Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Great Horned Owl, Poisoned Nuthatch, Patient Updates, and Volunteers

I have to begin this blog post with some very sad news. The Snowy Owl, whom we've all been rooting for, has suddenly passed away. She was showing wonderful improvements and we were expecting a better outcome for her. The loss of any patient here at REGI is fraught with sadness, and the death of this Snowy Owl is no exception. May she rest in peace.

We recently admitted a Great Horned Owl into the clinic which seems to have had a tussle with a skunk. She has some minor abrasions to her keel and a tear in her patagium (the membrane of skin along the leading edge of the wing which aids in flying). She also has a horrific odor of skunk. She has been in the clinic for only a few days, but already the entire room smells like you wouldn't believe. If you're wondering what a Great Horned Owl was doing with a skunk, you're probably not alone. As odd as it may sound to us, Great Horned Owls regularly hunt for skunks. The odor, which makes us head for the hills, does not bother the owls one bit because, as like many other birds, they don't have a very good sense of smell. Occasionally a Great Horned Owl goes after a particularly feisty skunk and winds up with some injuries. 

This Great Horned Owl was admitted with some minor abrasions and smelling of skunk. It is likely she was injured while hunting for a skunk as a meal. 

Monday we admitted a little nuthatch that was found by two young boys on a playground here in Antigo, WI. One of the boys, Douglas, is the son of our director of education, Molly. The nuthatch was in good weight and showed no signs of external injuries; however, it was unable to fly and was having convulsions (a clinical sign of organophosphate poisoining). We weren't able to get a photo of the bird because shortly after arriving, the bird passed away. 

Organophosphates are insecticides which disrupt the insect's nervous system therefore killing it- they have the same effect on birds. They are used in agriculture and on lawns to control insects. Most people are not aware of how devastating these chemicals are on other creatures. The US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that 67 million birds die annually after coming in contact with pesticides. These man-made chemicals are dangerous for birds as well as people. Just because they are sold in stores doesn't mean they're safe.

If you have a pest problem in your yard, you can usually find a natural remedy to try. You can read an interesting document by the US Fish & Wildlife Service pertaining to pesticides, birds, and natural remedies by following this link. Using pesticides can kill most of the creatures in your yard including beneficial insects like pollinators. A few bugs won't hurt you, but pesticides might.

This past weekend we had more help from some UW-Stevens Point students. We had two students from the UW-SP Pre-Vet Club volunteer on Sunday. Baby season is just around the corner and we needed some help preparing the baby songbird room of our "passerine building". This room will soon be filled with tiny, helpless baby songbirds who have become injured or have lost their parents. Thanks for your help ladies! We and the little birdies appreciate it!

Cassidy Kohlhagen (left) and Kayla Willis (right), from the UW-SP Pre-Vet Club volunteered by cleaning out the baby songbird room of our "passerine building". Thank you! 

That's all for today! Thanks everyone!

Karissa Mohr
Wildlife Educator

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