Friday, August 17, 2012

Lead Loon: Surgery, Recovery, & RELEASE!

We have spectacular news on the lead filled loon

Our staff & loon breathed a sigh of relief at the Antigo Veterinary Clinic this past week as an operation was completed to remove the lead sinkers. We crossed our fingers as the loon underwent a procedure that has only been completed a handful of times in avian rehabilitation history!!! This blog is a recap of the procedure, recovery, and RELEASE!!!!!!

For those of you who are not aware of the loon's story, he was found washed up in a marina unaware of his surroundings. Upon being admitted to the REGI clinic, the loon's blood lead levels were so high our device had no way of knowing what the true level was, and the X-ray a day later confirmed our fears. The loon had 2 lead sinkers in its gizzard. death sentence for any loon not brought in for treatment. To add to the loons growing list of problems, he came in with a severe case of avian botulism.

 The loon upon arrival into the REGI clinic. Lethargic, thin, and extremely high lead levels

 X-rays at the vet clinic showed 2 lead fishing sinkers in the loon's gizzard

 Loon eyes are a beautiful maroon color. Not too often can you see them so closely. This individual loon is beginning to molt it's feathers

Lead poisoning is treated with several series of daily injections, and can take anywhere from weeks to months to see real results depending on the species and how severe the case is.

After a week of trying everything in our power to get the sinkers out, we knew that it was time to take some drastic measures for this bird to have a chance at recovery. We brought the loon in to the Antigo Veterinary Clinic and thus began a physically and emotionally grueling afternoon. The loon was sedated as a tube was fed through its mouth and down to its stomach. Water was then rushed through the tube and into the loons system where it began to pop out pebble, after pebble, after pebble. Just as it seemed like the treatment would show no results, lone behold, 2 lead sinkers sat among the rocks on the table.

The air in the room was tense, but a huge wave of relief flooded the REGI and vet clinic staff.


After monitoring his progress and declining lead levels this week, he was released today (8/17) by the interns! His release is a huge relief to the REGI crew. "I've never seen a loon that close before," said intern Molly. Neither had the rest of the REGI interns. To see a loon that close means that they really are feeling down-in-the-dumps. Loons, for obvious reasons, don't fair well in captivity, and we are happy to see him headed home to the open water! 

The following is a string of photos from the procedure, recovery, and release

 After arrival at the veterinary clinic, the loon was carefully sedated by veterinarian Sarah with help from our Turkish veterinarian Aysegul & interns Molly and Sarah

 Veterinarian Sarah feeds the tube into the loon's mouth. Water will be pushed through the tube in hopes of pushing out the two lead sinkers

 Oxygen is given to the loon following the procedure

 After the procedure, Turkish veterinarian Aysegul checks the loon's vitals as interns Alyssa, Molly, and Sarah hope for a successful recovery

 The two sinkers and one of the several rocks that were pushed out of the loon's system

After fully waking up from the anesthesia, the loon quickly returned to fishing for minnows in the REGI clinic

It's a great feeling to be able to watch the loon catch fish knowing there's no lead sinkers left in his system. He makes quick work of a tub filled with minnows

The Antigo Vet Clinic team accompanied by interns Alyssa, Molly, and Sarah, executive director Marge Gibson, and our visiting Turkish veterinarian Aysegul! GREAT JOB LADIES!

 Interns Alyssa, Molly, Sarah, and Turkish veterinarian Aysegul wishing the loon safe travels!

Please, please, please think about switching to non-lead tackle & ammunition. 
Cases like this are 100% preventable, and YOU have the power to change it!

For alternatives to lead tackle click here.
For alternatives to lead ammunition click here.

A HUGE thank you to the Antigo Veterinary Clinic for their hard work and patience through this case and the countless others that they have helped us out with.

To donate to the Raptor Education Group, Inc.'s patients , CLICK HERE!

- Katie Rymer, Assistant Avian Rehabilitator

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wrapped In Line: Hayward Eagle

Greetings everyone,

It's hard to explain how incredibly difficult it is to watch patient after patient come into our clinic with human inflicted injuries. Lead poisoned loons, hummingbirds colliding with windows, hawks that have been shot by upset individuals, even great-horned owls that have been hit by snowmobiles... hard to believe, but we've seen it all.

This particular eagle case was no exception.

Before I begin with some pictures of this beautiful bird, I'd just like to make a plug for the health and safety of all wildlife. It was just this past weekend that I went out fishing, and spent more time cleaning up the tangled line in the shrubs and water than I did actually fishing. I suppose working at an animal rehabilitaton center makes you more prone to noticing line hanging in shrubs, washed up on the beach, or caught on logs in the water, but it's something we all need to work at being more aware of. Not every cast can be as perfect as the pros...

  Image from Summit County Citizens Voice, line tangled in grass

but after you stop feeling embarrassed for snagging your line, 
please do your best to clean up after your line and tackle.

A photo of the eagle's face that was taken after fishing line had been untangled from the beak. Notice the white lines engraved near the nares (nostrils) from the fishing line 

After a long journey down from Hayward, WI this juvenile bald eagle made it to the clinic with no time to spare. His injury... tangled in musky fishing line. Not just sort-of tangled in fishing line, but tangled to the point of circulation loss in his toes, damage to his beak, open wounds on his leg, severe muscle loss in his leg, and extremely underweight. To cause such a lengthy list of issues, we estimate that the line had been wrapped around the eagle for several weeks.

The swelling in the toes is astounding, over twice the size as normal

Notice the size difference in the feet, and the injury to the upper left leg, all caused by fishing line

With line wrapped so tightly around his legs and toes, his extremities began to lose circulation. The leg itself had barely any muscle left, and the severe amount of swelling in the foot left the bird physically unable to grasp. 

After the initial exam, treatment is to soak his feet twice daily to help increase circulation back into the feet, and reduce any further infections to the legs

The fishing line perhaps belonged to a bait such as this musky bait that came in on a patient eagle several years back

Many fishermen are honored to see eagles so close in the summertime, especially up here in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. But sadly, young eagles on their first fishing ventures sometimes mistake musky baits for a delicious meal. To their defense, some of them actually look edible these days. Loons can get tangled up in line that has been snagged underwater. Ducks get tangled with line that has been snagged close to shore.

lakefront property owners,
and all water-body seeking outdoor enthusiasts...
You can prevent injuries such as these!!!

Please do your part in cleaning up our natural resources. Future generations of people and wildlife depend on it. Whether it happens to be your mistake or one of someone else, please don't leave it lying around!

The way I look at it... I wouldn't want to see my kids, grand-kids, and great grand-kids stepping on fishing hooks and seeing a line-littered shoreline. To those of you who take the extra couple minutes to remove line, lures, and bobbers from the environment... the birds and myself would like to personally THANK YOU!!

Besides... sometimes those snagged lures are the luckiest ones!

- Katie Rymer, Assistant Avian Rehabilitator

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Photo-filled Blog of the Century. WOW, Lead Loon, Patient Updates.

It's been a while since the last blog. It's been a work in progress for some time now. Every time I feel like it's ready to go... something amazing happens. So here it goes ladies and gentlemen... an amazingly long, awesome, photo-filled blog!

Lets spin back time a little ways. We've had several releases these past few weeks! Releases are the epitome of our hard work at REGI.  I have to say that working with the patients in the clinic can be an emotional roller-coaster, but releases make everything worth it. I wish everyone could experience the feeling of releasing a rehabilitated bird back into the wild. Here's some photos from our recent releases.

We just love releases. But release wouldn't be possible without rehab, and rehab isn't possible at REGI without support from YOU!

This past weekend we celebrated the 3rd Annual Wings Over Wausau (WOW... great acronym if you ask me!). WOW was a big success this year, we saw several faces from last year, as well as hundreds of new wide-eyed bird nerds in training! Although many people came out to see the birds up close and personal and hear their stories, WOW also featured a silent auction table, vendors, food, and bird games.

Thank you everyone for coming out to support us! We couldn't do it without YOU!!

 The Wausau Grand Theater, a beautiful backdrop for the stars of the show!

 The staff, interns, and volunteers getting ready for the doors to open!

 Mike with a male American kestrel and intern Kerry with a peregrine falcon at the falcon station.

 Interns Alyssa and Sarah at the turkey vulture station.

 Executive director Marge Gibson with an education Western red-tailed hawk.

Rehabilitator Katie holds a red-tailed hawk stretching her wings over Wausau... get it?

Not a second after getting the birds put away from WOW, we had 2 new patients come through the doors and, the phone rang once more. 

A loon had been found up in Ashland, Wisconsin (4 hours from REGI) washed up in a marina on the boat launch. Nothing appeared to be injured and to the staff here at REGI that meant one thing.... lead poisoning. After flying to REGI via airplane, the loon landed safely in Antigo. After drawing blood to check the lead levels our suspicions were confirmed. The lead levels were off the charts.

The common loon shortly after being admitted with an off-the-charts lead level

 X-rays from the loon showed 2 lead sinkers in the bird's intestine

After a trip to the Antigo Vet Clinic, the X-rays revealed 2 lead sinkers in the loon. Not a good diagnosis. Lead from the sinkers works its way into the bird's blood and sequesters in the bones. Treatment is time consuming, meticulous, and extremely expensive.

Lead poisoning in birds is 100% human-induced, and loons aren't the only ones that are effected. Eagles, swans, and the endangered California condor are constantly in a battle against lead. One lead sinker can kill an eagle. One lead sinker can kill a swan. One lead sinker could kill REGI's new patient loon. Just ONE. Our unlucky loon has ingested two.

Although not impossible, the road ahead will be a difficult one for this guy. Staff is working round the clock and we have our fingers crossed that the sinkers come out soon so we can begin the road to recovery. Until then, we play a difficult and frustrating waiting game.

** For more information on lead poisoning in wild birds please click here.
** DO YOU FISH? For alternatives to lead tackle please click here.

On a happier note, there are some of our growing babies... one of which has stole the hearts of many... the Virginia rail!

 Look at the Virginia rail! He's getting so big (relatively speaking), and is about the size of your palm. He's graduated into an outdoor enclosure!

 This young goldfinch came in not long ago without feathers. Hard to believe it's already turning yellow!

 This young cardinal is under the wing of an adult male foster parent

This killdeer came in weighing no more than the change in your pocket, but has grown into a stunning young bird. Keep an eye on the blog for an upcoming release!

As happy as I am to share our baby bird updates... I can't stress enough the importance of using non-lead sinkers & ammunition. Just as we've moved away from lead paint in homes for our own health, we now need to focus on a mind-frame to protect the environment we live in. 

As a full-time rehabilitator, hunter, and fisherman, I wish every outdoors-man could witness a lead poisoning case first hand. It changes everything.

- Katie Rymer, Assistant Avian Rehabilitator