Hoots, Howls, and Hollers – June 18, 2019
This isn’t the way I like to start my week. I mean by that…writing about such a dark subject. But, it warrants it. Please bear with me if this is as horrific to you as it is to me. Maybe you will help me spread the word.
Recently we were called to pick up two nestling great horned owls. The caller, who had been watching the nests, said that one of the two was badly injured…beaten up. The other one didn’t visibly appear to be injured, but it too was out of the nest way too soon.
Upon arrival at Liberty Wildlife, they were given the same triage procedures all incoming animals get and, although the one owl did appear to be beaten up, it didn’t have any punctures, breaks or abrasions. It was, however, a bloody mess. The very experienced and knowledgeable veterinarian indicated that all signs pointed to rodenticide poisoning. Then it died from bleeding out. The bloody appearance causing the assumption by the caller that it had been attacked proved to be the result of blood that wouldn’t coagulate…the ugly side effect of warfarin in the rat poison.
The second owlet was immediately put on doses of Vitamin K to assist in the ability of the blood to coagulate and appears to be holding its own so far. Our fingers are crossed that his exposure to the poison was less than that of the deceased one and that the vitamin K works its magic.
Now, I am just as annoyed with rats as the rest of you are. If you live surrounded by desert or just in the environs of people and their stuff, rats will be there; rats are smart; rats are survivors. There are things you can do, however, that don’t exacerbate the problem. Rodenticide isn’t one of them. Sure, it might get to one rat or even many, but what they do is wander around in the process of bleeding out internally (not a pretty way to go), and in their weakened condition become the obvious prey for an opportunistic owl who is feeding a nest of babies. What has happened is this: That poisoned rat could have caused the total failure of the entire nest of owls, including the parents all of whom would have helped to decimate the rat populations through their long lives…in a natural way. Someone interrupted that process, calling for more extreme and environmentally unsound measures of rat population control. If in desperation you contact a pest control company to help you, please do your own research to see if what you are being told is correct.
Ok, I know that the rats can do damage to wiring, to landscaping, to insulation, to an amazing number of things that are annoying and sometimes expensive to correct. I know that pest control people might tell you that this particular poison won’t go up the food chain. I know it would be so much easier to believe them than to mess around with snap traps that need to be monitored regularly. I know that the use of sticky traps endangers many other non specific targets. I know it is seemingly impossible….but if you could have seen this little owl die, you probably would go to the extra trouble to try to rat proof your environs and do your own research on what is being used on your property.
The main ingredient of rodenticide is warfarin. Like coumadin it is designed to thin the blood to keep it from coagulating in people to stave off strokes, etc. In rats, it causes them to die and die slowly…not quick enough to escape a predator like a great horned owl…or your dog or cat.
This is a bleak subject, and for that I am sorry. If you spread the word, are careful about what is used to control unwanted pests around your home, you could be saving the very thing that naturally controls them, and you could be saving the life of your pet or your neighbors pet. I can’t even stand the thought of the unintended consequences.
Rat proof your home and yard. Do it the natural way…close up holes…get rid of trash piles; bring in pet food; do a little research. Do it today. And, while you are at it, eliminate poisons from your environment, and make a wish for the survival of the remaining great horned owlet.
This Week @ Liberty – June 18, 2019
Except for the larger numbers, I could have copied and used last year’s TW@L again for this year. The arrivals at the window are coming steadily, but without the large spikes that normally accompany the onset of the monsoon. We were blessed with a mild spring and although the monsoon is officially here, the microbursts and torrential rains have not yet materialized. But since the summer solstice is only 4 days away, it’s only a matter of time.
The second week of Summer Camp has begun and we’re forging ahead into the summer, planning for Wishes for Wildlife 2019, accepting photos and articles for Wing Beats, and hosting several events despite the heat. The day-to-day work of the facility goes on no matter the season, with hawks, owls, eagles, condors, pelicans, and anything else that needs a little help to survive during an Arizona summer receiving the best of care from the tireless volunteers and staff. Our thanks to them, and thanks to the public whose donations support our efforts to care for all the wild inhabitants of the South West.
We seem to get animals in cycles, mostly dependent on who is currently nesting or migrating, and right now it’s Cooper’s hawks. We took in 5 on one day last week and the onslaught continues. Sometimes it’s the wind, sometimes it’s the heat, but they are present in large numbers and we seem to get a lot of them in a fairly short period of time. Because these accipiters eat mostly other birds, they are susceptible to avian canker so like kestrels, most are treated for it as a matter of course.
We usually start getting in pelicans with the start of the monsoon, but even without the afternoon storms, once in a while a youngster will show up as one did this week. Either a victim of an upper air front or just being an inattentive kid, this brown pelican will need to get back to the ocean as soon as we decide he’s healthy enough to be transported to Sea World in San Diego for final evaluation and release.
This morning two baby raccoons were brought in without their mother. Too young to survive on their own, we examined them and sent them to South West Wildlife who has better facilities for mammals of this type. Someday we will be able to keep and rehabilitate mammals like this but for now, outsourcing them is in their best interest.
(Look for 3 pictures.)
Our Summer Camp for kids wrapped up week no.1 and by all indications, the campus all had a great time. There were lots of learning opportunies in the classroom and in the field around the facility, plus they kids got to meet John and Balinda’s new acquisition, “Garfunkel”, a baby Eurasian eagle owl. When he is grown, he will be joining the Free Flight display along with Cheese and Quackers (the Indian runner ducks), Azul (an American crow), and Jax (a trained Harris’ hawk). On another day, the kids got to actually hand-feed some of the baby birds that are with us in Orphan Care. These kinds of experiences are unique and will hopefully stay with the kids for a lifetime.
(Look for 10 pictures)
Liberty hosted a conference for US Fish and Wildlife Permitting personnel last week. The person who is the Migratory Bird Permit Office head for our region, Mr. Eldon Brown, is stationed in Albuquerque and helps us with questions regarding anything having to do with migratory birds and permits that affect them. He was instrumental in choosing Liberty for the site of the conference which lasted three days. Except for the heat (Hey, it IS Arizona!), all attendees seemed to enjoy the facility.
(Look for 2 photos)
A spiny lizard showed up at the facility last week and required some medical intervention. At first the little reptile almost seemed beyond help, appearing inert and motionless. But Dr. Semick found some life in him and administered some fluids and medicine after which he perked up and now seems to be doing much better, living in an aquarium in ICU. He might be in line to join some fellow reptilian inhabitants of our interactive classroom.
(Look for 3 photos)
Our Med Services team is top notch, and Jan Miller CVT, trains new volunteers, shares the benefit of her three decades + experience in wildlife rehabilitation. Recently, Ken and Roger completed their training and are doing a shift together in Triage each week. Even with this level of professional training, sometimes we are not able to save an animal. Even then, we can investigate their demise and possibly prevent another of its kind from meeting its premature end. If an otherwise intact and previously healthy great horned owl arrives either dieing or near death or DOA, we can sometimes determine the cause of the fatality and knowing this, do something to mitigate the offending circumstance. To that end, Jan and Alex will sometimes examine expired GHOs to see if either poison or electricity was involved. Both of these causes can be addressed to hopefully keep other animals from the same fate.
(Look for 4 photos)
As Megan explained above in HHH, two baby great horned owls were admitted last week, both presenting symptoms of anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning. This manifests itself in massive bruising and hemorrhaging in all areas of the body. As Megan stated, vitamin K is used to treat this type of toxic exposure, which basically turns the victim into a hemophiliac. I asked Dr. Lamb if a transfusion would be indicated and she pointed out that it might actually help, BUT that would mean administering a catheter which, since it means puncturing tissue could start unstoppable bleeding and was therefore not a good choice of treatment. In any case, this little guy is hanging in there and I’ll try to keep you updated on his progress. Keep your fingers crossed…
(Look for 4 photos)
Currently we have two California condors in our care. One has an injured wing and has been here for a few months. Dr. lamb pinned her wing a couple of weeks ago and the pin was just removed. The other is a kid that is a more recent patient. The latest one has some unknown issues involving blood chemistry and recently received a blood transfusion from the older one (with the broken wing). Both are under observation and will be here until we know they can be released.
(Look for 4 photos)
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Posted by Terry Stevens
I’m curious about the brown pelican. How would a juvenile brown pelican wind up here – in landlocked Arizona?
Also, will Sea World be trustworthy in terms of eventual release when he is well enough…or are they obligated to keep Liberty posted on his progress?
Thanks in advance for your reply!
They are almost always juveniles that ride winds in from the coast, not experienced enough to know when to come down. Sea World has been working with us for over 25 years in finishing the rehab process and releasing them back to their normal habitat. Like us, they are too busy with other rehabilitation work to keep us updated on the birds’ progress. We just know they are getting the best care possible and will be released when it’s time.
Megan and Terry,
Thank you for calling attention to the dangers of rodenticides to birds of prey. This has been a personal cause of mine for a long time. Rodenticides are such a nasty product and they have no place in anyone’s yard. I know rats can be a problem, but rodenticides are not the solution. Well-placed snap traps may be unsavory, but owls and hawks will not be harmed by them. Hope the remaining little great-horned owl will be OK. Being at Liberty Wildlife is his best chance of survival. Thank you!
Thanks, Megan, for your wonderful and enlightening report about the great horned owls. I have been on TV news and have published articles in the Ahwatukee Foothills News and our local HOA newsletter asking homeowners not to use rat poisons. Is there any way I can get a copy of your report re the owls so I can share it with my neighborhood? I have been known to distribute flyers around my neighborhood asking my neighbors not to use poisons while providing alternatives to rid our area of those pesky rodents.