Young Snapper Fixed Up

Erin Newman, VM18

A juvenile snapping turtle was found in a yard and brought into the Wildlife Medical Clinic in August. He had a cut on his neck right where it joined his shell and scrapes all over the top of his shell, along with a couple of shell fractures. The neck wound was very dirty, with maggots living in it, but volunteers thoroughly cleaned it out and sutured it up. Whenever a turtle has a shell fracture, it is at risk for damage to its coelomic membrane, which separates the shell from the body cavity. Radiographs were taken to determine whether the membrane was punctured, but luckily the snapper did not have any injury to his lungs or coelomic membrane.

Snapping turtles prefer to spend their days under water in areas of vegetation, with their nose poking up just above the water surface, as if it were a snorkel. Although they can grow very large and are dangerous when cornered, they would prefer to swim away from trouble. A snapper has a long, flexible neck that can reach all the way to its hind limbs, so the safest way to handle them is just above the tail. Our patient was probably 3-4 years old, only about the size of a hand, and not very threatening. Snapping turtles do not eat very often, and enjoy fish, worms, and greens.

The turtle had a surgery to repair his shell and was placed on antibiotics. After monitoring the wounds for over a month, it was decided that they would heal nicely on their own without further care. The snapper was very excited to be released into a pond at a forest preserve and went into the water without a backward glance!

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A Barred Owl’s Bird’s-Eye View

Alissa Mones, VM17

As a student who has volunteered in the Wildlife Medical Clinic as both a team member and a team leader, I have seen several cases pass through our clinic. One particular patient stands out in my mind, because it was my first case as a team leader. A fledgling barred owl presented to the WMC in early April with an avulsion (traumatic detachment) of both the top and lower eyelid of his left eye. Upon further examination with the University of Illinois ophthalmology service, an abscess was also present in the affected eye. We had discussed removal of the eye, since owls are still releasable if they only have one functional eye. As it turns out, owls rely mainly on their keen sense of hearing to hunt at night instead of vision. We decided to try to save the effected eye rather than remove it in order to give the owl the absolute best prognosis for release. The next day, the ophthalmologists performed surgery to attach the eyelids. Our team immediately started aggressive treatment with topical anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops 4x daily. The owl also received systemic anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, as well as fluid therapy. Another challenge to this patient’s treatment plan was the need to feed him twice daily while reducing our interactions to prevent imprinting. Young birds are considered imprinted when they become comfortable around humans, and willingly approach us for food. This is an undesirable trait for wildlife, because we never want to encourage interaction between humans and animals in the wild, for the safety of all. To avoid imprinting, our team used feeding puppets to feed the patient as well as to administer medications. Two weeks later, we had another consult with ophthalmology – this time they said the abscess had cleared up, and that the patient appeared to have vision in that eye! Our team was excited to see how our diligence and persistence in caring for this animal became a success. The patient was released in June of last summer, making all of our hard work worthwhile.

Check out these videos of the patient during feeding and tracking the camera before release:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8dv7mBvAu8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU6E0qMsbrY

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