stress from handling is critical from the very first minute the patient arrives at our doorstep.  For shock, a loss of proper circulatory function, can set in rapidly and unexpectedly. Because of this, sometimes the best thing to do for a patient is to simply leave it alone for a few minutes and give it some time to decompress. This surprised me as I had always thought that you should go into a case at full charge, ready to administer treatment and save the day for the animal.  Then again, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve probably watched way too many veterinary and medical TV shows over the years.   

Next, the staff members began to open up the four or five tubs set up near the tables. We were told that inside of the bags were deceased birds that had been brought to Chintimini and unfortunately succumbed to their injuries or had been euthanized.

These past patients however, were going to help us learn how to provide medical treatments to future patients.

Even though we focused on avian patients and the vast majority of our patients are birds, the skills we were learning would be transferable to animals of all shapes and sizes.

I was amazed, for I had thought that we would be learning and practicing medical procedures on stuffed toys.  After each of us received a bag we proceeded to open them up and familiarize ourselves with our deceased “patients”. Birds of every shape and size from House Finches to Great Horned Owls appeared in front of each student. Each bird came with a tag that described the animal’s cause of death as well as any injuries it had. As they began to explain to us about performing examinations and assessments on newly arrived patients, a challenge was thrown out to the students: to see if we could correctly diagnose our patient’s injuries.

I’ve always been a girl who liked a challenge, so I was eager to test my abilities.

It was stressed that in order to minimize any mistakes or oversights, exams should be performed in the same manner each time. Just like that old song about working your way up from the leg bones to the neck bones, each patient should be examined in the same head-to-tail manner. Staff explained the importance of exams lasting no longer than 30-60 seconds and that in an ideal situation, two people should perform the exams to ensure that nothing is missed. I pictured the massive talons on some of our Great Horned Owls and I immediately agreed with the notion.

We turned to our patients on the table and began to conduct our examinations. I turned to my Red-tailed Hawk, and under our instructor’s guidance I began evaluating the body condition by feeling the amount of muscle over the keel. The sharpness of the bone helped me determine that the bird had been underweight, giving him a body score of 1 out of 5. I then began assessing the bird for any injuries or trauma, but I didn’t see any abnormalities. I looked at his feathers, and while I see signs of lice, the overall condition of his feathers seems fine to my untrained eyes. But as I felt the bones of his neck, the floppiness convinces me that he must have a broken neck.

 Ah-hah! I think. I’ve solved it!

But when I informed one of the staff members about my discovery, I was very gently but abruptly brought down from my brief moment of glory.

“His neck is completely fine. That floppiness, well that’s normal when they’re dead. ”

Oh…Okay then. I turn back to my Red-tailed Hawk and sigh. Back to the drawing board, I think.

I quickly recuperated and re-started my examination. Eventually, with the staff’s help, I realized that what had appeared like a small contusion was actually a contact burn from an electric shock. Apparently the bird had come into contact with an electrical line and succumbed to the burns and broken wing he suffered as a result.   I’m amazed to realize how significant a small injury can actually be and I determine that I’ll never underestimate such a small wound again. My table mates and I exchange our patients so we can examine the other injuries and traumas that are present at our table.  After about twenty minutes or so, we are then called back to the front to begin the next phase of the workshop.

The next phase is for us to learn how to administer subcutaneous fluids to our patients and conduct tube feedings. We learned that mammals get their fluids administered near the scruff, the loose skin located above the shoulder blades. Birds on the other hand get their fluids in the inguinal region of the groin. We are told to be careful when picking the size of needle to use as using a giant needle on a bird as tiny as a swallow could have some very painful consequences for the patient. Once we had our needles selected for our patient we filled the syringe with saline fluid and placed them in a pitcher of warm water to warm them. By pinching the loose skin away from the muscle, I was able to gently fill the small epidermal layer of skin with the warmed saline solution. But what looks like an easy procedure is anything but easy. Many of us accidentally went straight through the skin and into the muscle, or pushed the needle right through the other side our birds’ skin.

My hopes that the tube feeding would be easier to do were quickly dashed. One would think that sliding a tube down the animal’s throat and into the stomach would be a fairly straight forward and simple procedure. In actuality, it is anything but simple. As I prepared to open my bird’s beak up and slide the tube down, I was thrown by the sight of the bird’s throat. It was difficult for me to determine where exactly the esophagus and trachea split off and I’m hesitant to proceed. I don’t want to intubate the trachea and then drown my patient. The lovely staff once again came to my rescue and gently guided me through the procedure, assisting me in identifying the correct passage.

Finally we get to the last session in our workshop: temporary stabilization of fractures. We first learn how to differentiate the various types of fractures and then were challenged to see if we could identify the types of break or fractures we observed in various photos. Once we had familiarized ourselves with these kind of breaks we then proceed to learn how to create bandages to stabilize our patient’s fractured bones. Unfortunately, we only had time to practice wrapping a bird’s wing to the body in order to stabilize a fractured wing. But it’s clear that wrapping a fracture can be a bit of an art form depending on the type and location of the fracture. It was also clear that measuring the vet tape, a kind of sticky gauze, is also an art in and of itself. All too often my table mates and I would end up almost completing the wrap only to realize that we were a few inches too short. But even so, we managed, and five birds in multicolored bandages soon appeared upon the table. The sight of all these birds in pink and red bandages makes me smile.

As the workshop came to an end, I was pleased to see just how much I had learned in the just two hours.  I came to the workshop knowing very little about providing medical treatment to wildlife, but now I’m feel comfortable and capable of handling any medial situation that may occur during my shift. I feel calm knowing that now I have a sense of what I can do to help my patients and excited to think that now I’ll be able to be more hands-on with all of the duties at Chintimini Wildlife Center. As I walked up the road to my car, I smiled and thought about my next shift.

I can’t help but hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to practice stabilizing a hawks broken wing.  I even know what color tape I’ll use.