Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Came Early to REGI!

We had a wonderful surprise this weekend from our friends at Wild Birds Unlimited in Wausau; a surprise that would make Santa Clause himself blush!

Lori Schubring owns the nature shop, Wild Birds Unlimited, and has been a long-time supporter and close friend of REGI. She knows just how difficult is it for us to continue caring for the hundreds of birds we see every year while surviving strictly on donations. She collects donations for us at her store throughout the year, but she decided to do something extra special for us this Christmas.
She and her wonderful and generous customers collected many items from our wish list, secretly filling an entire chest freezer and then some. She and her husband Rocky surprised us with an entire truck-load of donations this past Sunday morning.

Photo above: Marge and Don Gibson were shocked to see an entire truck-load of donations, including much needed supplies such as a chest freezer, kitchen knives, laundry and dish soap, bird feed, rugs, dog food, office paper, a Garmin GPS, and baby food just to name a few. (Left to right: Marge Gibson, Lori Schubring, and Don Gibson)

Photo above: Near the end of unloading the truck, they find more wonderful things like a power washer, power drill, and kitchen scale! (Left to right: Avian rehabilitator, Katie Farvour; Lori Schubring; and Marge Gibson)

Photo above: Even Suzie, one of Marge and Don's chickens, had to get in on the excitement! (Photo credit: photos by Katie Farvour)

Thank you!

A giant THANK YOU to Lori and Rocky Schubring, and all of the folks who brought donations now and throughout the year. We cannot thank you enough! With your generosity, you have helped hundreds of birds have a second chance at life!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Friday, December 9, 2011

Snowy Owls and Lead Poisoned Bald Eagles

As the seasons shift from fall to winter, our clinic is still as busy as ever. Winter is usually a Wisconsin rehabber's "slow season," but there is truly nothing slow about the season we are experiencing here this year. Our clinic is still full, and more patients are coming through the door. While the babies of summer are gone, we are seeing cases of starvation and lead poisoning instead.

Photo above: Aurora, our Educational Snowy Owl, looking as beautiful as ever in fresh snow.

If you are a follower of happenings in the world of bird news, then you're probably aware of this year's irruption of Snowy Owls. If you haven't heard about it yet, I'll get you in the loop! Already this year, hundreds of Snowy Owls have been spotted throughout Wisconsin and other parts of the US. When these "irruptions" or "invasions" occur it is usually because of a dip in the lemming populations in the far north. Lemmings are small rodents that make up a large part of Snowy Owl's diets. Lemmings go through cycles of high and low populations which influence the owls. In times of low populations, the owls are forced south in search of food. The last time an irruption such as this occurred was in 2006.

This year, the owls are moving south, but it is likely because the lemming populations over the summer were high allowing the owls to have a very successful breeding season. Now that all of those baby Snowies have grown up, they are becoming territorial and the young owls are forced to find territory elsewhere.

The Duluth News Tribune put out a little article about the latest Snowy Owl irruption and you can click this link to check it out.

I prefer to refer to this movement of birds as an irruption because I think that "invasion" makes the birds sound frightening. They are nothing of the sort. They are simply gorgeous birds looking for new places to survive. This is somewhat good news for birders who may get a glimpse of these amazing birds which are rarely seen in Wisconsin. It also means that because they've flown all the way from the arctic in search of food, many may be starving or exhausted. Please keep an eye out for these magnificent birds. If you see a Snowy owl (or any bird) that is in need of assistance, please call our rehabilitation clinic at (715) 623-4015. We will be able to help you make the best decisions to help the bird.

A Snowy Owl has found her way to our clinic after what appears to be a horrible ordeal. Some very kind and thoughtful folks went out of their way to get her the help she needs. Kay Hawksford from Drummond, WI found the Snowy Owl along Highway 63. She scooped it up and brought it to safety. Luckily her husband, John, is a pilot so they were able to transport it to Antigo very quickly.

Photos above: Kay and John Hawksford and their daughter flew the injured owl to the Antigo airport where it was then transferred by van to REGI. (Photos by: Alberta Halfmann)

Photo above: When the Snowy Owl arrived, the rehabilitators examined her and learned that she is very thin, has a broken leg, and has bruising on her breast. She also smelled of skunk. We have to put the story together like pieces of a puzzle because the animals we help cannot tell us what happened. It is likely that she was forced out of the arctic and flew to Wisconsin in search of food and a place to live. Out of desperation and hunger, she went after a skunk, a fairly common occurrence with Great-horned Owls, but very strange for Snowies. Possibly hurt by the skunk and still weak from starvation, she was unable to fly very well and wound up being struck by a vehicle, leaving her with a broken leg. It is easy to see by her expression that she has been through a lot. Her size indicates she is female, and she is a young owl judging by the amount of dark speckling on her feathers. Adults have less to no dark speckling on their bodies.

Gun deer hunting season is now over and that means we will be treating many Bald Eagles suffering from lead poisoning. Several patients in our clinic at the moment are Bald Eagles with lead poisoning, and I'll introduce a couple to you now.

Photo above: This gorgeous Bald Eagle was found in the Merrill, WI area. She is shown here with Executive Director, Marge Gibson, right before her examination. The eagle was being watched by some concerned citizens who knew they needed to do something. They watched her and made sure they knew where she was until Marge could get there to rescue her. Without their help, she would have ended up like so many other birds that need help, but are lost forever.

Photo above: Once back at the REGI clinic, her blood was tested for lead and she was diagnosed with lead poisoning. That makes her the 7th Bald Eagle admitted into the REGI clinic with lead poisoning since this fall. She is shown here in the arms of Don Gibson after he drew her blood for testing.

The next patient I'll introduce you to has an encouraging story.

Photo above: This Bald Eagle was admitted a few weeks ago with blood lead levels so high that our lead analyzing machine couldn't read it. Lead levels that high are a death sentence without treatment. The rehabilitators immediately began chelation treatments to remove the lead from her blood, but for three weeks her blood lead levels were still too high to be read by the analyzer. Marge tried a technique that has never been done before with birds, and it seems to have worked! This may be a breakthrough, but more research needs to be done. Her lead levels have dropped dramatically, and excited "high-fives" were passed among the staff here when we learned the good news. We are not out of the woods yet, but we may have found a key to treating these extremely ill birds. We continue to look forward to her complete recovery, and we could not be happier with her improvements.

It is estimated that for every one Bald Eagle suffering from lead poisoning that is found and brought to a rehabilitation center for help, there are 9 others that are never found that suffer and die needlessly in the wilderness. For the 7 lead poisoned eagles that were brought to us for help so far this fall, there were likely 63 others who were not as lucky and were never found. We work so hard through the year to get the word out about lead-free options in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle, and yet every year we treat many birds suffering from the effects of ingesting lead. It is such a senseless loss of life and I will never understand why people would knowingly let that happen.

I grew up with a strong tradition of hunting and fishing in my family, and I am a hunter and a fisher myself. When I learned about the horrible things that lead does to wildlife and saw for myself a gorgeous Bald Eagle suffering from lead poisoning, I made the decision to change my ways. I now hunt with lead-free copper bullets and fish with bismuth-tin alloy tackle. It has been one of the easiest changes I've made, and I encourage everyone out there to do the same. If you love the outdoors, the small extra cost for safe ammo and tackle will be worth it. Maybe one day in the future, you'll look up and see a Bald Eagle flying gracefully in the sky-- a Bald Eagle that would have been killed after ingesting a piece of your lead had you not made the switch.

We will never stop educating people and encouraging them to switch to safe alternatives and we hope for a year where we won't see a single bird suffer due to the carelessness of humans. It is a dream of ours, and you can help make that happen.

On top of all of the busyness in our clinic, the education department just finished the Fall 2011 Newsletters so you should be expecting those in your mail box or email inbox very soon. We ship out over 1800 paper newsletters each mailing and that's the reason we haven't been able to offer you many updates recently. It is quite an undertaking, but we enjoy it, and we hope you enjoy reading it as well! If you aren't on the newsletter mailing list yet, we'd be happy to add you! You can sign up for the paper version by sending me your address at (or Molly at or you can go GREEN and sign up for the paperless email version by clicking on this link. You can find past and current newsletters on our website and by following this link.

Please keep us in mind with your end of year donations. This year has been a record breaker in terms of patient numbers, and we need your help now more than ever.

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Have-A-Heart This Hunting Season!

Well, it is that time again! Time for hunters to pack up their gear and head out to the woods, hoping to come home with a big buck.

Many of our supporters are hunters, or at least know hunters, and hunters have a great opportunity to help REGI during deer season! We know that the heart of the deer is usually left out in the woods along with the gut pile. REGI can use those hearts as a valuable, high nutrient, low-fat source of food for our raptors! We often purchase beef hearts for food, but the price is on the rise, and beef is not quite as lean and healthy as deer heart.

We can always use food donations, but this year it is even more vital that we have your help. We still have over 180 birds in care, more than 30 are eagles, and this is supposed to be our down season! With the closing of other facilities our patient numbers have greatly increased. Our facility is packed with owls, eagles, falcons, hawks, and other birds! Your deer heart could help to feed these amazing raptors.
(Photo above: An employee from Ken's Hwy 45 Meat Market in Antigo helps to load the REGI van with the boxes of deer hearts they collected in 2010.)

So, hunters, have a heart... for REGI!
Save your deer hearts in a plastic bag and drop them off at one of our collection sites around the state.

Collections will take place from November 19-27, 2011.
2011 Collection sites:


Ken's Hwy 45 Meat Market

N2220 US Highway 45,

Antigo, WI


Cedar Creek-Northland

3220 E. Northland Ave

Appleton, WI 54915


Mama's Place

Elderon, WI


Northwoods Veterinary Center

9920 State Hwy 22 E, Gillett, WI 54124

Land O'Lakes

The Tackle Box

P.O. Box 989
4267 Hwy B
Land O' Lakes, WI 54540


P&K Machine

203 2nd St., Marathon, WI 54448


Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

1111 Brown Deer Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53217

Park Falls

Faye Rogers

W8797 Hwy 70, Park Falls, WI


YMCA of the Northwoods - Ministry Rehab

(Y) 2003 Winnebago St.

(H) N9307 Mill Rd.

Summit Lake, WI 54485

Stevens Point

People's Meat Market

PO Box 659

6811 Burr Oak Rd, Stevens Point, WI 54481

Stevens Point

Rusty's Backwater Saloon

1715 W River Dr., Stevens Point, WI 54481

Stevens Point

Renee's Red Rooster

2339 County Road PS, Stevens Point, WI 54481

Wallace, MI

Gary's Quality Foods

N5977 US Highway 41, Wallace, MI 49893


Zillman's Meat Market

1910 6th St., Wausau, WI 54403


Wild Birds Unlimited

4121 Rib Mountain Dr., Wausau, WI 54401


Country Fresh Meats

9902 Weston Ave., Weston, WI 54476

If you do not see a collection site in your area feel free to collect them on your own, or start a site locally. Please, spread the word to as many hunters as possible! With your help this can be a great success. You can find more information about the program on the REGI website at

If you have venison left in your freezer from last year we would happily take that off of your hands for you as well. As long as the meat is not severely freezer burnt we can use it.

Another important and simple thing that hunters can do is to switch to non-lead ammunition. If you are following our blog you surely know about the dangers of lead poisoning, we currently have 5 lead poisoned Bald Eagles being treated in our clinic. Watch this news clip from WJFW about some of the patients that arrived in the clinic just a few weeks ago.

If you are having a hard time finding lead alternative ammunition you can check out this list from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Or if you would like to learn more about the effects of lead on wild birds read this report from the USGS Wildlife Health Center. And of course we are always happy to talk with people about responsible hunting.

Just remember, don't leave your deer hearts in the woods this year, have a heart for REGI instead!

Happy hunting!

Molly McKay
Director of Education

If you have any questions regarding the Have-A-Heart program, or would like to start your own location call (715)623-2563 or email

Monday, October 24, 2011


This past Saturday morning, we had the privilege of participating in an "All About Owls Program" at Wild Birds Unlimited in Wausau. We discussed the amazing adaptations of owls, and all of the visitors got to dissect owl pellets! It was a blast! It seemed like the kids (and even the adults) really enjoyed finding all of the bones!

If you aren't aware of what an owl pellet is, it is a packet of undigested material that an owl coughs up. Owls and other raptors frequently swallow their food whole, ingesting fur and bones along with the meat. Owl stomachs impressively take out all of the digestible material and pack the fur and bones into a neat little packet. This process takes a little while, and usually about 6 to 12 hours after eating, the owl coughs up the pellet. An owl must regurgitate the pellet before eating the next meal, because the pellet blocks the digestive system for a little while.

People can dissect these pellets and identify the prey species of owls in the wild by examining the bones found inside! A lot has been learned about the eating habits of owls by studying their pellets. At REGI, we save the pellets that our education owls regurgitate, bake them to kill any "bugs" and wrap them in tin foil for schools to purchase. We brought a bunch of pellets along with us to the program, and the visitors were able to find out for themselves just how cool this can be!

Enjoy the series of photos I have below!

Photo above: These young men are comparing the bones they found in the owl pellets to the bone sorting chart to identify which creatures the owl likely ate.

Photos above: Making new discoveries!

Photo above: Getting a closer look at those awesome pellets!

Photo above: Everyone seemed to be enthralled with what they were finding in the pellets.

Photo above: This young lady found an intact rodent foot in her owl pellet!

As you can tell, we had a very fun and unconventional Saturday morning! We would like to thank everyone at Wild Birds Unlimited for inviting us to this wonderful event and all of the visitors for attending!

I hope you all have a great week! Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Patients, Lead Poisoning, and Great-horned Owl Releases

I have a mini update for you all. We continue to see many patients coming through our door, but here is just a peek at what we have now.

I'm going to spend a moment talking about the first patient I'm introducing to you because this is a species that isn't common to our clinic or our blog. Yellow-rumped Warblers are beautiful and fascinating little birds that spend their summers in the far north and west. This time of year, they begin migrating to their warmer wintering grounds in the south, and luckily for us, they pass through our area so we can enjoy their beauty for a short while. The most fascinating fact about these little birds pertains to their digestive system of all things. These birds can forage on bayberries and their relatives which have a thick coating of wax for protection that other birds cannot digest. Because of this unusual trait, Yellow-rumped Warblers can subsist on these berries and live farther north than some of their warbler cousins.

Photo above: This beautiful Yellow-rumped Warbler accidentally hit a window near Woodruff, WI. Luckily for this little one, only a few days of recuperation were needed for a full recovery, and he has been released to continue on his migration southward.

Photo above: This lovely little male Barred Owl was likely hit by a car and has a wing fracture. He is in very good weight, and is expected to make a full recovery!

Photo above: This gorgeous female Bald Eagle was seen feeding on a gut pile when she then tipped over onto her back. She was rescued, and when she arrived at our clinic, a blood test was done to determine if she was suffering from lead poisoning. The results were off the charts. The good news for this beauty is that she is with us for treatment, and with a lot of perseverance on her part, she can pull through. Please excuse the "crumbs" on her beak, she just finished enjoying a piece of salmon when I photographed her.

During and after hunting season, many Bald Eagles are brought to our clinic suffering from lead poisoning. Because they are scavengers, Bald Eagles are at a huge risk of becoming poisoned by lead this time of year. When a deer is shot, bullet fragments containing lead are left in the woods in gut piles. Unknowingly, scavengers, including Bald Eagles, feed on these gut piles and become very ill. With luck, these poisoned animals are found and brought to us for help, but sadly, those that do not get help will ultimately die. Making the switch to non-lead ammunition can be the difference between life and death for wildlife. I am a hunter myself, and the few extra dollars I spend on a box of lead-free ammunition, is worth it. Please, if you are a hunter, make the switch.

Things are slowing down a bit this fall, and we have been experiencing the joy of release with many of our patients. Two Great-horned Owls that were originally admitted due to starvation and being hit by a car were able to make a full recovery and are now free once again!

The gun deer hunting season is fast approaching, and that means it is time once again for Have-A-Heart for REGI! Those of you who are hunters, or know anyone who hunts, please save the deer hearts for us! Heart provides an excellent source of nutrition for the raptors in our care, and you can do your part to help us out. Information about drop-off sites can be found on our website under the "events" tab or by following this link!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator