Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another baby! & Update on Eaglet

Yesterday afternoon we admitted our second baby of the season; a Great Horned Owlet! She was found near Portage, WI and rescued by Nicki Christianson, a mammal rehabilitator out of Wisconsin Rapids, and good friend of REGI. She was then transported to REGI by Judy and David Marshall, two of our most reliable (and may I say, sweet) transporters from the Rapids area. This tiny owlet has been helped by so many wonderful folks so far and we are grateful for each and every one of them!

Photo above: Rehabilitation technician, Alberta Halfmann, gets a weight on the tiny owlet. Judging by the weight, we believe this owlet is female, and she looks none too pleased to be handled by people! This is a good sign, it means that she has not been imprinted to humans!

Photo above: She is also very hesitant to take food from people, another really great sign! She knows that humans are not where food comes from. Excellent!

The following photos are a series of shots of her gulping down a delicious meal... enjoy!

Photo above: She looks quite pleased with herself after that undertaking! She may have looked uncomfortable swallowing that mouse, but believe it or not, baby Great Horned Owls go through this 13 to 18 times per day! That's right, this tiny owlet eats 13 to 18 mice per day! Wow!

Even at this young age you can see the feather tufts on her head that give her species its name and her large powerful talons that will one day catch her own food. Her "pantaloons" are also visible. Those voluminous feathers that resemble the loose-fitting, ruffled undergarments of days gone by, provide important insulation and also make the owls look larger (and cuddlier ;D) than they really are.

Great Horned Owls are among the earliest nesters in Wisconsin with breeding season being in January and February. This owlet is only a few weeks old and is much too young to be off on her own. At a month and a half, young owlets are referred to as "branchers" because they begin exploring the tree branches around their open stick nests, but still depend on their parents for meals. This owlet isn't even at the branching stage yet.

We are currently making the important decision as to the best way to care for this owlet. We can place her with a foster parent here as a single owlet or we can find a center that has a foster with another owlet so they could become surrogate siblings. We will keep you updated on this beautiful baby.

I know people are wondering about the eaglet admitted last week and I'm pleased to say he's doing very well! Today we needed to clean his mew and weigh him to mark his progress; one of the rare times we handle him.

Photo above: The eaglet is being weighed to make sure his growth is on the right track. He is able to sit quite tall and in a couple weeks he will be able to stand!

His weight is definitely growing at a healthy pace! Bald eaglets gain 1 pound every 4 to 5 days and that is exactly what he's done. When he was admitted 9 days ago he weighed 2 pounds and today he is nearly 5 pounds! In another few weeks he will weigh as much as an adult! I'm sure that parents are glad human children don't grow that fast!

Another sign of this eaglet growing up is his new look. Bald Eagles hatch as white fluffy things as you saw in the first blog about this eaglet. Within a couple weeks they trade in the white fuzz for black fuzz. Soon he will trade all of his fuzz for adult feathers. Watching him develop new feathers and learn to stand gives us all of the same feelings
I'm sure parents feel when their child rolls over, crawls, or walks for the first time. We will keep you updated on the growth of this baby as well.

This is the time of year when our number of patients explodes. We get calls about injured and orphaned birds from literally all across the state. Because Northwoods Wildlife Center cannot currently care for birds due to a loss of their permits, we are getting patients from farther north than we did in years past.
People that find sick or injured birds may not always be able or willing to transport the birds themselves, that's when our volunteer transport drivers become the heroes. Because our patients come from so far away, our need for volunteer transport drivers has increased. We desperately need volunteer drivers from all over Wisconsin and maninly South Central Wisconsin (Nekoosa, Wisconsin Rapids, and surrounding areas).

We would love to be able to pick up every single one of our patients ourselves, but that is simply not possible. We are a non-profit organization that receives NO state or federal funding. The cost to care for our patients is so high that adding the cost for transportation would mean we would have to close our doors to many birds in need. In addition, we have so many patients that we need to be here with them. If we were always dashing off to pick up others, they wouldn't receive the terrific care they do currently. Prompt transportation can mean the difference between life and death for our patients. If you are interested in potentially saving the lives of birds by becoming a volunteer avian transport driver, please give us a call (715) 623-2563. We need you, but more importantly, the birds need you for a second chance at life.

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

Monday, April 25, 2011

REGI Raptor Program at Muskego Public Library

On Saturday, April 23, REGI Education Director Steve Fisher and his wife Evie, a longtime REGI volunteer, presented a raptor program to over 160 people at the Muskego Public Library in southern Wisconsin, as part of the library's activities for Earth Day. The audience got to see a Harris's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Great-horned Owl, and Eastern Screech Owl during the presentation and asked many good questions during and after the program.

In the photo below, Steve shows the group REGI's beautiful Harris's Hawk, a raptor found in the Southwest deserts and one that, unlike most other raptors, hunts cooperatively and shares its prey, similar to a wolf pack.

In the photo below Steve shares information about REGI's Peregrine Falcon, a raptor that typically hunts other birds like ducks and pigeons and can dive at over 200 miles per hour. As part of the Earth Day connection, the presentation included information about the effects of the pesticide DDT, which caused the eggshells of falcons, eagles, and ospreys to soften and which was banned from use in the United States in 1972.

Everyone on the REGI education staff always looks forward to interacting with the public and working with our avian education partners to share information about the birds and the important issues related to them. We would like to thank the wonderful Muskego library staff for inviting us and treating us so well, and all who attended the program for making our visit there very enjoyable. It was a great way to help celebrate Earth Day!

Steve Fisher
REGI Education Director

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pointers visit REGI

Today we had a visit from Dr. Shelli Dubay's Techniques of Captive Wildlife Management class from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point. Each year Shelli brings her students up to REGI to learn avian rehabilitation techniques from the best in the field, Marge Gibson.

Photo above: Marge is teaching the students proper raptor handling techniques. When properly handled, our patients do not feel threatened and can be examined with minimal stress. We do not sedate our patients for examinations, there is no need as long as the patients are handled with care and are shown respect.

Photo above: This Barred Owl was brought in a few weeks ago suffering from starvation. You may remember her from a previous blog. She provided the students with an excellent example of the proper way to care for a starving animal. When birds are found with starvation, our first instinct may be to give them solid food. As Marge explained to the students, a starving bird's digestive system cannot handle solid food right away and instead we must feed a liquid diet until the bird is able to regain strength and handle small amounts of solid food. This owl is recovering very well and is on solid food once again. She will be placed in a flight enclosure to regain the muscles necessary for flight her body absorbed during starvation.

Photo above: As you can see, our clinic was at full capacity, but we made it work.

Photo above: Marge allows the students a close-up look at a Bald Eagle, the closest look that many of these students have ever had.

Photo above: Marge teaches the students about proper enclosure construction from inside the flight building. She discussed everything from proper dimensions to substrate material.

Photo above: The students also got a super-condensed introduction to how we give tours. Here, Education Coordinator, Molly McKay teaches the students about Turkey Vultures.

Photo above: Upon their departure, Dr. Dubay and the students pose for a parting group shot.

This visit was especially exciting for me because just one year ago I attended this same field trip as one of Dr. Dubay's students. It was great to see some familiar faces from my alma mater, UW-SP. Attending the field trip were a couple of our future interns for this coming summer, Kyle Lannon and Katherine Tesch. We were excited to see them and look forward to getting to know them this summer.

We wish all of the students luck in their futures!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

First Baby of the Season!

This Sunday we admitted our first baby patient of the season, and he's not your ordinary baby! He is a baby Bald Eagle with quite a story to tell. The tree his nest was in was destroyed by a storm south of Madison, WI, and he plummeted 30 feet to the ground, sustaining a head injury along the way. This young eagle isn't even 10 days old and already has had a tumultuous life.

A couple had been watching his family for quite some time; when they noticed he was in trouble they watched for his parents to return with no avail. He was taken to Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital in Lake Geneva, WI where he was cared for by Yvonne Wallace Blane. Many times, wildlife rehabilitation centers
will work together in numerous ways to do what is best for the animals they are caring for. Fellow Mortals does not currently have a foster Bald Eagle to care for chicks, but we do here at REGI so Yvonne kept the best interest of the eaglet in mind and transferred him to us.

The eaglet is so fragile that
even transportation is an issue. To drive the eaglet from Lake Geneva to here in Antigo would take upwards of 4 hours; much too long for the little tyke. Instead, a private airplane was arranged! Dave Piehler, a private pilot, donated his time, fuel, and aircraft to take the tiny eagle on his first-ever flight. What other eagle can say that he had his first flight at less than 10 days of age?!

Photo above: We were all waiting anxiously for Dave and the Eaglet to arrive. Finally on the horizon, we see a plane!

Photo above: As soon as the airplane landed at the Langlade County Airport in Antigo, WI, we all rushed to greet pilot, Dave and "co-pilot" eaglet. "The Eagle has landed!" shouted an airport attendant in a moment of humor and excitement.

Photo above: Smiles all around when we see them both safe and sound.

Normally we do not name the patients that are candidates for release, but we can always make an exception for someone who has helped the patient directly.
Dave suggested, "You should name this eagle Peeps."
Marge asked him, "Was he peeping the whole flight up?"
Dave said, "No... It's just good Easter candy!" .... A funny guy, that Dave
Piehler, but appropriate for the upcoming holiday. ;)

Photo above: Because the eaglet is so young and fragile, he needed to be examined right there at the airport. His flight only lasted about an hour and a half, but he was hungry and needed to be fed as well. Marge prepares to bring him out of his carrier, when we find that he brought a friend...

Photo above: The eaglet was traveling with this teddy bear! At this age, the eaglet would normally be cuddled up next to his siblings and kept warm by his parents. Because he lost those things in the storm, this teddy bear provided some of that comfort he may have been missing.

Photo above: You can see everyone is all a twitter about this bundle of joy. From left to right, former intern and volunteer for the day, Katie Rhymer; wildlife educator, Karissa Mohr; Marge's grandchildren Maddie and Hunter; Marge Gibson; and Pilot, Dave Piehler welcome the baby to the Northwoods.

Photo above: A quick exam and a few moments of adoration. This is the first and only time he will see his human caretakers for an extended period so we must get in these moments while we can. When he arrives at REGI, he will no longer be handled or fed by humans, only his foster parents. We will step in only when necessary.

Photo above: Pilot, Dave Piehler, meeting his "co-pilot," Peeps, face-to-face for the first time.

Photos above: It might be difficult to imagine this darling ball of fluff as our National bird, adorning our currency, but soon he will trade in his fuzzy head for sleek adult feathers. He will grow to adult size within a couple months; however, it will take him a full 5 years to develop the iconic white head and tail we all recognize as America's symbol.

This is a very sensitive age for any bird. The first few days after hatching are critical and will determine how the rest of their lives will go. If young animals are fed or handled exclusively by humans for an extended period of time they can become imprinted. This means that they associate humans with food. It doesn't seem like such a big deal when they are young, but if an imprinted animal were to be released back into the wild, they would be confused about who they are and could put themselves and humans in harm's way by seeking us out for food, help, and even mates. We could never release an imprinted bird and they would need to be placed in an education facility.

To avoid imprinting we are introducing him to foster parents. This is a tricky maneuver that must be done delicately.
We have created a personalized crate and have provided him with a mirror so he can see "other" eaglets sitting with him. We have also introduced him into a foster parent's enclosure. This way the eaglet is protected inside his crate but he can see the adult eagle.

He will soon be introduced to an open nest with his foster parents. A resident Bald Eagle has been laying unfertilized eggs and we will place him in the nest in hopes that the foster mother assumes her egg has hatched and will care for him as if he is her own. Fostering birds always presents a risk that the parents will reject, or in a worst-case scenario, kill the baby. REGI has had many successes with fostering raptors in the past and we are hopeful.

There is the possibility of finding a nest of wild Bald Eagles to place him into, but this also has to be done delicately. The eaglets in the nest have to be the same age as the eaglet being placed into the nest and the new eaglet must not be a burden to an already full nest. We are working with biologist to find the perfect nest, but because of the horrible weather we have been experiencing lately, finding a wild nest that can support an additional eaglet seems unlikely a this point.

Photo above: The eaglet is settling into his special crate looking at his "sibling" in the mirror. If you look closely, you can see a mouse tail peeking out of his mouth from his most recent meal and his bulging crop full of yummy mouse meat. (Photo credit: Marge Gibson)

This photo was taken two days after all of the other photos and you can see how much he has grown in that short time. Although still unable to stand, he is growing stronger every day and is able to sit much more upright today. I am constantly amazed by how quickly and robustly young birds can grow. Because they're growing so fast, young birds eat a lot. At this age, this eaglet can eat the equivalent of 20 to 25 mice per day! At about 50 cents to a dollar per mouse, feeding growing raptors is a VERY expensive endeavor. Young raptors also benefit from feeding on chipmunks, rats, squirrels, etc. If you have a problem with rodent pests at your home, please think of us. If you humanely collect them WITHOUT POISON, and store them in the freezer, we can use them to keep our young raptors alive.

If you would like to donate food items please call (715) 623-2563. If you would like to provide a monetary donation follow this link and click on the "donate" button.

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Home from Bahrain and Still Working Hard

Sean Halfmann, the eldest son of our rehabilitation technician, Alberta Halfmann, just returned home from a 7 month Naval tour of Bahrain and volunteered part of his time off to work here at REGI. The big job for today was moving the resident Turkey Vultures from their indoor, heated, winter mew to the outdoor summer mew. It is just as exciting for the turkey vultures as it is for us! It's really spring this time!
Turkey Vultures have a habit of vomiting when they feel threatened, which isn't a fun prospect for anyone capturing them, but everyone made it out without "incident!"
It is a dirty job, but Sean was up for the challenge!

Photo above: Sean Halfmann helps his mother, Alberta capture one of the resident Turkey Vultures. The vultures spent the winter inside a heated mew because in the wild, they migrate south for the colder months since it is hard to make a living on frozen carrion in the winter. Photo above: Sean Halfmann, Alberta Halfmann, and rehabilitation technician, Katie Farvour are just about to release their bundles of joy (Turkey Vultures) into their outdoor summer enclosure. Photo above: Sean is setting his vulture "free" in his large summer enclosure. Photo above: We know the vultures are happy to be back outside because they instantly did their "solar collector" poses. Vultures of many species exhibit this same posture and they do it to keep themselves clean and warm. Because vultures eat dead animals, they can quickly get covered in nasty bacteria, and by posing like this they allow the sun's UV rays kill the bacteria.

Photo above: Three Turkey Vultures very happy to be outside again after a long Wisconsin Winter inside. The closest vulture in the picture is in mid-molt, meaning that it is in the process of losing old feathers and growing new feathers. Most of our resident Turkey Vultures are with us due to wing injuries and now serve as foster parents to chicks during the summer.

We would like to thank Sean for coming out and helping us today. It is great to see someone volunteering their time home from military training to help others.

If you would like to volunteer your time here at REGI just like Sean did, you can email Molly McKay at MollyM.REGI@gmail.com or me at Karissa.REGI@gmail.com. Follow this link for a bit more information. We have lots of projects and spring cleaning to do and we could definitely use happy, helpful hands!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr REGI
Wildlife Educator

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Keep a Lookout for Barred Owls

We are admitting more Barred Owls than usual right now and it has to do with the last few snow storms we received. We had a large snow fall, then warmer weather so some of the snow melted, then another cold snap so everything froze again, and then another large snow fall. This means there is a layer of ice sandwiched in the snow, and the ice is the problem.

In the winter, owls can hunt mice through the snow. They have such terrific ears that from a couple dozen yards away, they can hear mice moving around and tunneling under a foot and a half of snow! They then do something very special called snow-plunging, in which they dive toward the snow with their talons outstretched. They use their force to break through the snow and gather their prey. Larger owls, such as Great Grey Owls are strong enough to break through, but the slightly smaller Barred Owl cannot break through the layer of ice in the snow.

Photo above: This photo shows a Great Gray Owl snow-plunging. I borrowed this photo from the internet, and it is a beautiful depiction of the behavior I described. (Photo credit: Jody Melanson/Solent)

If you see an owl out during the daytime, it may be because they're having a hard time finding food. Usually owls are active in the evening and over night and can find enough food during those hours. Under conditions such as we have now, it is harder for them to find enough food during the time they usually would so they have to compensate by hunting during the day as well. To make things even harder for them, this is the time of year when they begin laying eggs and raising young. Developing an egg inside the female's body can be an exhausting task, and they generally lay between 2 and 4 eggs per clutch. Not having enough food during this time can result in fewer or no young for the season.

Because they're hunting more frequently and desperate for food, they may have more run-ins with humans than normal. We admitted a Barred Owl yesterday that was struck by a vehicle. It was likely that he was so intent on finding food that he wasn't aware of the vehicle approaching until it was too late and it struck him. Unfortunately, this owl lost his battle during the night, but you can help to prevent a similar loss by driving carefully and keeping a watchful eye.

Photo above: This is the Barred Owl from the last blog post. He was the first of three Barred Owls brought to us in the last few days. He is suffering from starvation, but is slowly regaining weight and strength. He is showing signs of kidney failure, a consequence of his starvation, but we will continue supportive care. Here, Rehabilitation Technician, Alberta Halfman, is preparing to tube feed him.

Photo above: Alberta is inserting the tube for feeding in the second Barred Owl admitted suffering from starvation. In raptors, females are generally about a third larger and heavier than males, but this female currently weighs less than what a healthy male should weigh.

Please keep a lookout for all birds that need help. Barred Owls are having a particularly hard time right now because their diets aren't as varied as, say, a Great Horned Owl, and they aren't powerful enough to break through the icy snow we have. Barred Owls also tend to make themselves obvious when they need help; they may be reluctant to fly when approached or they may even flop down in front of you as you may have read in the last blog entry.

If you would like to donate items to help these owls, we are in need of baby food. We use meat-only baby food for tube feeding patients suffering from starvation.

If you find a bird that you think may need help, please give us a call. Our rehabilitation phone number is (715) 623-4015.

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator

Monday, April 4, 2011

Patient Update

Hello again, everyone! I'd like to share three of our new patients with you.

One of our newest patients has quite a tale to tell. A Mallard drake (male), from Merrill, WI, was brought to us with an unusual injury; his tongue was sticking out. No, he was not trying to be rude; he was grabbed by a predator that punctured and split his lower mandible allowing his tongue to protrude. Ducks use their tongues to help sift through their food and swallow, so without his tongue in his mouth, this poor fellow was unable to eat. Luckily for him, someone who had been watching and feeding him all winter noticed he was hurt within a day of his injury, and brought him to REGI for help.

Photo above: This male mallard was admitted with his tongue protruding from his lower mandible. His bill is closed and his tongue has fallen through the split in his lower jaw. (Photo credit: Marge Gibson)

It has been a couple days since his arrival and he's already doing much better! We were able to wire his lower mandible in such a way that his tongue could not fall out and he would still be able to eat. He has a long way to go for a full recovery, but we are hopeful. His mandible is still split and we will continue to monitor his progress as it fuses back together.

Photo above: Here the mallard's mandible has been wired together. You can see where the bill split at the tip, and it runs the entire length of the bill. (Photo credit: Marge Gibson)

Photo above: The same Mallard with his mandible wired together and his tongue back in his mouth. He is much happier with this arrangement. I think I almost see a smile :)

We also admitted a Barred Owl from Crandon, WI, suffering from starvation and an abrasion to his patagium from an unknown source. The man who found him was walking through the woods when he noticed the owl hanging upside down from a tree until he fell to the forest floor in front of him. He scooped him up and brought him to safety. The owl was very weak when he arrived, and we can assume the owl was asking the man for help by being obvious in his need for assistance. We are very thankful for the kindness of this man and his wife.

Photo above: The barred owl upon admission. He is very weak and as you can tell by his expression, he wasn't feeling very well. (Photo credit: Marge Gibson)

Photo above: He already looks much better, his eyes are a great deal brighter today; however, he is still very weak, and he has a long way to recovery.

Starvation is a hard thing to bounce back from, but we are doing everything we can for this beautiful owl. We are tube feeding him multiple times per day and keeping him warm. It's up to him now and his will for life.

Another Bald Eagle was admitted, and at last count, that makes 28 Bald Eagles currently in care here at REGI. This Eagle is from Eagle River and has a joint injury in his left wing. Joint injuries are tricky because they can cause a loss of motility in that joint as it heals. We will continue to monitor him, and in a few days his "cast" will be removed and he will be moved to the flight building so he can exercise and maintain flexibility in his wing.
Photo above: This Bald Eagle has a joint injury in his left wing. The tape you see in the photo is holding the wing in place so it can properly heal. It is impossible to get a bird to understand they need to sit still, but duck tape stays in place and is excellent at immobilizing a wing. Duck tape- not just for ducks anymore ;)

Because of our large number of Bald Eagles and other patients, we could definitely use your donations. When we run low on donated food items, we have to resort to purchasing them which is very, very expensive. If you don't have any food items to donate, monetary donations can help us afford to purchase them. Please keep us in mind throughout the year; we couldn't continue without your help!

Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
REGI Wildlife Educator