Summer at the WMC: Red-Tailed Hawk

This account is by Katelyn Bagg, a rising third year veterinary student and one of the clinic’s full-time summer interns.

Working in a wildlife clinic on a daily basis is an adventure, as you never know what you will be presented with. We take everything from a litter of baby bunnies to an emergency hit-by-car raccoon, so we always have to be prepared. The summer is a busy season. It is always bustling in the clinic and there are constant opportunities to try new things and to learn.

Katelyn ensuring a new patient with neurologic and motor symptoms is able to chew and swallow its food normally.

 

Interns are in the clinic almost every day, giving us the opportunity to follow cases from intake to the resolution of symptoms. It is one of the most rewarding feelings to get to release a patient you have worked with, which is exactly what I got to do for a juvenile red tailed hawk that came in this June.

The young hawk presented on June 5th with no obvious musculoskeletal abnormalities, but was very thin and dehydrated. Blood was drawn for diagnostic purposes, and showed that the patient had an active inflammatory process. He was offered food, but was not eating on his own. Due to the fact that he was so thin, we decided to tube feed him a liquid carnivore diet to make sure he could get the nutritional support that he needed. When volunteers tried to pass a feeding tube down his esophagus, they noticed that there was a mass in the back of the throat that made the tube difficult to pass and probably prevented the hawk from being able to swallow on his own.

There are a few things that can cause masses and plaques in the oral cavities of birds, and with a swab of the area, we were able to narrow it down. Our hawk had trichomoniasis, an infection caused by a small protozoan parasite. We started him on Metronidazole to help kill the parasites. The mass dislodged and was removed several days later, but our patient was still not eating on his own. On June 21st, he was anesthetized for an endoscopy, which allowed us to get a good look at what was going on in his esophagus. There were open sores that were infected with different bacterial species, so the area was then treated like a wound. We gave him an anti-inflammatory medication, an antibiotic, a pain medication, and a medication to protect the ulcerated tissue from further damage.

Our hawk gained weight and started to become more lively. He would vocalize when bored or hungry, so volunteers had to come up with creative ways to keep him entertained. His mice were hidden in various items like kongs or hand made newspaper hides so that he would have to forage for food as a form of environmental enrichment.

The juvenile hawk interacting with a clinic volunteer; beneath its perch, the cardboard box filled with shredded newspaper was an enrichment “hide box” for food items.

Finally, on July 10th, our patient was ready to go back into the wild. He was eating on his own and gaining weight, and his throat looked great with no new evidence of infection and no return of his plaques. It was a warm, sunny evening, and with a little coaxing, our hawk flew away across a field and landed in a nearby clearing.

The inquisitive young hawk took its time adjusting prior to flying away.

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The Case of the Common Grackle

Guest post by second year veterinary student, Megan Stuart.

On a hot summer’s day in late May, a Common Grackle was found on a driveway in Springfield, Illinois and brought to the Wildlife Clinic as a healthy fledgling. Common Grackles are large blackbirds that have adapted well to city and surburban habitats, and are resourceful omnivores: in agricultural fields they’ll follow plows to pick out insects and mice, near marshes they will pick leeches off of turtles and wade into water to catch small fish, raid smaller birds’ nests to eat eggs and live birds, and can even use a special beak adaptation to saw into acorns and eat the insides! Adult Common Grackle males have brightly iridescent feathers of blue, purple, and bronze, but young Common Grackles do not show any sign of sexual dimorphism (distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes of an animal in addition to difference between the sexual organs themselves), so volunteers are unsure of this fledgling’s sex.

The small fledgling received nestling care as often as possible for the first few days in the clinic to supports his growing body and nutritional needs – in some cases, volunteers will check on these young ones nearly 10 times per day! Once he had grown some more, he received little balls of food 5 times a day, and was promoted to mealworms once he showed signs of eating on his own. Since he was caged alone, the fledgling was given a mirror to encourage self-recognition, which he sat by all day and was even spotted playing with his reflection!

Towards the end of the Grackle’s stay, a fledgling American Robin came into the Wildlife Medical Clinic, and was placed in the cage so the grackle could have a feathered companion. Soon after, he was consistently eating mealworms on his own, and so the fledgling was transferred to a local, licensed wildlife rehabilitator to grow a little more before being released. All of the volunteers enjoyed working with adorable fledgling, who never turned down the opportunity to eat! He went from 48.8 grams to 89 grams while in the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University of Illinois.

An example of a Common Grackle fledgling.

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Don’t trash our home: Recycle!

Guest post by Niki Gianni, a second year veterinary student and Illinois native. Besides the WMC, Niki has also volunteered with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association to bring veterinary care to Arizona’s rural communities in need, and traveled to South America to volunteer with “Wildtracks Belize” by providing around-the-clock care for orphaned and sick manatees.

It’s their home, too! How can we reduce harmful effects on the environment in our backyard?

Recycling is just one way to protect natural resources and keep our Earth beautiful for future generations.

  • Each year, Americans generate about 254 million TONS of trash, but only about 35% is recycled.
  • Only about 5% of food waste is composted.
  • Recycling a single aluminum soda can conserve the equivalent of 26 barrels of oil (153 million Btu energy units).
  • About 42% of greenhouse gases come from the harvesting of materials/food or their production and transport. Therefore, by recycling, we are collectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Source for statistics: https://www.epa.gov/recycle

Ok, so we know recycling is important, but what are some resources for us living in Champaign-Urbana (C-U)? Since C-U Department of Public Works initiated its “Feed the Beast” recycling program (more here) in December 2010, more than 2 million pounds of recyclable items have been diverted from landfills! Let’s keep up the good work!

  1. If you live in the C-U area and would like to request curbside recycling pick-up at your residence, school, or workplace, please check out this page.
  2. What kind of items can be recycled in C-U? View a larger version here!
  3. While single use-type plastic bags (“grocery bags”) are not recyclable in regular blue bins, you can return clean plastic bags for recycling at County Market, Wal-Mart, Schnucks, and Meijier stores.
  4. Battery recycling: http://feedthething.org/2017/03/battery-recycling-program/
  5. To reduce stress on landfills, if you have furniture, clothing, or other household goods still in usable condition, please contact one of the following:
    1. Goodwill: 912 W. Anthony Dr. Champaign, IL (217) 359-8729
    2. Habitat for Humanity ReStore: 119 E. University Ave. Champaign, IL  (217) 355-6460
    3. Salvation Army:

On Saturday, May 20, 2017, there will be a large electronics-recycling event. Televisions, DVD players, microwaves, computer parts, and other items will be accepted. Be sure to register in advance here: http://ecycle.simplybook.me/sheduler/manage/event/1/unit/1

 

Other resources:

Illinois Recycling Association: http://www.illinoisrecycles.org/

Recycling at UIUC: http://www.fs.illinois.edu/services/waste-management-and-recycling

Earth 911 (general info on sustainability): http://earth911.com/

Composting 101 by UIUC: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/intro.cfm

DIY worm composting for an apartment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clC9yAJ6WBM

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Meet the Managers!

The Wildlife Medical Clinic has two veterinary students as clinic managers (in addition to the 116 student volunteers). These vet students oversee the clinic daily, stay on campus over vacations and breaks to take care of the animals, and provide support for anything the teams of volunteers need.

Meet them now!

Ainsley Boyle, VM2: Ainsley is a second year veterinary student and has been a manager for about 1 year now. She began volunteering while an undergraduate student in Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois main campus.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of volunteering at the WMC?
    1. My favorite aspects of my role in the clinic are being able to teach and help the student volunteers, working with such a wide variety of different species that the average person does not have the opportunity to work with, and applying what I’m learning in class to real life.
  2. What are your duties as Student Manager?
    1. I provide guidance on cases throughout the year, help volunteers with their cases or clinical skills if needed, keep the clinic stocked with all the essentials needed to treat our patients, organize and assign teams at the beginning of the year, schedule weekly rounds guest speakers, and act as a liaison between clinicians and staff to students in the clinic.
  3. What are your future career goals?
    1. Ultimately, being able to treat any animal that walks in front of me. Currently thinking of going into a mixed animal practice, but it changes all the time!
  4. What are your goals for the WMC as Student Manager?
    1. The clinic has given me so much and has shaped me as an individual, which will eventually affect the doctor I become. I want to be able to give back to the clinic and give others the same experience that I have had.

Kara Hiebert, VM1: Kara is a first year veterinary student and is our newest manager! She began volunteering as a first year vet student and was chosen as manager when Jess Huntington moved on to clinics (we still love you, too, Jess!).

  1. What’s your favorite aspect of working at the WMC?
    1. My favorite aspect of volunteering at the WMC is all of the hands-on experience that we wouldn’t otherwise get until our clinical year. This experience includes anything from placing intravenous catheters, to monitoring anesthesia, to creating a treatment plan for various patients. Of course, releasing our patients after working hard to rehabilitate them is a close second.
  2. What are your duties as Student Manager?
    1. Our duties as student managers can vary throughout the year. During the school year, patient care is primarily the responsibility of the teams, but we still oversee treatment decisions and give advice when needed. We are also responsible for cleaning the clinic, maintaining clinic inventory, organizing patient transfers, and organizing rounds speakers and team leader training. During the summer and other academic breaks, the student managers take over patient care in addition to our other duties. Thankfully, during the summer a few student interns and many wonderful volunteers help us out.
  3. What are your future career goals?
    1. I would love to work as a wildlife or zoo veterinarian in the future. Ideally, I’d like to work part of the time in a wildlife rehabilitation setting and part of the time in a zoo or aquarium setting, so finding a job at a zoo or aquarium with a rehabilitation program would be the best of both worlds. Additionally, I have a soft spot for marine mammals, so any opportunity to work with them in a rehabilitation setting would be a dream job for me. Of course, employment in these fields can be difficult to find, so even if I do not get my dream job, I’ll be happy as long as I am using my veterinary career to contribute to wildlife conservation.
  4.  What are your goals for the WMC as Student Manager?
    1. My goals as a student manager of the WMC are primarily to become the best veterinarian I can be and leave a positive impact on the clinic when I leave. I hope to sharpen my clinical skills (placing IV catheters, drawing blood, etc.) as well as my critical thinking skills (determining a diagnosis, making treatment decisions, etc.). Additionally, I hope to use this position to teach others about the WMC and local Illinois wildlife, so people continue to support and value the work we do here.

 

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Reflections from a Fourth Year

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Price Dickson is graduating the College of Veterinary Medicine this May and reflects back on her time as a volunteer and Team Leader in the Wildlife Medical Clinic:

Price (left) teaches one of her team members about triage. The barred owl is under anesthesia for an orthopedic exam.

I was a team leader in the Wildlife Medical Clinic for both my second and third year of vet school, and it was probably the best thing I did during my time at the college. From being able to manage real cases to scrubbing into surgeries, I had a lot of experiences there that made me a better doctor than I would have otherwise been. That being said, it also made me a better person. Here are the top 5 things I learned in the Wildlife Clinic!

5. Have patience. One of my first patients as a team leader wasn’t doing very well, and we had to have the conversation about euthanizing. “We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow”, we said. We had the same conversation the next day, and made the same decision. Finally, on the third day, he began improving! He was eventually sent off to a wildlife rehabilitator. Drugs and fluids aren’t magic, and sometimes you need to give them time to work. This is true of a lot of things in life; sometimes, after you try to fix the problem you must give your solution a little time to make things right.

4. Hard work pays off… or doesn’t. Sometimes you can put hours of blood, sweat, and tears into a patient’s care and they make it through. That’s a great feeling. But sometimes, they die despite everything. In those situations, it’s important to remember that sometimes you can do everything right and still have a bad outcome, and it’s not your fault.

3. Teamwork is key. Imagine this scenario: You walk into the wildlife clinic and there are at least twenty baby squirrels and over ten tiny raccoons who need to be fed. You and your partner are the only ones on orphan feeding shift. What do you do? Fortunately for me, I had an amazing team backing me up. One spring when that very scenario occurred our call for help got nearly our entire team to come to our rescue, and the babies got fed! When everyone pulls together, what could have been an hours’ long job that would have negatively impacted our patients (babies can get very low blood sugar if they wait too long to eat) was done in time for everyone to get to class.

2. Being a leader can be the most rewarding job you have. When I tried out for team leader, we had to describe what being a leader meant to us. Being a leader can be teaching, mentoring, organizing, or just someone for people to vent to. And at the end of it I had an amazing team who worked well together and thanked me for it! Sure, it was a lot of work planning team meetings, organizing treatments, and teaching everyone, but in the end it was such a great feeling to see everyone progress.

1. Remember to love what you’re doing. Veterinary medicine is a stressful job. Modern life is stressful. But in the wildlife clinic, even though I was managing animals who were in pain and hated our treatments, I got to help animals recover. I will never forget the moment we opened the carrier and released our opossum back into the wild, nor the moment our duck shook his tail and swam off onto the lake. Sometimes having responsibilities in the Wildlife Medical Clinic was overwhelming, and sometimes I had to do some very unpleasant things (have you ever worn cormorant poop?). Still, in the middle of it all, it’s important to remember that you’re doing what you love. Even if you don’t love accessorizing with cormorant poop.

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Special Guest: Denver Holt

Denver Holt Announcement

Meet Denver Holt: wildlife researcher, founder and president of the Owl Research Institute, dedicated field researcher, and subject of a National Geographic cover story.

Denver believes that long-term field studies are the primary means to understanding trends in natural history, and has spent the last 35 years studying owls in Alaska and Montana. Join us for an inspirational evening to hear about his incredible experiences and what he’s learned about owl ecology.

There will also be an auction opportunity to bid on a weekend at his field research station, working with and learning from him!

Read a National Geographic feature with Denver Holt here.

Sponsored by the Wildlife Medical Clinic at Illinois and held in the Large Animal Clinic Auditorium (LAC 100).

RSVP to our Facebook event here.

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