Sunday, January 1, 2012

Raptor Ambulance

Happy New Year!!

How did you spend your first day of 2012?

Richard and I spent ours driving to the Twin Cities, to the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul.  In the back seat, inside a large dog kennel, was an injured juvenile male bald eagle.

I was visiting Karla over at the Houston Nature Center on Saturday evening, and she informed me an injured eagle was being brought in, which had been found by some hunters in the Brownsville area, far South-East corner of Minnesota.  Karla is the regional entry-point for injured animals.  When I heard about this, I asked her if she had anyone to transport the bird.  She said no.  I volunteered!  I have previously taken the class and now I'm one of the injured wildlife transport people, with special skill (because I'm a falconer) to do pick-ups of raptors.  However, I'm glad I didn't have to pick this one up.  Karla moved him from the kennel he came to her in, into the kennel she had that I took with me.  She had two large raptor gloves, though the bird did not give her much guff when she calmly got him out of the box for transfer.  He did snap his beak at her some, but no foot action.  He is well fleshed, so has not been starving.  He has a wound to his right wing, which looks fresh, so injury may have been recent.  He came to my house last night, and stayed in my warm mews, in the dark, covered with a blanket.  This morning, as soon as it got light, we were on the road for the 3-hour journey.

It was a bit of a stinky journey . . . as he had muted into his box.  What comes out of a bald eagle, digested fish and road kill, normally probably doesn't smell great.  This guy is stressed, so is even worse.  We were expected, as we had called ahead.  Upon arrival, he disappeared into the back rooms to be examined and to receive care.  No pictures of the poor creature . . . I didn't want to add to his stress with a flash, nor unnecessary disturbance.  Even the trip to the Cities was silent, no radio, to keep his stress level as low as possible.  Prior to leaving the Raptor Center I heard that they speculate he has a compound fracture to his wing.  Any further injury would have to be assessed after they have given him some quiet time to relax after his trip.  He probably received a hood as well, which I did not have.

The staff of the Raptor Center were then kind enough to show us around.  I've been there one previous time.  This was Richard's first visit.  Above is one of the care givers.  Sorry . . . didn't get her name.  She may even be one of the vets.  I don't remember the eagle's name either, but she is one of their education birds, weighing in at about 14 lbs.  This just shows how big these birds are.  This is a female eagle.  The woman is a petite lady, but that still is a huge bird.  Bald Eagles will accept manning and training like any raptor, but don't make particularly good falconry birds, due to their propensity to fish, or worse, eat carrion.  Golden Eagles are an entirely different matter.  They are just as big, bigger in fact, and are fierce and deadly to many things much larger than themselves.

A report was left with contact names for the Houston Nature Center, and for the people who rescued him from the wild.  After what could be a couple weeks, they will give us a status update.  Compound fractures are a very bad injury for a bird.  Frequently the decision is made to euthanize, as the wing will never heal proper to allow return of flight function.  There are only so many spots for rehab birds.  I'm sure they have a protocol to decide which ones to save.  When, if I learn his fate, I'll post here.

Because we were already there . . . we went for good Mexican brunch, and also brought home some fresh tamales (yum).  It's very windy outside, but the roads were fairly good.  It was a unique way to spend the first day of 2012.

Happy New Year!!

* * * Status Update * * *

I heard from Karla a couple days later that the eagle "didn't make it" . . . which means it was decided to euthanize.  The injury to the wing was just too great to fix.  Not all young birds (and this was a juvenile, first or second year eagle) make it to adulthood.  At least he didn't starve to death out in the cold.

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