Join the Wildlife Medical Clinic for an artist workshop at the Art Coop on Sat. April 4 from 1-4PM! Proceeds will support the WMC and your work will be displayed in the Art Coop’s window during the Boneyard Arts Festival! No experience necessary. Space is limited, see flyer below for details:
A great horned owl was released yesterday after WMC volunteers treated a corneal ulcer in his left eye. Raptors rely on sight and sound to hunt, making vision in both eyes extremely important. Thankfully this owl made a full recovery and was able to take flight once again! See the release video below:
A large bird was found injured on the side of a gravel road in Effingham, Illinois. The bird was not moving much, and didn’t seem to use its wings or legs. Upon a closer look, this bird turned out to be a bald eagle, our country’s national bird.
Initially the bird was found to be dehydrated, had diarrhea, and could not hold himself up. When a wild animal is handled they should be aggressive and try to get away since that is their natural instinct. The eagle did not seem to have the strength to fight during treatments which was very concerning. The eagle was given fluids daily in order to combat the dehydration. Since he would not eat on his own, the team had to force feed food to be sure he was getting appropriate calories each day. It was difficult to tell what was causing these signs but it was suspected that he might have West Nile Virus.
According to the CDC, the West Nile Virus cannot be directly treated and there are no vaccines to prevent infection. Recovery can take several weeks or months and some of the neurological issues can be permanent.
Luckily there is no evidence that people can be infected from affected birds, but raptors can get sick from eating diseased birds. Patients affected must recover on their own, but can be provided supportive treatment such as fluids and pain relievers to help them in their healing process. This was the protocol used by the Wildlife Medical Clinic for this eagle as well.
With just a few days of treatment the eagle began to stand on his own. He became more feisty with the team, showing he was regaining strength. In order to see if the eagle had West Nile Virus, as well as to assess the other organs, a biopsy was completed. The results of these tests were not indicative of anything specific. The liver showed mild inflammation which means that there was an infection going on. The samples were submitted to check for West Nile Virus to confirm that the treatment plan the team was implementing was appropriate. After a few days of processing, it was found that the eagle did in fact have West Nile Virus.
After 12 days of supportive treatment the eagle began eating food on his own. He was gaining strength daily and began exhibiting wild bald eagle behavior such as barking and fluffing his feathers to appear more threatening. Though it was very difficult to treat him due to his increasing aggression, the team was very happy to see him feeling better. Handling was kept to a minimum in order to keep the eagle as stress free as possible.
A little over three weeks into the treatment the eagle was ready to leave the Wildlife Medical Clinic. He was sent to a rehabilitation facility where he was tested for flight capability and hunting capability before finally, being released back into the wild.
One day an eastern box turtle was presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic after being hit by a car. On examination, the most evident and pressing issue was a large carapacial fracture. The fracture involved multiple parts of the caudal carapace, and it was not evident on examination whether lung fields were exposed. Due to the potentially complicated nature of this fracture, radiographs were taken. The radiographs showed possible lung consolidation, suggesting lung exposure or infection. Our next step after taking radiographs was to fix the most glaring problem: the shell fracture.
A shell fracture can be repaired one of several ways. A very common approach is to drill small screws into the shell on either side of the fracture and then wrap wire around the screws, tightening the shell down almost like opposing tissue during suturing. Another approach, and the one taken with our patient, was to epoxy the shell. Layers of epoxy material can be applied to the shell over the cracks as a sealant of sorts. Over time, the bone of the shell will heal. The trauma of the car accident combined with the shell repair necessitated that our patient received medication to control pain and fluids.
After our turtle shell repair, we turned our attention to the fact that our patient had refused to eat since arriving. The stress of handling and captivity, not to mention the trauma of being hit by a car, can cause our patients to lose their appetites. Additionally, inflammation and infection can also cause patients to lose their appetite. Of course, nutrition is vital to the healing process, so getting our little guy fed is of the utmost importance. At this moment we are at a cross roads of sorts. We have just recently been successful at force feeding our patient mealworms and fruits, but it may be necessary to place an esophagostomy tube if our patient stops eating or seems too stressed by the handling. Additionally, at this time of the year, turtles would be preparing themselves for winter hibernation.
With our patient’s shell fracture, releasing her now so that she could overwinter is not an option. As such, she will be a long-term patient in the clinic. Hopefully, we have crossed our most difficult challenges with this patient. We expect a full recovery of the affected shell. The prognosis is excellent. I am constantly astounded by the tenacity and healing ability of our patients. I have no doubts that our little turtle will make a full recovery, and I look forward to releasing her in the spring.