Blog Archive September 2008

Avian Wing Injuries

Posted on 30 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Today we released an Ovenbird that arrived at our facility on one of the first days of fall migration. She had suffered from a broken bone (ulna) in her right wing. She flew perfectly as she left my hand - no sign at all of the prior break.

It is with joy that we watch these releases. In wildlife, the will to live is almost unparalleled.

Although we successfully treat birds with breaks much worse than hers, her release still reminds me of why we aren't quick to euthanize animals unless we're absolutely sure that an animal cannot survive and be releasable. Over the years, we've learned that many injuries that were historically considered to be non-releasable are actually ones from which an animal can recover completely. If we are in doubt, we give an animal a chance. That's just one of our basic tenets.

We also don't decide whether an animal deserves treatment simply because the injury may take a longer period to heal - again, provided that we believe the animal can recover fully and have a normal life.

We understand and respect every rehab center's right to set their own policies relative to treatment protocols and euthanasia. These are simply ours and they are fundamental to Flint Creek Wildlife. And many birds and mammals that have passed through our doors approve.


Sweet Home, Kentucky!

Posted on 29 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Thanks to one of our volunteers, a beautiful female Box Turtle returned home this past Saturday after over a year of forced relocation. I can only believe that she was relieved and happy to be home again after such a long journey.

Her journey started over a year ago when she was crossing the road - probably on her way to lay eggs. She was run over by a car and left for dead in the middle of the road with a significant wound to the carapace (top shell). A good Samaritan that was vacationing in Kentucky from her Illinois home rescued her from the road and brought her back to Illinois.

The good Samaritan tried to care for the turtle but couldn't get the turtle to eat and, worried that she would die, brought the turtle to a veterinarian. The veterinarian referred her to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation.

The good Samaritan, in her effort to force the turtle to eat, had aspirated her (aspiration is when food, water or other foreign body gets into the trachea or lungs, leading to respiratory compromise, pneumonia and often death). After a course of antibiotics, however, her breathing improved.

Her shell damage repaired and healthy in every other regard, it was time to return this beautiful turtle to the wild. We started networking with our volunteers and, within hours, Demayne responded that she would be leaving for North Carolina in two days and could pass through Kentucky en route.

Complete with habitat information, dietary information, turtle food for the road and our beloved turtle, Demayne left for Kentucky. Below is an excerpt of Demayne's update regarding the release...

"Turtle had a fine journey. Sat morning she ate 2 medium earthworms and then we hit the road. Attached are pics of her release....away from the highway and incredibly forested, with good understory. She was very alert when we left her."

See Demayne's pictures below. Thanks, Demayne, for bringing this girl home.

Below is information regarding Box Turtles (excerpts from the Davidson College Herpetology Lab website).....

Box Turtles are the most common terrestrial turtle in the eastern United States. They are small to medium sized turtles, attaining a maximum length of about 8 inches and having a highly domed carapace. A key characteristic of box turtles is their hinged plastron (bottom of the shell) that can be shut completely to exclude predators. Although mud, musk, and blandings turtles also posses hinged shells, they cannot be closed completely. Superficially, box turtles resemble tortoises but they are actually more closely related to many aquatic turtles and belong to the same family as spotted, bog, chicken, map, and painted turtles, as well as sliders, cooters, and diamondback terrapins. Box turtles in the United States are divided into two species, the eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina), which ranges from Texas throughout the southeast and north to Michigan and southern Massachusetts, and the western box turtle (Terrapene ornata), which ranges west of the Mississippi to Colorado and New Mexico. The western box turtle is superficially similar to the eastern box turtle but is typically smaller and has a shell marked with radiating yellow lines. There are an additional two species of box turtle that are endemic to restricted habitats in Mexico. One of these species (Terrapene coahuila) is almost totally aquatic.Eastern box turtles are highly variable in shell shape, pattern, and coloration. Based on these differences, four subspecies of eastern box turtles have been designated. The most widespread subspecies is simply known as the eastern box turtle (T. carolina carolina). This turtle ranges along the entire east coast of the United States from Massachusetts to northern Florida, as far west as the Mississippi River, and north to the Great Lakes. Although this subspecies is highly variable in coloration, it is often more brightly colored than the other subspecies and almost always has four claws on the hind feet.

Sexing Box Turtles
As previously stated, eastern box turtles exhibit high amounts of variation in appearance. Because of this, sexing turtles can often prove difficult, especially to someone unfamiliar with box turtles. Despite these difficulties, though, there are several characteristics that can often be used to correctly determine the sex of a box turtle. Probably the two most reliable features used to sex box turtles are shell shape and tail length. Males generally have longer and wider tails than females as well as more flattened shells.

Two other features useful in sexing box turtles are eye color and plastron (bottom of the shell) concavity. In general male box turtles have very orange or red eyes and a slightly concave plastron while females have brown or light orange eyes and a plastron that is almost completely flat.

Habitat Preferences
Eastern box turtles are amazingly versatile animals and inhabit a wide variety of habitats from wooded swamps to dry, grassy fields. Although these turtles can live in a variety of different habitats, they are most abundant and healthy in moist forested areas with plenty of underbrush. Although not aquatic, box turtles will often venture into shallow water at the edge of ponds or streams or in puddles. Box turtles do not travel far, usually living within an area less than 200m in diameter. In cold climates they hibernate through the winter in loose soil at a depth of up to two feet.

Food Preferences
Box turtles are omnivores in the broadest sense of the word. They will eat almost anything, animal or plant, that they can fit in their mouth. Intriguingly, it is thought that young box turtles are primarily carnivorous and that as they grow their diet shifts more and more towards plant material. Favorite foods include almost any insect (although they seem to particularly relish worms and slugs), virtually any fruit or berry, mushrooms, a variety of vegetable matter, and even carrion. Interestingly, box turtles are even able to eat many mushrooms that are toxic to humans.

Box Turtle Life History
Box Turtles are some of the longest lived and slowest reproducing species in the world. When a box turtle first hatches from its egg it is a mere 1.25 inches long. Little is known about the lives of young box turtles because they are so secretive and hard to find. In fact, it is very rare to find a box turtle much smaller than about 3.5 or 4 inches long. It is thought that these young turtles spend most of their time concealed in brush and leaf litter and feed primarily on insects. Box turtles generally grow slowly, reaching sexual maturity at between 7 and 10 years old and 5 or 6 inches in length. Once mature, a female box turtle will lay between 3 and 6 eggs each spring in a shallow nest. The eggs are left unguarded and hatch in the late summer or early fall when hatching occurs. Box turtles commonly reach 25-30 years of age and there are well-documented cases of them living to 40 or even 50 years. Although questionable, some sources even report box turtles topping 100 years of age.

Rising Above the Muck

Posted on 21 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Inconvenienced by finding an injured bird, I explained that doing the right thing usually isn't convenient. Although she appeared to acquiesce and actually scheduled an appointment to bring in the injured bird, she was a no-show.

Fortunately for Flint Creek Wildlife and the thousands of animals whose lives we help save every year, our volunteers rise above the muck. They do what's right, placing their own personal interests and desires on hold to help us advance our mission of Saving Lives.

To that end, our volunteers rise above the muck every week - each helping in his or her own way.

In rising above the muck last week, our volunteers were also covered in muck. With more than 220 volunteer hours already into the Itasca location's flood cleanup, we still have more to accomplish. We would have liked to spend these 220 hours on education, rescue or advancing our long-term goal of Saving Lives...alas.

We've completed the cleaning and disinfecting of 14 outdoor enclosures. We have 4 more to go. Turning to the most important issue, we've still not lost any patient lives from the flood. One Canada Goose has respiratory issues and we are treating him with antibiotics.

Beer, Brats and Owls

Posted on 18 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Meepy, our educational Barred Owl, experienced her first Oktoberfest this evening. The Village of Itasca held a Business Appreciation Night to start their Inaugural Oktoberfest which runs this weekend Friday Sept 19 from 5-11 and Saturday Sept 20 from 3-midnight. In Meepy's humble opinion it will be one fun party. She was a little concerned over Police Chief Heher's hat (pictured below).

Meepy made quite a few new friends and found that she really enjoyed the Bavarian Music. Meepy's only regret was that her handler, Dawn, wouldn't let her enjoy some fine German Pilsner. Something about not drinking and flying... go figure... disclaimer: no alcohol or german food was or should be fed to any wild or domestic animal.

The event was outstanding, with over 700 people attending and enjoying the great food, music and beer. It was nice to see so many smiling faces. So if your looking for something to do this weekend and you want to forget about the ridiculous amount of rain last weekend brought, stop by the Itasca Oktoberfest I'm sure you won't be disappointed. Here is the link to more information.

Gute Nacht!!

Cancel the Ark

Posted on 16 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

The flood waters at our Itasca location (located at the Spring Brook Nature Center) are receding. Left behind in their place is thick, goopy, smelly mud. A coating of mud and debris clings to the sides of the cages where our recently painted clean and shiny surface once stood. Some of the cages still have water - but not more than three or four inches. Even the blades of grass are coated with stinky mud. One picnic table rests comfortably in the middle of the parking lot, two more are in the woods near the creek. I've heard that the dumpster is behind the neighbor's house down the creek - we'll probably go retrieve it tomorrow!

Before long, however, we'll clean and disinfect the cages and return them to their normal state. Birds will soon follow to return home. I'm sure that Itasca public works will come out and clean up the Nature Center that they've worked so hard to improve over the recent months.

We're looking forward to having all birds back in their cages and the Nature Center looking as beautiful as it had just prior to the floods.

Tomorrow the damage assessment and disinfecting will begin....again, we are grateful that no lives were lost in the flood waters. Our thoughts go out to those with damage to their homes.


Skunks and More Melodrama

Posted on 15 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Any of you following this blog know about the flooding this weekend at our newest facility in Itasca. First, let me say that the rains stopped yesterday afternoon and the water stopped rising. We were finally confident that the Itasca building would not go under water. Knowing that all animals once in outside caging were safe and secure inside the building, we finally left.

After 32 hours at Itasca, I was anxious to clean myself up before assuming the requisite care of the animals at our Barrington location. I was home for less than an hour when both of my dogs were sprayed by a skunk - right in the face. Bishop was sprayed in the eyes and over the face. Marley appeared to have eaten most of the spray. Bishop started rubbing the lovely skunk oil on my family room rug. Marley was foaming at the mouth and trying to spit out the skunk oil, shaking his head and sending the drool/skunk mix spraying in every direction.

My husband quickly called an after-hours vet who advised to use the following mixture:

1 Qt. hydrogen peroxide (3%)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tsp. mild dish detergent

This mixture must be mixed in an open container since it would explode in a closed container. The mixture is caustic and must not be used in the eyes or mouth. Wear rubber gloves while working with this solution. Apply to the pet's fur (preferably before the skunk oil dries!) and leave on for ten - fifteen minutes, then rinse in lukewarm water.

For the eyes and mouth we were told simply to flush the eyes with sterile eye wash and rinse the mouth with normal water.

This did the trick - the skunk smell is gone.

They say that things come in threes....what do you suppose is next?

Geese Flock to Lake Spring Brook

Posted on 14 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Spring Brook Nature Center's new lake, currently surrounding the entire building, now contains a flock of geese. The geese seem oblivious to the fact that their new lake is comprised of flood waters.

The flood waters receded significantly during the night but have been rising again steadily during most of today. The water level is still noticeably below yesterday's high mark; however, it does look like one of our neighbor's houses is back under water. How sad...

All animals are still secured in the building. Everyone is doing fine.


Anyone See the Ark??

Posted on 13 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

So last Sunday we gave an educational program over at Prince of Peace Church in Elk Grove Village. The church liaison introduced us by talking about Noah and drawing some comparison between our work and Noah's work. Well, of course, the comparison was regarding working with animals, not building an ark....right?

The rains came down hard and the water level rose quickly - so quickly, in fact, that one neighbor, after finishing sandbagging his house to prevent it from taking on water, told us that earlier in the morning he was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to do yard work and now he was hoping to save his house. His next door neighbor had already been evacuated by the Itasca Fire Department because water rose above the level of the electrical outlets in their home thus rendering the home unsafe.

First thing's first, we immediately started evacuating birds. Water was up to the top of my legs in the rehab mews and flight chambers. I began grabbing birds, removing 4-5 Cooper's Hawks in the first trip and returning for others. Water was up to my mid-chest at the flight chamber housing two Long-eared Owls (a threatened species). We plucked birds from their perches and moved them to the safety of the building -now island- recognizing that a second phase of evacuation could be necessary later if the water continued its rapid rise.

The front of the Nature Center, which is already become an island unto itself.

Looking north/northeast from the Nature Center's front door.

View from the Nature Center's south door.

Looking west out of the back (south) door of the Nature Center. The octagon (mews containing Old Red (Red-tailed Hawk), Meepy (Barred Owl) and Turkey Vulture Senior are under more than two feet of water. The water level has approached the front of the mews housing Junior (Great-horned Owl) and Pip (Barn Owl) but hasn't entered those cages.

Phil and one of our amazing volunteers, Kim, move additional supplies from our vehicles over to the the Nature Center. Supplies are floated on top of a purple kiddie pool.

Kim, volunteer extraordinaire, bought and brought over every cardboard carrier she could find along with a bunch of large plastic tote bins, a raft and an air pump. If we end up having to evacuate the building, birds (now all currently temporarily housed in the building) will be moved in carriers and cardboard carriers loaded into tote bins, floated on the raft and kiddie pool over to our vehicles and transported to our Barrington facility.

We have spent the night at the Nature Center to monitor the situation. The water has receded rapidly over night but more rains are predicted through today. We will again stand ready to evacuate as needed but right now it looks like our evacuation may be limited to moving birds inside. Keep you fingers crossed.

Looking southeast from the back door of the Nature Center.

Looking east from the back door of the Nature Center.

Dawn transports the final bird, a Coopers Hawk, into the safety of the building.

Looking into the double door hallway. Doors to two flight chambers are on the right. Doors to small flight chambers and rehab cages are on the left. Note the ladder that has been used in the evacuation and the construction materials at the end of the hall. The construction materials have been used in all of our improvements since taking over this facility at the end of May. Not only have many of our cages taken on three feet of water, but we've lost much of the materials purchased. New light fixtures, for example, that were to be installed in the outdoor rehab cages, are completely under water at the end of the hall.

Looking south over the Nature Center grounds. Note the weathering yard to the left of the photo. Our lumber for construction of more cages and improvements to other cages floats in the weathering yard.

The back of the Nature Center.

The greenhouse, the small flight chambers and the weathering yard, pictured left to right.

Dawn moves a large snapping turtle, the final evacuee, from an outdoor rehab cage.

We are grateful that no animals were lost. Everyone is currently safe in the building and we stand ready to evacuate the building should it become necessary. As of now, it looks like phase 2 of the evacuation may never become necessary.

Once the water recedes, we will begin the clean up effort. All cages will be disinfected before animals can be returned to them. We will survey the damage, both to the caging and to the other supplies we've lost. The sun is rising...everyone is safe.

My thanks to our wonderful volunteers (special thanks to JC for handling phones throughout the day, Kim for wading through the water, helping all day and keeping vigil all night and Alessandra and others who offered to come out) and to the Village of Itasca who responded so well to this crisis.


Great Horned Owl Held Back

Posted on 9 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

Well, we intended on releasing this Great Horned Owl. He was flying great in the 60' chamber but failed to pass his final exam! He's back to flight training. Enjoy the photos anyway!

An Unusual Encounter

Posted on 8 September 2008 by Dawn Keller

One of our volunteers called me stating that Old Red, one of the education Red-tailed Hawks at our Itasca facility, had a visitor. Interested, I followed her to Old Red's mew (cage).

I rounded the corner and didn't see anyone standing there then, looking down, I saw Red standing low in her cage on a piece of conduit running approximately six inches above the ground. She stared intently. I followed her gaze and, just outside of her mew, saw a garter snake coiled up with head erect, staring straight back at Red.

The garter snake and Red continued to lock gazes. The snake was on high alert - no doubt unaware that Red couldn't reach through the cage's predator-proofing. The snake hissed and puffed out its body to look as large as possible. Red didn't flinch.
I watched the exchange for some time and wished I had a camera with me.

A couple of days later I was returning from an educational program with Red and found the snake slithering outside of her cage. Red and I paused for a moment, this time observing from the same side of the cage. I was grateful that Mary Anderson, a photographer and regular at the Nature Center, was there to document the second encounter.

Thanks, Mary, for use of your photos!


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