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Doing wildlife rehabilitation
and exotic animal rescue somehow sounds “glamorous” to many people.I constantly hear, “I wish I could spend all
day playing with wildlife like you do”.Oh, how I wish that I had time to play with animals all day every day! This blog will be about a pretty typical day
in our lives.It won’t be as sweet or
pretty as other blogs have been, but it will be real.
Our day started out pretty
normally.Getting bowls ready to feed
the masses.Letting Talia and Rocky (two
of our permanent raccoons) out to play with the foxes, dogs and cats.This means we have to keep an eye on
them.Both are very well behaved, but
they are still raccoons and can still get into trouble.You wouldn’t let two
2-year old human children run around your house unsupervised would you?Usually, when we do this, we wait for them to
get tired and put themselves back in their cages.
We perform thorough examinations
on our permanent raptors whenever we take them out to an event (which means
they get checks usually bi-weekly at a minimum) or monthly if we have a slow
month.Sometimes, circumstances require
us to do an examination at other times, this was one of those days.
Changes in weather often bring
changes in how animals eat, especially the raptors.They often will go off their food for a day
or two with any major change, including weather change.This last week we have been watching several
of our permanent raptors, to be sure they do not go off of their food for more
than a couple of days.One, our red
tailed hawk, Rahl, went off of her food for three days, so we brought her in
for a thorough examination.This is
always a challenge as Rahl is a very high strung bird, has been since she
arrived here at one year of age, so she isn’t the most cooperative bird during
examinations.But, with her not eating
for three days, we felt it was necessary.
To our shock and horror the
reason she was off of her food was immediately apparent.She had broken her beak right at the point
that the beak begins to turn down.We
have never dealt with a broken beak like this. The only ones we have seen previously
were on rehab birds who came in with partial beaks that were already healed and
the birds were still eating fine.We
have read about it in our raptor books and seen many videos on it, but never
dealt with it ourselves.Rahl’s beak
wasn’t stable, it was obviously painful and there was no way she could eat with
this beak.Something had to be done to
repair it and quickly!
In wracking our brains to figure
out how in the world she could have done this, the only thing that makes sense
was that we had a storm a couple of nights before.It must have scared her very badly and she
flew into something in a panic.She’s
been through many storms since she’s been here and never hurt herself, but
something caused her to do this to herself and that is the only scenario that
makes sense to us.
I immediately got on the phone
and called all of the raptor people I know to ask what we could do.Then I called TriangleVeterinaryReferralHospital
who agreed to see her.Dr. Grafinger
there is wonderful and has helped us so much with wildlife!We were at their office for three hours!Their staff was wonderful and caring,
thankfully, since I was totally falling apart on the inside.
As a caregiver who has been
entrusted with the lives of these beautiful creatures, the guilt is immense any
time something goes wrong!When it goes
this wrong, it is much worse.Yes, the
logical side of me knows “these things happen” and there really was no way to
stop or prevent this.Logic doesn’t
really take a big role in feelings, especially when one of your own is badly
Rahl’s beak was broken all the
way across the top, from one side to the other, but was still holding very
firmly on the inside.Dr. Graf and his
staff cleaned the break and glued it back together and put plastic splints on
either side of her beak for extra support.Home we went with our beautiful girl.
Like I said, this is a high
strung girl, so by the time we got home, she’d taken off one of the splints and
her beak was more crooked than before.
I went into another panic and
started looking to see what we had here to fix this.I put in calls to more raptor people, Dr.
Graf, and Dr. Leo at Avian and Exotic Vet Care.We decided to use “5 Minute Epoxy” and fiberglass (something commonly
used for beak injuries).I was as
nervous about doing this myself as could be, but Dr. Graf was on his way home
after a long day and I didn’t feel it was fair to ask him to return to work and
Avian and Exotic was about to close.So,
Vinny and I went to work!
Actually, right before we went
to work, we got in a very young turkey vulture with a badly broken leg.We gave him a quick examination and had to
set him aside to fix Rahl’s beak before she hurt it more.
During the entire process, I
photo documented every step.Both for my
own notebook of care and for others, as well as to be able to show our vets so
they could let me know if we’d done it right.Thankfully, they explain really, really well!
Once everything was applied to
her beak, Vinny sat, with his finger in her beak, keeping it open so it
couldn’t epoxy closed, for 20 minutes.It didn’t cure nearly as fast as it claimed it would.But, Vinny was such a wonderful sport about
all of this!Really, how many guys would
sit with their finger in the beak of a red tailed hawk, let alone an unhappy
Once she was settled in, we took
a closer look at the young vulture and found he had a horribly broken leg that
was broken too high up to fix.So, off
Vinny went with the vulture, back to the vet to have him euthanized so he would
not suffer any longer.
While I waited for Vinny to come
back and to check Rahl again (I tried not to stress her more by checking her
too often), I uploaded the photos to our facebook page, both to show our fans
what was going on and as a way to show our vets how it went.
This entire time my insides were
flipping out.The stress of this was so bad;
I can’t begin to explain it.While I had
been assured by everybody who had raptor experience that, even if this didn’t
go well, since she was captive, she would live.But just living wasn’t what I wanted for this majestic beauty!Her freedom was taken away by a mean person
with a gun several years before; I didn’t want her life to be even harder
because I might not have done this right.
We had a lot of very positive
and caring feedback from our friends on facebook.This was actually helping my feelings a
lot.Then came the one comment asking if
we were taking OUR bird to another raptor center because this person didn’t
think epoxy on a bird sounded right.While I know I shouldn’t allow comments like this to bother me, my
emotional state was already so precarious that any amount of wind I may have
had in my tattered sails was gone in a flash!I was devastated!I knew using
epoxy was “the norm” for beak issues such as this, I knew I’d done the very
best I possibly could, but being questioned like that hurt like being hit by a
large sledgehammer in the gut.
Thankfully, after I explained a
little more, this person took her comment down.But the hurt was still there, piled on my already huge guilt heap.
Thankfully, two of our wonderful
vets looked at the pictures and told me I did a great job!They also let me know what to expect in the
weeks and months to come.I can’t tell
you how much this type of support from such wonderful vets means to a person
We now will be feeding Rahl by
hand (yes, that’s right, cutting mice into little pieces and sticking them down
her throat) for a while so that there is no pressure put on her beak.According to one of our vets, who has dealt
with a LOT of broken beaks, we will be doing
this for about a week or so.He also
says she should be healed in three months.This all may sound gross or tough to most people, but living with
wildlife often means doing things you may find unpleasant or that you may have
even sworn you would never do.
While I am still working on
getting my guilt that this accident happened at all under control, I truly
believe that Rahl will be fine in the end!Thanks to a wonderful team of vets, I know we did the very best we could
in this situation.