Three days ago we received a call from our local state wildlife biologist about an injured young eagle.
The nest site where the eaglet was found was the first to be identified in the county when the eagles started returning to Wisconsin, and the adult birds had been successfully raising young there since 2010.
Just that morning, both parents were on the nest and the weeks-old eaglet's head could be seen peering out the top.
That evening, the property owners didn't see the parents, didn't see a baby in the nest, and went out on horseback to investigate -- only to find a single eaglet sprawled on its back on the ground, blood on the body and one wing obviously broken and lying at the wrong angle.
As soon as our warden called, we started to prepare for the injured eaglet -- getting the intensive care unit warmed up and oxygen flowing, which helps with stress and trauma.
When the baby arrived, it was cold, lethargic, and we weren't sure it would make it through the night, not knowing if the puncture wounds might have reached the heart, or liver. We gently cleaned the puncture wounds on the breast and gave medicine for pain, and then set the eaglet up in the intensive care unit overnight.
The little one weighed 2.5 kg, a little over 5 pounds, and by its feathering we judged the age to be about 4 weeks. At this age, the babies are totally helpless and their wings -- while large -- are limp and heavy with the blood feathers that will develop into flight feathers in the coming weeks.
I went out to the hospital early the next morning to check on the eaglet and was elated to find him alive and standing!
The injuries the bird suffered were traumatic, but otherwise the bird was a healthy weight, so we took x-rays and identified five different fracture sites! Both upper wing bones (the humerus) were broken, as well as both the lower wing bones (radius and ulna) in one wing, and the ulna in the other.
We called our veterinary orthopedic surgeon, who advised the bird would likely not fly again due to one fracture that is very close to the shoulder joint. Unless we could find a permanent placement before surgical repair, the bird would have to be euthanized.
I called a good friend who had recently lost her adult eagle and told her the eaglet's story. She immediately agreed to take the bird for continued care with the plan to provide it with a permanent home as a foster and education bird at her facility.
As soon as I got off the phone with Jeannie, I called our veterinarian, who came out on a Saturday afternoon to perform a long and complictated surgical repair of multiple bones in both wings.
Thanks to the property owners who monitored the nest daily, the eaglet was found soon after it was injured; thanks to our wildlife biologist, we were called and were able to help when we were needed; thanks to our veterinarian's generous gift of his time and skills, a difficult operation was a success; thanks to another rehabilitator, the eaglet has a future -- if not in the wild, then as an important ambassador for his species.
Thanks to your recurring donations, we are always here to provide premier care for the wild ones when they need us.
It's New Year's Eve, and it's time to start organizing for the reports that are due next year.
The days rushed past, always full, sometimes hard, but never without reward because our work is all about making things better for wildlife and the people who find them in need of care.
We work with the best people in the world. We meet over 1000 new people every year when they come to the hospital for help. We are in near daily contact with other community organizations during the busiest time of the year.
All of us are concerned about just one thing -- getting help for the animal that we're working with in that moment.
Imagine there is a place where nearly 100 calls come in every 24 hours, and in every single instance the person calling is compassionate and kind, and wants to know what they can do to help the injured or orphaned wild creature they have found.
That's Fellow Mortals.
We're here because we're needed and we're so grateful that we can meet that need, because of your gifts.
Every animal has a story, and every finder has a story about the animal.
In 2022, we heard another 2000 stories about animals that ultimately received life-saving and compassionate care.
And that's 2000 reasons why I wanted to write to you tonight.
Thank you for making our work possible.
May all you give return to you in abundance in the New Year!
Days before Independence Day, a mature male bald eagle was sighted in the ditch alongside a road, and then stumbled into the road where he was protected from harm by a family in a pick up truck, a man on a motorcyle, a delivery driver, and the sheriff's department until a conservation warden could get to the scene.
Emaciated and dehydrated, we knew the bird was a male from his smaller stature than that of a female. Female eagles admitted to us have been as much as 14 pounds, and this male was 8 pounds and underweight. Females of all raptor species are larger than the males by an average of 25 percent.
The phalanges (fingers) of one wing were bruised and swollen, and the flight primaries (the long flight feathers at the leading edge of the wing) were broken, but these injuries were recent, and would have been the last blow to a bird that was already suffering when he landed in the roadway.
X-rays showed no fractures and blood testing showed lead to be low, but there are many perils in the life of a wild bird: viruses, bites and resulting infection, or trauma -- all of which can affect a bird's ability to find food and lead to inevitable decline.
While the soft tissue damage to the wing healed within the first weeks, the broken flight feathers needed to molt (replace themselves by falling out and growing new feathers back in their place), and this took many weeks. During his time with us, the eagle molted both primary and tail feathers, which will be sent to the National Eagle Repository for distribution to American Indian tribal members as required by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Three and half months after he was found helpless and injured, and over 100 pounds of fresh salmon and beef and venison later, the eagle had moved from critical care through a progression of four different habitats and flights of increasing size ending in the 100+ foot long eagle flight where he was able to exercise and build the muscle needed for the strong flight that would take him home.
In the time he was with us, another 600 birds and mammals came into care. Each one has a story.
In mid-March this year, just after wildlife rehabilitators nationwide had attended our first in-person conference since 2019 and when anticipation of 'baby season' was starting to set in--highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in the wild bird population, in both migrating and resident species.
Avian influenza isn't new; it has been included in reference books on wildlife disease well back to the 1980's as it is a known virus carried by waterfowl, usually without any ill effects to the geese and ducks that are its natural hosts.
In 2022, avian influenza became much more than a notation in a reference book. No longer was the virus only a threat to domestic poultry; now it was killing wild birds like cormorants, terns, pelicans, bald eagles, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, and even the waterfowl that were normally asymtomatic carriers--some by the thousands, some already endangered as a species, like the Caspian tern.
After getting through SARS-CoV-2, and looking forward to a more 'normal' summer, HPAI was an emotional blow to wildlife rehabilitators, and it was to become a financial one as well.
What made the advent of HPAI especially difficult and even frightening for wildlife rehabilitators is the fact that there is no treatment for the virus, which is naturally carried by geese and ducks, and which is most often fatal to susceptible species. Because there is no rapid test available to screen out sick birds before they are admitted to care, to admit just one bird infected with HPAI could jeopardize the lives of all other rehabilitating or permanent foster or education birds at a facility.
Ducklings and goslings are hatched in the spring and early summer and, without rehabilitation resources, the public would have nowhere to go if they found an gosling injured by fishing line, or ducklings orphaned when the hen was hit by a car. We just couldn't accept letting these innocent orphans die when they needed help, so we built new caging at a separate location, set up biosecurity protocols, and hired a rehabilitator to provide care just for waterfowl.
In July, we released the first of the ducklings raised in this special program. The rest will follow in August.
Separately, our staff continued to work with raptors and other waterbirds at the hospital. We set up a quarantine room so that we could provide care for orphaned owlets, injured eagles, and young crane and gulls.
It wasn't an easy experience to continue to rehabilitate waterfowl and other HPAI vulnerable species this year, but now that HPAI is less present in our region and we are close to releasing the species of most concern, we are glad we didn't back down from the challenge to providing care.
Wildlife rehabilitation will never get 'easier.' Emerging diseases, development, habitat loss, and balancing natural resources critical to both wildlife and humans mean there will certainly be more challenges to come. With each one, we learn more about how to adapt, just like the wild ones who share our world.
While we hope HPAI isn't a threat again next season, at least now we have the experience and the facilities needed to help in a similar challenge.
Most importantly, in every season, and through every change, we are so grateful to be able to rely on those of you who are our recurring donors through GlobalGiving. You give us the courage to continue.
Thank you, for the gifts that save vulnerable lives every day of the year.
Most people we know enjoy watching the antics of the squirrels that visit or live in their back yards.
Squirrels are intelligent and adaptable, and they make nests in tree cavities and in balls of leaves tucked carefully into the branches of trees. When natural nesting areas aren't available, they can also be found in attics, or vents, or even inside the engine compartment of a vehicle!
They are busy all year round, but do disappear when the weather is cold or wet--or when the females are in the nest with their young.
Squirrel species (grey, fox, flying, and red) are the second most commonly admitted mammal to many rehabilitators in the United States. While people don't usually see babies in their back yard (they don't venture out of the nest until their eyes have been open a couple of weeks), they ARE there.
For those of you who enjoy your squirrel neighbors, we thought you might like to know what to do if you find a squirrel baby out of the nest and in need of help.
JUST THE FACTS
Squirrels have two litters of young every year. The first is born in late winter and the second in fall.
Squirrel mothers are very devoted to their young and nurse them frequently in the nest.
Newborns are pink, hairless, deaf, and blind. They weigh about 1/3 of an ounce and are 1 inch long.
Squirrels open their eyes at 4 weeks, but they don't venture out of the nest until they're about 8 weeks old.
The spring babies stay with their mother until the second litter is born, and then they disperse to find their own nest.
Fall babies stay with their mother through the winter.
Squirrels are not a rabies-vector species.
Squirrels are diurnal; they are only active during the day-time.
SQUIRREL OUT OF THE NEST
If you find an eyes-closed baby or young squirrel on the ground, the first thing you need to do is cover it with a laundry basket so that it is not hurt or taken by a predator, like a cat or hawk. Give it something soft and warm to cuddle into before covering it with the basket.
Weight the basket down with something heavy on top so that it can't be moved by a big animal, like a dog.
TIP: Don't use towels with baby animals. They do not provide warmth and the strings can cause injury.
PROVIDE SUPPLEMENTAL HEAT: 'Pinkie' squirrels have little fur and chill easily, older babies may have their eyes open, but also need supplemental heat if they are on the ground.
Baby animals cannot thermoregulate (stay warm) until they are older.
SEE the picture below for how to provide warmth to a baby.
Contact your local licensed wildlife rehabilitator for advice and direction.
SEE the link below to find your local wildlife rehabiltiator.
TIP: NEVER give water, formula or other fluids to a baby squirrel or other wild baby. A chilled or starving animal needs professional attention before it can be fed anything, or it could die.
WHY DO SQUIRRELS GET ORPHANED?
Squirrels get separated from mom when their nests are destroyed during tree cutting, or if mom is killed by a predator (like a hawk), or has been injured or killed in the road.
Mother squirrels do not abandon their babies.
A baby squirrel that walks up to you or your pet needs help.
PLEASE: Do not just walk away. Do not take babies to another location. They will not survive.
CAN BABIES EVER BE REUNITED WITH MOTHER AFTER THEY FALL FROM THE NEST?
YES! But only with the advice of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who will walk you through the situation and be with you every step of the way.
If reuniting is not successful before dark, the babies MUST be brought to the wildlife rehabilitator.
Mother squirrels will not come to their babies after dark.
We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about your busy backyard friends.
THANK YOU for your gifts that will make care possible for the squirrel babies that will come to us for care this spring.
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