Featured Endangered Wildlife Species

by Lauren Kane (VM16)

Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)

The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is endemic to the island of Grand Cayman and is one of the longest-lived species of lizards. Fewer than 15 animals remained in the wild by 2003, and this wild population was predicted to become extinct within the first decade of the 21st century. The species’ decline is mainly being driven by predation by feral pets (cats and dogs) and indirectly by the destruction of their natural habitat as fruit farms are converted to pasture for cattle grazing. Since 2004, hundreds of captive-bred animals have been released into a preserve on Grand Cayman run by a partnership headed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in an attempt to save the species.

The Blue Iguana is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. In late 2012, the Blue Iguana Recovery Program estimated that the wild population had risen to approximately 750 individuals, and the IUCN subsequently downlisted the species from critically endangered to endangered. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program’s conservation strategy involves generating large numbers of genetically diverse hatchlings, head-startingthem for two years where their chance of survival in the wild is high, and using these animals to rebuild a series of wild sub-populations in protected, managed natural areas.This is accompanied by field research, nest site protection, and monitoring of the released animals. Restored sub-populations are already present in two non-contiguous areas—the Salina Reserve and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

For more information, please check out, http://www.blueiguana.ky/

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Working With Wildlife – My Top 5 Lessons Learned

by Stephanie Zec

Many hours volunteering at the Wildlife Medical Clinic (WMC) has made it my home, and my team of volunteers have become my vet-school family. As I approach the beginning of my fourth year, the transition to working in the teaching hospital will be bittersweet as I will have to leave the WMC. These are my top five wildlife lessons that I have learned from my time at the clinic.

1. Bigger is not badder.

Many of our volunteers become anxious when they are expected to work with an adult raccoon or an adult Great Horned Owl – the largest owl found in Illinois. In reality, they should be equally conscious of safety precautions when working with some smaller species. When we perform medical procedures on our resident birds, it is often times the kestrels that draw blood on our volunteers. Even smaller animals that do not appear intimidating can be dangerous. Despite taking the proper precautions, the most common bite injury in the Wildlife Medical Clinic is due to squirrels. So be careful if you find one!

2. Never underestimate the human-animal bond.

Kinkuna was our laughing Kookaburra resident bird. He was overweight, had a crippling foot malformation, and a laugh that could be heard from a mile away. Kinkuna was the first animal I ever tried to train using positive reinforcement to improve his quality of life. He quickly became my post-test companion, my lunch friend, and my ‘I just need to see an animal right now because school is making me stressed’ buddy. The clinic lost Kinkuna over a year ago, and it is still tough for me to walk into his old flight cage.

3. Animals are tough.

In the wild it is the weak that are preyed upon, so animals hide their injuries and illnesses.  My team once had a Merlin (a small falcon) that presented for a wing fracture. This animal was on its feet and would try to escape from us when we needed to catch it. Blood work revealed that this animal was so anemic and low on blood protein, it was miraculous that it was still alive. I have seen animals with fractures so ugly they make me cringe – yet that animal is barely showing any signs of pain.  I wish I had that level of pain tolerance.

4. Stress is a secret killer.

Did you ever notice that when you are stressed out, that is when the sickness comes? Physiologically, this is due to a little chemical known as cortisol. Stress causes an increase in cortisol secretion which then directly suppresses your immune system – always at the worst possible time.

For our wild animal patients, interaction with people is their worst nightmare. Now they are sick, stressed out in a foreign environment, and definitely do not want us handling them. I have seen doves die in people’s hands from being stressed and rabbits die within minutes after handling, due to no fault of the volunteer. If you ever find a wild animal, do not attempt to treat it. Please send it to a professional (like us). In the meantime, the best medication you can give a wild animal is putting it in a dark, quite area (like a shoe box for small birds and mammals) and leaving it alone until you can transfer it to someone with wildlife medical experience.

5. Communication is key!

My wildlife team that I am a co-leader of recently had the honor of treating a three year old female Bald Eagle. This poor creature had a wing fracture and a deep wound near the fracture site. This type of injury required intense medical care – which the eagle was less than thrilled about.  Eagles are nine pounds of anger with a six foot wing span. To restrain her and administer medication was a three person job. One person would blind her with a towel and grab her talons. Once she was safely pinned in her cage, the second person would come and “hood” her and hold her head so she couldn’t bite anyone.  The third person would then help maneuver the blanket to “burrito” the eagle, preventing her from unleashing her wings while we administered medications. If my team wasn’t communicating clearly and effectively with each other, someone could have been seriously injured. Instead, she was successfully sent to the rehabber and everyone was injury free.

 

 

 

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Bird of the Month

by Lauren Kane (VM16)

© 2007 Cal Vornberger

The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) are small shorebirds that breed only in three regions in North America: Atlantic Coast, the Northern Great Plains, and the Great Lakes. Piping plover were listed as threatened and endangered in 1986 and is an endangered species in Illinois. There is estimated to be 2,800 breeding pairs throughout the three North American regions. Breeding habitat has been replaced with shoreline development and recreation, which overtime, decreases the quality foraging and roosting habitat of these birds. Currently, the Fish and Wildlife Services have two main goals to recover this species and remove them from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The first is to achieve well-distributed increases in numbers and productivity of breeding pairs, and secondly, to provide long-term protection of breeding and wintering plovers and their habitats. For more information, please visit http://www.fws.gov/northeast/pipingplover/pdf/summary.pdf

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Featured Endangered Wildlife Species

by Steve Zachar (VM16)

Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

Similar in size to a German Shepherd Dog, the Mexican gray wolf is the smallest wolf subspecies, as well as the most critically endangered wolf species in the world. They are currently listed as Extinct in the Wild on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. Due to government-mandated predator removal efforts in the mid-1900s, as well as a reduction of natural prey species, the Mexican wolf completely disappeared from the wild by the late 1970s. The Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan began with just seven individuals in 1978, and it was not until 1998 that 50 captive-bred wolves were released into protected wilderness areas in New Mexico and Arizona. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) annual year-end survey reported 75 Mexican wolves in the wild, a 17 wolf increase from the previous year. The FWS will maintain protection of the Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest while expanding recovery efforts. With continued success of captive breeding programs and federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, the FWS is hopeful that Mexican gray wolf numbers will rebound as well as their Gray wolf cousins, whose population has gone from near extinction in the U.S. to several thousand over the past several decades.

Mexican Gray Wolf, © Jim Clark / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

For more information on the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, visit: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/

References:

1. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Service Proposes to Return Management and Protection of Gray Wolves to State Wildlife Professionals Following Successful Recovery Efforts. The Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 7 June 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/pdf/NR_wolf_press_release.pdf>.

2. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Wolf Recovery in North America. The Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, January 2007. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.  <http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2007/gray_wolf_factsheet-region2.pdf>.

3. “Basic Facts About Mexican Gray Wolves.” Mexican Gray Wolf. Defenders of Wildlife, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2013 <http://www.defenders.org/mexican-gray-wolf/basic-facts>.

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