Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gulliver, the Brownsville Goose, a New Chapter

There is good news from Wisconsin. The Brownsville Canada goose rescued from a precarious situation on the Mississippi River and transported to REGI a wildlife facility located in Antigo, WI in early February, has found love with another patient at REGI.

Gulliver gained strength quickly with some TLC, a warm place to heal and as much food as he wanted. We expected that would be the case. What we had not expected was that he would find something to nourish his soul as well.

When Sara Lubinski brought Gulliver from La Crosse to Antigo he was put into an area with another Canada goose patient. We will call her Lady Bird. That little lady had a string of bad luck much like Gulliver did. Lady Bird came to REGI suffering from lead poisoning and resulting starvation. Her condition was so fragile she was unable to maintain her body temperature. Cold weather is not usually an issue for Canada geese, however it was for Lady Bird.. She suffered frost bite on her feet and lost the webbing between her toes.

After Gulliver arrived lots of sounds began coming from the enclosure. I don’t profess to understand Canada goosese but the honks seemed like happy honks. We were delighted that the two geese found friendship in each other as they recovered from their individual problems.

A week ago the weather began to warm. The geese were taken to the outdoor area to continue their rehabilitation. Lady Bird was moved first. Gulliver followed a few minutes later. While it was just a matter of minutes that the geese were separated, you would have thought they had been apart for months! They ran to each other. The honking was loud, excited and kind of frantic at the same time.

All the noise got the attention of a pair of Canada geese that wintered in the pond area. One of the pair is a rehabilitation bird, the other a wild bird that arrived one day and never left. The gander of the resident pair came over to investigate the new geese. Gulliver took offense instantly and charged the other male. He was protecting his Lady Bird. The geese have adapted to each other, but are definitely two PAIR.

We don’t know how this story will end. Gulliver will have full strength and flight capability soon. We hope Lady Bird will regain her strength too so they can fly off together. But, lead poisoning takes a toll on the heart and kidneys. She may never be able to leave REGI. Gulliver may soon have a hard decision to make. Will he chose to stay at REGIs pond and make a life with Lady Bird,his new love with the funny toes, or leave her for a “wild”lifestyle?

Stay tuned for updates on the life of Gulliver the luckiest goose on the Mississippi.

Best to all,


PS. We are grateful to the many people that played a role in the capture of Gulliver and transport to REGI in Antigo. It is people such as you that make the world a better place. Teaching moments come from the oddest sources. In this case a injured Canada goose brought people together for a common good and left everyone just a bit better than before for having had the experience. Gulliver thanks you for his second chance at life.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Adult Bald Eagle Hit By Car/ Lead Poisoning

An adult Bald Eagle was admitted from Lincoln County with lead poisoning and a spinal injury. The injury was likely caused by impact such as being hit by a car. It is not unusual for our patients to have more than one problem. Something like a toxin even when not fatal can cause a bird to be weakened, move slowly or be disoriented. Those factors make a wild animal at risk for being hit by cars, shot or even hitting electric lines that they don’t see as well. When a bird comes in with an obvious injury we think, “OK, why did this happen?” “What is the primary problem that caused this injury?’ Caring for wildlife takes sleuthing. It is a lot like in the “old days” when doctors didn’t have the luxury of being able to run lots of tests on patients that allow them to “see inside” the patient through CAT Scans and MRI’s. We do basic blood work and test for toxins and basic x-rays, but the cost mounts quickly and become prohibitive for a non profit such as REGI.

We also are not able to talk to the patient or the patient’s family to get a history of the illness or injury. We have to put pieces together to get an idea of what happened. This bird was found in a ditch by a road so we can consider the bird was hit by a car. Had she been found in the middle of a large field or woods that would be less a consideration.

We observe a patient closely. Everything from the typical “Do you see blood and where?” “Does the bird stand without help?” “Does the bird fluff up the feathers in an effort to retain heat from its body?” This observation has to be done without the patient realizing we are watching. Birds are very good at hiding their health issues, or bluffing to stay alive in the wild. If they show weakness or injury they are killed or eaten by predators. It is the law of survival of the fittest.

Wildlife rehabilitation is a complicated field. There are many similarities to human medicine, but just as many differences.

We hope our new patient survives. She is eating and that is a great sign both for lead poisoned birds as those with spinal injuries. She is not yet standing. That is a negative to her prognosis. We will continue to offer her the best in supportive care, a safe warm and low stress place to recover. So many wild patients survive despite huge odds. Wild animals have strong DNA which has been perfected for eons. Only the strongest individuals of species survive in the wild. That serves them well in case of injury and captive survival.

As if to underscore the variety of birds we care for, a young family brought a Pine Siskin with a wing fracture. A tiny bird, the wing was likely broken when it hit a window. The wing is in good position. The bird is in good body condition. There is a 90% chance this bird will be released again. The public is always surprised that tiny bones heal well and quickly.

Stay tuned for more exciting news coming up next week!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

REGI Van Gets a Super Makeover!

(Photo: Steve Fisher with Tessa, REGI Bald Eagle pose with our beautiful van.)

Several years ago an artist came to REGI to take photos. Mark Mittlesteadt had an interest in raptors, however once arrived, all the birds fascinated him. He wanted to portray them all exactly as he saw them for his paintings. Through the years Mark remained a friend. A few years ago he came to me with an idea. He wanted to do a painting. The painting would include as many of REGIs educational birds as possible. A few months later Mark arrived with a sketch of his idea. He would use both diurnal and nocturnal birds in the painting. One side of the painting would be daylight. Under bright skies the eagles and hawks would perch. Then through the use of color and his copious talent, darkness would gradually creep into the painting. In the darkness owls would reside. It was complicated but I knew it would be magnificent. Finally, Mark suggested his painting would be used on the REGI van.
WOW! Super idea, but I knew the painting Mark envisioned would be a massive undertaking. Knowing the perfectionist nature in this fine artist I was not holding my breath. A month or so ago Mark contacted me. Not only was the painting finished, but he found partners to donate their time to turn his painting first into a vinyl and then have it installed.

Two weeks ago the van went into D&L Signs in Weston, WI to begin the transformation. I confess my own artistic ability ended in the third grade, so I had a hard time imagining the finished product. Last week we drove our enhanced van back to REGI. It is amazing! We are thrilled with the finished product. People called REGI staff even as we drove it from Weston to Antigo to inquire about the “moving art”.

(Photo: REGI van with Kirk Reimann D&L Signs Owner and Tony Borchardt
Graphic Designer.)

We cannot thank artist Mark Mittlesteadt of Air Brush Designs in Rothschild, Peter Vance of The Studio in Weston and Kirk Reimann of D&L Signs in Weston for this tremendous gift.

We are still a bit at a loss for words, but believe us when we say that if you see the van and have ever seen a REGI presentation you will recognize each of the birds. They are depicted that perfectly. Mark has additionally offered to develop posters the REGI organization can sell as a fundraiser using his painting.

The van itself was purchased a few years ago with a generous donation from Vanguard
Charitable Endowment Program when our old van was no longer road worthy.

These gifts serve to remind us and the public we encounter, of our wonderful supporters and how much we depend on their generosity. Without you we would not be able to continue to help wildlife. To say we are grateful is an understatement.

Thank you everyone!
Marge Gibson

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bald Eagle Release, 28 yr old banded eagle

Good Morning Everyone,

Thursday was an exciting day for us and for a 28 year old bald eagle, rehabilitated at REGI and released back to his home territory near Ladysmith, WI. According to DNR records at age 28 that makes him the oldest known bald eagle in the wild in our state. There may be others older of course, but the only way we know if is they are admitted to rehabilitation or the band is ready in some other way so we can get the data from it.

This bird came in last May. He is in bad shape. He has been shot with a shotgun. The shooting broke his left leg. If that was not enough he has electrical shock injuries. Either injury would have been serious, even fatal if not rescued by Chris Cold, DNR biologist and educator.

We often see multiple problems in our patients. Once they are injured they are compromised. They are weaker and not flying as well or as exact as they would in a normal circumstance. The eagle recovered well. I have to say that he exceeded my initial prognosis for him. Everything went perfectly for him while in rehabilitation. The leg healed very well and he has 100% use of the leg and foot. That is important stuff if you are an eagle and you rely on your feet and talons to feed not only yourself but your mate and family!

The biologists in the area wanted to wait until the harsh part of winter was over before he was released back to the wild. Thursday the day had come. While lakes in the northland are still covered with thick layer of ice some of the flowages and moving water is open.
We drove him to Ladysmith for release early on Thursday morning. He was not at all happy being caught up once again and being force fed once again. These things happened when he was in critical care but for months he was in the large flight building exercising and socializing with other bald eagles. Once we arrived at Ladysmith I took him from the carrier and held him for the last 2 miles of transit in the front seat of the car. He was STUNNED! The look in his eyes as he looked around and recognized the area and the landmarks he had known for the past 27 years or so sent chills down my spine. He just stared as if he could not believe his good fortune.

The release went quickly. He didn't give photographers much chance for those spectacular flying away shots, but he is home and that is what matters.

People keep asking if we name the birds in our care. We do not. I feel strongly that giving the birds that are going to be released back into the wild indicates they belong to us. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are here for a short time and then it is back to their life as they knew it. We are but a bump in their road.

We hope this eagle has many more years in the wild. Bald eagles can live to be over fifty years in captivity, but in the wild there are many things that work against them. Things like illegal shootings, lead poisoning and other toxins all obstacles that are human oriented make their life more challenging.

We hope his time with us at REGI will soon be but a vague memory for him as he reclaims his life in the wild. Thanks to the WI DNRs Chris Cold and to Ron Eckstein that banded this eagle so many years ago. Without that band we would never have known his age or his story.

Marge Gibson

Monday, March 16, 2009

Think Spring! Trumpeter Swan 86C has a mate!

It is a beautiful day in Northern Wisconsin. Gosh it seems like eons since I was able to say that at least in reference to the sky being clear and blue and the weather being over freezing.

Most of our staff spend last week at a national conference for wildlife rehabilitators in the Chicago area. Lunchtime discussion was interesting with lots of news ideas brought back from the conference. Continuing education is so important to all fields including wildlife rehabilitation and education. I always say when you feel you know it all is the day you should retire from this job. As in all areas of medicine, new treatments and medications are developed and we need to stay current so we can provide the best in care for our patients.

We had some wonderful news last night! Trumpeter Swan 86C was seen and photographed on the St Croix River by Barry Wallace.

86C was hatched in 2004 near Rice Lake, WI. A female, she is breeding age. She has a new mate in tow this year. It will be great to watch her and what comes of the union. Her mate is an uncollared swan. He is likely from Wisconsin but she could have met him on migration in Illinois, Missouri or Arkansas. She came in with a broken wing in the fall of 2007 and was released on the St Croix last spring.

It is a happily busy time at REGI this week. We have several releases coming up as we take advantage of the warm weather. More on that soon.

Best to all,

Marge Gibson

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trumpeter Swan 87Y Released, Lead Poisoning Survivor

Hello Everyone, We had a wonderful release celebration with the release of one of the Trumpeter Swans that was admitted in January with an extreamly high lead level. The bird was known as T50 for his collar marker. The collar is a yellow plastic unit placed on the birds neck by the State of Wisconsin Bureau of Endangered Resources in a effort to better follow and keep track of Trumpter Swans in the State of Wisconsin. The bright yellow and black letter and number combination are easy to see even from a distance and keepo the birds whereabouts known to biologists. The collars also identify the birds and the state is able to know very quickly the birds entire history including his parents and other history. T50 is fourteen years old. His story is best told in some of the news articles I will include in this blog entry. When T50 was admitted to REGI we had to remove the collar for health concerns. A new collar was put on by Avian Ecologist Pat Manthey of the State of WI DNR/BER. The bird now has a new number and from time forward will be known as 87Y. I have to admit it will be hard to get used to the new "name". The release took place late last week. Barry Wallace, swan watcher and very important person in this entire episode has sent photos almost daily since the release documenting 87Ys progress. Lead poisoning is a hard problem to overcome. We are very hopeful that the bird will remain an active part of the breeding population of Trumpeter Swans in Wisconsin. I will attach below a link to one of the articles written about the release and the history of the former T50 and now 87Y. Thanks to Barry, Mary, Kathy. Pat and everyone that was involved in this success story. I always tell people it takes many people to create a success in wildlife issues and that could not be more true in this case. We can help wildlife here at REGI but it is often the public that alerts us to a situation and brings them to us and monitors the birds post release. You guys are just the best.§ion=homepage

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Article on Gulliver the Goose from Caledonia Argus, Caledonia,MN

The article below is printed by permission of the Caledonia Argus. It appeared in that paper on Feb. 11, 2009. We are delighted to report that Gulliver is doing well and has found love in another Canada Goose in rehabiliation at REGI. Our thanks to Charlie Warner, Editor of the Argus, Craig Moorhead and the fine people that cared so much for this goose and found a way to help him. Marge Gibson

Brownsville's 'Gulliver the Goose' rehabbing nicely in Antigo, Wis. By Craig Moorhead
Special for the Caledonia Argus Caledonia, MN

There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.
- Aldo Leopold
A wild Canadian goose with an injured wing first caught the attention
of Brownsville residents a couple of months ago. The bird could be
seen in the Mississippi River near the shoreline, towards the
northern end of town.
Lavonne Jahn was among the first to spot the flightless bird. She
contacted neighbors and friends about the goose and called the
Minnesota DNR to see if anything could be done. "They told me they
could come over and shoot it," she said. Lavonne wasn't too happy
with that.
Winter arrived, and the stranded bird could be seen swimming in an
ever-shrinking pool of water. The ice was closing in. Brownsville residents started trying to get food to the bird. They
took corn, bread, and even muffins and tossed them out for the goose,
which was near the foot of a steep embankment. As the weather
worsened, more and more people took notice of the plight of the goose. Lana Twite, owner of The Copper Penny restaurant, says that customers
started talking about the Brownsville goose almost every day.
Everyone seemed to have an opinion. Some thought the bird should be
rescued, while others thought that nature should be allowed to take
its course. As one resident put it, "eagles need to eat too." Brownsville Postmaster Barb Keehn said that people were showing up to
drop off their mail, pick up stamps, and see if anyone had news about
the goose. The Brownsville goose had become the talk of the town. Amiie Gabrilska of the Coulee Region Humane Society said that several
people contacted her agency about the big bird. Only those with
wildlife rehabilitation permits and federal migratory bird permits
are allowed to take charge of a live wild goose. Gabrilska says that
her agency had people with the permits, but a problem remained. It was a big problem. The treacherous ice conditions made catching
the bird next to impossible. As resident Laurie Arzaga said, "We were
trying to figure out how to help it, rescue it, but we could see that
the ice was too dangerous."
Arzaga talked the situation over with her friend Sara Lubinski.
Lubinski, a botanist and landscape painter who works part-time for
the U. S. Geological Survey, began contacting people she knew, seeing
if they knew of anyone who could help.
Enter Shawn Giblin and Eric Cummings, Wisconsin DNR employees who
work out of the USGS field station, La Crosse. Giblin and Cummings
were set to do water quality sampling with their airboat at Lawrence
Lake and Stoddard.
Lubinski said that the day before the attempted rescue (Jan. 11), the
goose could be seen sitting in what was left of its pool of open
water, now only about three feet wide.
On Jan. 12 the open water was gone. Lubinski said she couldn't see
the bird. She had a sinking feeling as she headed for the boat
landing. Giblin and Cummings were set to meet Gabrilska at Lawrence
Lake that morning, and she dreaded telling them that the goose was
gone. When she reached the landing Jahn showed up, telling everyone
that the bird was on the bank. The thermometer stood at two above as
the rescuers departed.
"It wasn't a terribly scientific process," Giblin said. "I just threw
my muskie net in and Amiie brought a dog carrier." Shawn drove the
airboat while Eric grasped the net. The goose was herded out onto the
ice. On the third pass, Eric netted the bird.
Giblin: "It went surprisingly smooth. He seemed like he was on his
last legs. We chased him about three or four minutes before we caught
Gabrilska returned to Onalaska with the goose, which was originally
thought to be a female. Dr. Laura Johnson, a wild bird specialist
from Prairie Du Chien, Wis. drove to Onalaska to examine the bird.
She requested radiographs, which another local veterinarian donated.
Tests indicated that the goose could be saved, and might even regain
its ability to fly.
Coulee Region Humane Society started looking for a licensed wildlife
rehabilitator to take the bird (now thought to be a gander). Raptor
Education Group Inc. of Antigo, Wis. offered to take the goose and
nurse it back to health. All that was needed was a volunteer to
transport the bird.
Lubinski volunteered. On Feb. 5 she loaded up the goose, nicknamed
Gulliver, and headed for Antigo. Gulliver, she said, "made not a
single peep for three and a half hours."
She described the facility as "amazing. Gulliver was placed in a
large, clean pen with another goose and they seemed just fine
together. Once winter thaws, Gulliver can spend time in a large,
protected pond, complete with a few other geese and waterfowl to hang
out with."
(For those wishing to contact or contribute to REGI, a non-profit,
donation-funded entity, their e-mail is If Gulliver's flying abilities return, he will travel back to the
Mississippi flyway for eventual release.
Why do all this for a goose? Lubinski replied, "I'd been watching
this goose for weeks. I really hadn't thought about doing anything
about it until Laurie called. One day just north of town I saw two
coyotes crossing where the ice was a little firmer. Another day an
eagle swooped right over the top of the goose and I thought 'this
goose is still there.' This is an amazing goose, surviving all those
predators and the ice, not being able to fly or get to food." An amazing goose? Is that all? Lubinski thinks for a moment, then
begins to quote Leopold from memory: "And when the dawn-wind stirs
through ancient cottonwoods, and the gray light steals down from the
hills over the old river sliding softly past its wide brown
sandbars--- what if there be no more goose music?"

Monday, March 9, 2009

She STANDS and Barred Owl Hit by Car

Good Morning Everyone,

In the wee light of early morning I slipped down into our critical care area. There a wonderful sight awaited me. Our cygnet Trumpeter Swan (#21) was standing! This is a huge milestone for us and the swan of course. This is the youngster than was admitted with lead poisoning last week. When admitted she weighed less than ten pounds or half her normal weight. She was so weak she was unable to stand and most of the time was unable to hold her head up. She was unable to eat on her own. While we are still guardeded about her survival we are now guardedly optimistic! What a little fighter this youngster is! She is eating on her own now! As of Saturday March 6, she weighted 12.5 lbs. We are anxious to weigh her today and see what the scale says. If this little one has her way she will be out of here and back to the wild sooner than we ever dreamed just a short week ago. Lead poisoning is a very difficult toxin and does terrible things to the organs including the birds heart, kidneys and liver. She will have many hurdles to overcome in the future but the first step is to stay alive long enough for the lead chelation medication (Ca EDTA) to take affect and to be able to digest food. That first step has been taken and we are on to the next. This little lady has a strong constitution and we will do our very best to make sure she can go home again.

The Barred Owl on the left was admitted on Saturday March 6, 2009. A family found the bird at the side of a road and brought him to REGI. The owl is an adult male Barred Owl. The species while common to our region is one of our most beautiful owls. Barred Owls are early nesters. It is very possible this adult male has a family or at least a mate sitting on eggs. We hope he can get back to his family soon. Many owls are hit by cars. This happens for a few reasons. First owls use their hearing more than their vision when hunting. If they are hot on the auditory trail of a mouse, which is their most common food, they are so focused they are not aware of cars. Since owls are active at night and our vision is low at that time, people do not see them until it is too late and they are on a collision path. This owl was rescued and was brought to REGI. The gentleman brought his young son along to admit the bird. It is so important to include youngsters in efforts to help animals. We at REGI believe children learn what they live. A parents actions become a part of who they will be in the future. We applaud this family for taking time to notice the bird and get him the help he needed.
Another week has begun.
Marge Gibson
( Photos 1. Cygnet swan #21 standing! , 2. Barred Owl admitted that was hit by a car. 3. Family that rescued the Barred Owl and brought him to REGI for care. )

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mr D flies Free!

A very lucky Black-capped chickadee flew to freedom on Thursday! He was a favorite in part because we do so few passerines ( perching birds) in the winter and he had a harrowing experience with a mouse trap! I am willing to bet not many chickadees survive a mouse trap! I mean not many mice survive a mouse trap!
You might wonder about his name. We did too! The children of the family that found the little guy named him. We kept it and put it on his record so we would be able to tell the family when he was released.
We don't usually name the birds that come into rehabilitation. Especially those that will be released to the wild again. A name indicates ownership and nothing could be further from the truth in the field of wildlife rehabilitation. We do the work for one reason and that is to give these amazing wild birds a second chance at life in the wild. Some birds, despite our best efforts are not able to be released. If they are comfortable with captivity they can become part of either our educational program or that of other facilities that have the proper permits. Sometimes zoos or nature centers use our non releasable birds in their displays.
So, if you hear us refer to a bird with a name, that bird is most likely one of our educational birds. Or, it has a history such as MR D. When children are involved in rescues we are especially sensitive to their needs. This may be their first interaction with wildlife on a close basis. We want it to be a good experience so they view wildlife and wildlife protection as something they can do in the future.
Mr D was released here at REGI. He has been seen with our local chickadees feeding at our feeders. We hope he stays away from mouse traps in the future.
Marge Gibson

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rough-legged Hawk Release

It is always important to think about the timing of a release especially when it comes to migratory birds. A Rough-legged Hawk is a migratory bird that only visits Wisconsin during our winter months. They are already starting their long journey back up to the northern tundras of Canada and Alaska where they build their nests in and lay their eggs in June. This beautiful arctic bird came to us in during its migration away from the tundra in October. She was hit on the road along Hwy 64. When we received a call about her the people reported her as dead. We often receive calls about already dead raptors however, we still encourage people to bring them into us so we can investigate their reason for death and report it in our records. It turns out when she arrived that she was NOT dead at all! She was unconscious with a slight wing injury and some internal bleeding all most likely cause by a collision with a vehicle. It has taken her almost 6 months to fully recover from her injuries but with enough time to start her migration north again. Below you can see her fly straight and sound with a second chance at a free life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Another Lead Poisoned Swan Case

March 3, 2009

Hello everyone,

It has been a busy week with lots of interesting cases, cold weather and eventful happenings.

It is hard to believe it is March. The temperature has been less than perfect. We have had several nights of below zero F. temperatures several in the eighteen and twenty below zero F. range with lots of snow. Most of the country is having unusual weather so we are trying not to grumble. Lets just say we will be delighted to see spring!

Lead poisoned Trumpeter Swans continue being admitted. The newest patient Photos) is a cygnet or young swan. She will be a year in late May or June. Just like in the story the UGLY DUCKLING, cygnets are gray and some think not as attractive as their perfectly white parents. It is hard to see a little one so sick. She has lead poisoning.
There was a concentrated effort to capture her during the past several weeks at the wintering area near Hudson. WI. The folks in Hudson and the Crex Meadows swan capture crew are amazing and keep a close watch on the wild swans as they winter in the area. This little lady managed to evade capture until a few days ago. By that time she was so weak that she could no longer move. She came in weighing less than 10 lbs. That is critical starvation mode for this large species. Females swans should weigh 22 lbs and males up to 35lbs. That is comparable to a 120 lb person weighing 55 lbs. The good news that while she remains very sick she has gained 2 lbs in the past few days. She is being tube fed a mixture rich in nutrients and calories. She is injections for lead poisoning and medication for aspergillosis. Aspergillosis is a fungal condition that takes advantage of a bird with a compromised immune system. Aspergillosis is often fatal so we are being very careful with her and leaving nothing to chance. She is also on a heating pad to maintain her body temperature. Lead poisoning causes a host of problems including neurological issues and every organ of the body. These cases are so fragile and labor intensive but the success of released back to the wild is wonderful. It makes it all worthwhile for us and for the swan population.
PHOTOS left tube feeding cygnet swan when admitted. Photo left above cygnet on first day and right last night. Notice how much more alert she is after a few days of treatment for lead poisoning and tender loving care. Also notice that she is wearing a Green Bay Packer sheet on her shoulders. ::) We are often given old sheets or towels to use with the birds. I wish the youngster that owned that sheet could see it now! Heck I wish the Green Bay Packers could see her too! Their fan base has grown to include endangered species! How great it THAT?

Best to all,