Process our Patients go Through
So what happens to an animal when it's admitted to Flint Creek Wildlife for care? Well, the answer depends on exactly what's wrong with the animal, but every animal goes through three distinct phases of care plus the final release. The phases, critical care, intermediate care and pre-release, are described below. The length of time an animal is in each stage of care depends on the nature of injury and the animal's progress as well as weather conditions since moving animals to the pre-release phase and out of the pre-release phase is weather-dependent.
Critical Care - When an animal is first admitted, it is examined to determine injuries or illness, and overall condition. It is then triaged, which addresses immediate medical concerns. The goal of initial triage is often to stablize the animal, especially in cases of head trauma, blood loss, shock or dehydration. Animals are almost always in critical care for a period of time that could be as short as a day or as long as weeks or even a couple of months. Critical care doesn't necessarily mean the animal is in critical condition although it might be in critical condition. Animals during the critical care stage are receiving around-the-clock care and are closely monitored. Even if an animal is a healthy orphan, we monitor that animal closely upon initial intake to make sure we don't see any emerging problems and that the animal is stable. For a healthy duckling, it would likely move out of critical care to intermediate care within 24-hours. If a healthy orphaned pinky squirrel, however, it would remain in critical care for a couple of months where it would be in the controlled temperature environment of an incubator, it would be fed around-the-clock on a very rigid schedule, its weight would be monitored daily and it would be watched for any signs of respiratory or digestive issues. For injured animals, this typically means that the animal is receiving around-the-clock medications and fluids (typically subcutaneous or IV). The animal might be tube fed and in an incubator because it's emaciated. It might have a fracture, wounds, abscesses or other infections that are being treated.
Intermediate Care - Animals move from critical care to intermediate care as their care requirements diminish. Animals in intermediate care are not in the temperature controlled environment of an incubator and they are not receiving around-the-clock feedings or medications. Their care typically consists of normal feeding and cleaning throughout the day, which may be only once/day or may be several times/day, depending on species and situation. In intermediate care, the animal is eating on its own and has finished its medication schedule. An orphaned baby squirrel that is fully-furred and weaned (or down to a couple of hand feedings a day not requiring around-the-clock care) would be considered intermediate care. An injured adult animal who is no longer requiring wound care, medications or tube feeding, is eating on its own and is in good weight and condition would graduate from critical to intermediate care.
Pre-release - Animals move into pre-release caging in order to recondition their muscles, reacclimate to the outdoors and demonstrate that they are able to display all necessary skills for survival in the wild. Pre-release cages are large outdoor enclosures, the size depending on the species, but up to 100' long in the case of Eagles. Animals move into pre-release caging when they are in release condition with the exception of this final stage of testing and conditioning. Moving an animal to this stage can be delayed due to weather conditions since we cannot move an animal from 72°F to -20°F. Sometimes it is necessary to overwinter an animal. The animal generally stays in this stage for at least two weeks and often longer. A general rule is that animals that were in our care longer (critical + intermediate) spend longer in pre-release since their injuries were generally more severe, they probably have more skills to demonstrate and their muscles would have atrophied more. A hawk with a severe wing fracture, for example, would stay in pre-release caging longer than a hawk that had minor head trauma.
Release - The release of an animal is weather-dependent as we generally wait until we have good weather with a clear forecast for the next two days and then it's FREEDOM!!