Baby wildlife continues to keep MARS very busy, with new patients being admitted on a daily basis.
Many healthy orphaned birds and animals have been released or relocated in the past few weeks, but some have required lengthier rehabilitation. Birds are especially vulnerable once they hatch as most species nests are high up off the ground in a tree, on a cliff or building or some other lofty site.
Some species including songbirds and ducks seem better equipped to handle a fall from the nest and their parents are willing to feed them on the ground.
Larger species do not fare so well and if they do fall, or are pushed from the nest by siblings, they are often abandoned by the parents who will not feed the baby on the ground, as they are too vulnerable to predators.
A month ago we received a baby barred owlet that had fallen from the nest and during the fall sustained a fracture to its tibia and fibula bones in the lower leg; the leg was also rotated 90 degrees from normal. A visit to the vet determined that the leg was broken mid shaft which would require surgery to pin the bones and realign the leg.
Dr. Stacey Gastis at Sunrise Veterinary Clinic performed this delicate surgery which required pinning the bones and securing them in place with an external brace made from epoxy. Thanks to A News for filming this surgery, which is available for viewing on our website.
After the owlet survived the surgery, the intern students and volunteers hand-fed it and began gentle exercising of the leg. The owlet also had a visit from a physiotherapist and several laser treatments to help with pain management and the healing process.
One of our students designed a special harness that resembles a baby’s jolly jumper. Suspending the owlet in the harness allowed it to exercise its wings while at the same time taking some pressure off the injured leg.
The owlet will be reassessed in a few more weeks and hopefully the pins will be removed. Physiotherapy will be continued, although the long-term prognosis is not great. We are trying to do what we can to see if this owl can live a somewhat normal life.
Barred owls are one of the most prolific owls that we have in our local area and are the most common owl species rehabilitated at our centre. At present, we have four adults and two owlets recovering from a variety of injuries.
These owls are one of the largest species of local owls, standing between 16 and 24 inches tall, and they have a wing span ranging between 38 and 50 inches.
Due to their predominately nocturnal hunting practices, the barred owls are often hit by cars as they come down on to the road to capture a rodent or rabbit. Due to their wide wingspan, they cannot get airborne in time to avoid a fast-moving vehicle.
To update some of the recent cases featured in MARS Moments, we have relocated eight of 11 fawns, which are now feeding on vegetation and will be integrated back into the local herd.
The three red squirrels are racing around learning how to hang upside down and nimbly running across branches. They have figured out how to open and then hide nuts, and are well on their way to passing their release requirements.
For information on other patients, please check our website.
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For the past few summers, MARS has been asked by the Loggers Sports and Salmon Festival to volunteer as timekeepers at their event in Campbell River.
This year the event runs Aug. 5 to 7, and MARS receives a donation for fulfilling this task, which is a fun event. We are right in the middle of the action provided with stopwatches and basic training.
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Please visit the website www.wingtips.org under Events if you can help. To report injured wildlife, please call toll-free at 1-800-304-9968. For all other calls, phone 250-337-2021.
Please Warn, Watch and Wait and call us before intervening with baby wildlife.
Sandy Fairfield is the educational co-ordinator for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS). The MARS column appears every second Friday.