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.


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.


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:

— — — — — — –
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

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:


“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.”


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.