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:


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.


Though She Be But Little, She Is Fierce.


An owl sits in a tree, her large round eyes searching for her prey. She sits quietly, patiently. Suddenly she spies a shrew crawling around underneath the leaf litter below. Waiting for the opportune moment, she shifts her weight, launches…and misses. Landing on a nearby branch tries again. She sits, waits, listens…

Chances are when you thought of an owl, you pictured the stoic Great Horned Owl, or the majestic Barn Owl. Few would think of the Northern Pygmy Owl. Compared to a Great Horned Owl length of roughly 20 inches (or around 50 centimeters), the Northern Pygmy Owl stands a whopping 6.5 inches (or 16 cm) with a 12 inch (30 cm) wingspan. One of the smallest owls in North America, adults can weigh around 2.5 ounces (70 grams) which is about the same as ½ cup of fresh blueberries, 3 AAA batteries, or 28 pennies!

Although they are small, Pygmy Owls are ferocious hunters. They will typically feed on small songbirds caught in flight. In addition to songbirds, Pygmy Owls feed on small mammals and insects and have been known to prey on birds up to three times larger than they are including the Northern Flicker or California Quail.

These owls are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They lack the asymmetrical placed ears and flattened facial disks that most owls have to help them hear, which may make the Pygmy Owls rely more on their sight. During the evening, when most owls wake, Pygmies are returning to their nests in tree cavities such as those carved by woodpeckers. They are non-migratory birds and stay in the same general location year-round, however, they will move up and down in elevation with the seasons. Winter brings them down to the Corvallis area, and this past winter, Chintimini Wildlife Center saw two Northern Pygmy Owl patients.

The first was a male brought to us in November after being hit by a car. He was in shock, emaciated, and suffering from mild head trauma. He was quite tiny for a male, weighing in at only 48 grams, but after four months in our care, he put on about 20 grams, healed nicely, and was just released last week!


Our second Pygmy Owl patient this winter was a good sized female who was brought in after being hit by a car. She came to us in great shape, weighing in at 70 grams. She was released at the same location she was found after two weeks of rehabilitation.


Not the most well-known owls, Northern Pygmy Owls are unique in many ways. I never realized how small owls could be until I began volunteering at Chintimini. I will be keeping an eye out for them, and an ear out for their call during my next hike. Will you?

– Emily Nicholson, CWC Tuesday PM Shift Leader

Owl You Need Is Love


As the moonlight shines down on the Great Horned Owls, hooting can be heard throughout the nesting site that they occupy. Deep clear tones are vocalized by the male, while higher and huskier tones are demonstrated by the female, who is much quieter than the male. These back and forth calls can last for minutes or hours at a time. You may have even heard these calls recently in your neck of the woods! Breeding season typically begins around January and lasts through February. 

As the Great Horned Owls prepare their nest, they clear out old debris while lining it with a layer of their own downy breast feathers. The nest was built by a previous occupant, most likely an abandoned nest of hawks or crows. Some Great Horned Owls have even been known to nest in small caves, cliff ledges, or artificial nests built by humans!

The female’s role is crucial in ensuring her offsprings’ survival. She rarely leaves the nest during incubation for more than a few minutes at a time. Yet, the male plays an important role as well by offering protection and providing resources for its mate. Like most Great Horned Owls, the pair reconnects each breeding season and will continue to throughout their lifespan.

Over the next month or so, young owlets will begin to hatch. At around six weeks they will explore outside of the nest, walk across limbs, and “practice” flying. By 10-12 weeks they’ll learn to fly. The parents will continue to feed and care for their offspring for months after the young fledge. It is wise to stay away from young owls if you see them – parents guard their nests very closely and are not afraid to attack if they feel their family is being threatened! However, if you happen to find a young fledgling on the ground, please call your local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center right away for assistance. They will be able to determine whether the young owl needs further help. Rehabilitation Centers usually have tree climbers who volunteer their services to reunite raptors with their parents when appropriate.

– Alyssa Tarbox

A Second (err…third?) Chance

Some of our patients have been through such horrendous trauma that we are unsure if they will make it through their first night at the clinic. From gunshot wounds to car collisions to fishhooks and rat poison, it’s a real miracle that some of these patients survive.

These are the stories we never forget. These are the patients that we cheer a little longer for when they’ve made it to the end and are ready to be released back to the wild.

Claudia Benfield, one of Chintimini’s guest bloggers and Friday night shift leader, writes about her experience with a very special Barred Owl:img_7743

“I had an eventful night working with wildlife. We admitted a Barred Owl that had been hit not once, but twice by a car. I am still astounded by that fact.

Hit not once, but twice by a car.

I was expecting to get a patient that had no hope but yet once again, the wildlife laughed at me. When he was brought in, they told me he was quite squirmy. They were right! I took him out of the box and he just about flew away from me! I was really glad to see how active he was. I was thinking that maybe he was going to be in shock.

We wrapped him up in a towel to secure him but he still was very feisty. I felt his wings and found no fractures or open wounds. The only thing I found was a few drops of blood on his beak. Next, we put him in a cage to rest, gave him a few mice and hoped for the best. The owl was mighty lucky to have been hit twice and lived to tell the tale. It is fortunate he was rescued right away by good Samaritans and brought to our rehabilitation center.”

Initially, the Barred Owl was mildly dehydrated but overall appeared in good health despite being struck twice. He was given electrolytes with B-vitamins, an anti-parasitic medication to treat his parasite load, and lots of nutritious food. Within a few days he’d put on some decent weight and was able to fly with perfection. By the fifth day he was given a clean bill of health and was ready to be released!



Risk Assessment 101: The Call of the Turkey

Volunteers are vital to the success and well-being of our patients here at CWC. Each volunteer has a little something different that they offer to the clinic. Everyone’s experience at CWC is unique and we are grateful when they take the time to tell us, especially in writing! Brent is one of our Assistant Animal Care Staff volunteers. Here he shares about an injured turkey he rescued late last year:

It was late afternoon in mid-November when we received a call of an injured wild turkey just a few miles down the road from Chintimini Wildlife Center. The caller stated that this injured turkey was mobile but unable to fly and had been in the same location since that morning. One of the most difficult situations you can come across when responding to an injured animal call is making the attempt to rescue the animal while it is mobile (able to run and/or fly). Also, it is important to assess how much stress an animal can take in the amount of rescue attempts if you are unsuccessful in the first attempt.

 When I arrived at the location north of HWY 99, I immediately noticed an adult male turkey making his way towards the busy highway.  Once I had found a safe location, I immediately pulled over and threw on my flashers.

After exiting my vehicle I watched as the turkey crept dangerously closer and closer to the highway with a staggering limp.

With a wide berth, I made it to the shoulder of the highway leaving a row of blackberry bushes between the turkey and myself. When he noticed me approaching with a towel in hand he dove into the bushes and hunkered down to avoid capture. At this point, I was able to take a quick moment to focus on all of the possible risks of the rescue while keeping in mind the safety of all bystanders, directly/indirectly involved.

Some possible risks I quickly assessed included: endangering myself, commuters on the highway, bystanders observing the rescue as well as the safety of the injured turkey. With the turkey safely hunkered down in the blackberry bushes, I felt that there would be little chances of anyone being injured as long as I was able to keep myself between the turkey and the dangerous traffic of HWY 99. With the proper gear and clothing donned, I made my way into the blackberry thicket with the towel raised in preparation to quickly cover and secure the turkey at a moments notice. When I made it to about the middle of the thicket, I was able to get a visual on the turkey that was just out of reach. As I crept closer he noticed me and quickly began to retreat in the direction at which he came. I backed out of the thicket as quickly as possible and was able to cut him off before he could make his exit and escape as he turned around and dove back in. So I again went around to the other side of the thicket in order to place myself between the turkey and highway. We repeated this disorderly dance for about 20 minutes until the turkey was able to make it completely out of the thicket before I could make it to the other side in order to scare him back in.


Now, with the injured animal out in the open I slowly placed myself behind him but allowed him to see me as I moved closer to try to deter him further away from the highway. As we made it to a side road that paralleled the highway I was able to keep him on track along this road until we had a small fence between the highway and us. This new rescue location allowed for a safer approach to capture and rescue. Once the turkey noticed the fence and capture was imminent, he made a quick turn away from the fence and highway and darted across the side road we were on and towards another blackberry thicket. Once the road was clear of oncoming vehicles I made my way across with my eyes focused on the injured.

With the realization of the possibility of our earlier chaotic dance repeating itself and the idea that this turkey may be able to fly to avoid capture I quickly made the decision to go all in for the capture. This move allowed the turkey no time to think so he dove head first into the nearby blackberry thicket to avoid capture, while getting stuck in the thorny briars. With the taste of our battle closely coming to an end I dove into the briars after him, placing a firm grip on each of his thighs. I covered him with a towel and safely removed him to the briars. From there, we made our way back to the vehicle, then ultimately back to Chintimini Wildlife Center to begin his intake exam and rehabilitation process.

After just over a month of rehab this male turkey was able to make a full recovery and was released in the vicinity where he was found with an adult female turkey that was admitted to us at CWC from the same area.

 While being out on a wildlife rescue call you have to be able to make quick and safe decisions by observing your surroundings and the hazardous possible outcomes. By predicting the animal’s response to your attempts at rescue and coming up with a safe plan around these possible responses, a dangerous situation can become less dangerous to all directly/indirectly involved. With all of the hazardous possibilities during this rescue, we all were able to safely walk away from this event and ultimately meet the goal of giving this adult turkey a second chance at life.


A Tale of Two Mallard Ducks

In early November, we received calls about two injured mallards at a pond located in Albany. The ducks had been recreationally shot with blow darts and were sadly left to suffer. Archell Banta, one of our dedicated volunteers (and a fellow waterfowl lover), was able to capture both ducks and bring them to our clinic.

Assistant Animal Care Staff volunteer Erika Seirup writes about her experience upon admittance of the mallards:

Many of the patients we receive at CWC are injured by humans on accident (such as car or window collisions). This particular case was disheartening to me because it was purposeful cruelty to wildlife.

I have been a volunteer at Chintimini Wildlife Center for 18 months and haven’t seen an intentional injury to wildlife before. I’ve seen animals that’ve been hit by cars, birds that have flown into windows, and orphans in need of care.

This was a deliberate attack on wildlife and it really surprised me.

The first mallard presented with a dart lodged deep within the left side of his body. Upon further examination we were able to determine that it was stuck in his thigh. The dart was approximately three inches long and he is very fortunate it did not go deep enough to puncture any organs.img_7882

The second mallard had been shot in the bill, which also punctured his tongue, pinning it to the roof of his mouth. Mallard ducks are considered “dabbling” ducks (rather than diving ducks) and this type of injury made it impossible for him to properly forage for food.

To eliminate stress and pain, we decided it was best to place the mallards under anesthesia before removing the darts. This way we were able to give a more thorough examination and tend to the wounds without additional stress or accidental harm.


Both ducks recovered quickly, and after careful observation in our ICU they were able to move to an outdoor enclosure.

Outdoor housing for waterfowl includes a pool for swimming and enrichment that helps to encourage the natural behaviors they will need to survive in the wild.


After spending only a few weeks in our care, they were released to a quiet pond where they’ll be safe from harassment and free to live their lives.


While we are happy to report this as a successful wildlife rehabilitation story, this unfortunately is not an isolated incident. Each year there are multiple reports of dart shootings in other areas of Oregon, and more often than not the perpetrator isn’t caught.

Animals shouldn’t be left to suffer – if you see an injured animal that you think has been illegally shot, please call your local authorities (police, animal control, wildlife rehabilitator or State Fish & Wildlife agency) as soon as possible. For a wildlife rehabilitation center near you, check out this state-by-state listing:

How to Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator

The Art of Waterproofing

Chintimini Wildlife Center clinic volunteer Alyssa Tarbox explains the process of waterproofing:

Have you ever wondered how birds stay afloat?  It occurs mainly because of the interlocking hooks and barbules on birds’ feathers – these help to provide an airtight seal allowing insulation from water and other potentially harmful elements. Additionally, their feathers become water resistant when they apply oils from their preen gland (more formally known as the Uropygial Gland), an oil gland found at the tail base possessed by a majority of birds.  Healthy birds do a pretty good job of keeping themselves water resistant and warm by the continual act of preening. But sometimes birds need a little help from wildlife professionals! If you have ever seen the infamous Dawn oil spill commercials, you are seeing part of the waterproofing process. However, much more work goes into ensuring the bird can return to life in the wild!

What happens if birds aren’t able to waterproof themselves?

Waterproofing cannot be done on a bird that is in critical or poor condition. Before the process can begin, an exam on the bird must be performed to ensure the bird is stable and able to withstand the procedure. At Chintimini Wildlife Center, waterproofing is one of the last steps before release, so it is necessary the bird passes all parts of the exam.

When a patient is ready to be waterproofed, they are first washed in warm, soapy water. The temperature must be continuously monitored to ensure the health and safety of the bird – if the water is not warm enough, the process will not be effective and the bird could quickly become chilled and go into shock.

We use a gradient of concentrations of Dawn dish soap because of its proven effectiveness; it is important to reach every nook and cranny of the bird’s feathers so they can go onto the next step!  

Photo Credit: Sheri Cochran

In a separate rinsing area, we use a consistent, high pressure stream of warm water to remove any buildup of residue.

Thoroughly rinsing each feather is a time consuming process.

The biggest problem that can occur at this step is trying to “speed up” the process. The goal of waterproofing is to only do it once. It requires taking the time to ensure that all excess residue is completely removed; if not removed it can result in the bird drowning!

When the bird is fully waterproofed, water will run off the feathers instead of penetrating them, leaving beads of water on the bird’s feathered surface. This ensures that the feathers repel water, which allows the bird to dive, swim, and float without sinking.

Photo Credit: Hawaii Wildlife Center


Once the bird is completely free from soap and residue, the clean bird is taken to dry. An area equipped with a protective net-bottomed pen and an appropriate grooming dryer ensures the bird can comfortably dry. At this point, birds will start preening their feathers back into place. Each hook and barb of the feathers will realign into their pattern which helps create a natural waterproof seal.

Once the drying process is complete, our professional Animal Care Staff will determine if the bird requires another waterproofing session or if it is ready to be back on the water!