Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wildlife Care Center

A bird buffet.
Once a year, the Audubon Society of Portland  offers a tour of their Wildlife Care Center.  You can go anytime and see inside the care center through the window while visiting their education birds, but we'd never had a behind the scenes tour. Every year, they average 3,000 patients, all native wildlife. They have one full-time vet, one full-time wildlife specialist, and 100+ volunteers. Our guide explained that she is a microbiologist and often helps check the birds for parasites, but they do train willing volunteers who do not have science backgrounds to care for their animals. Most of their patients are birds, but they will admit native wildlife.  Their success rate is 40%, which is something to brag about since many, many animals arrive with serious trauma injuries and must be euthanized. On the day of our tour, all the patients in residence were birds, and all were in covered cages to reduce their stress. They were resting quietly and we didn't hear so much as a peep from any of them. 
A stuffed skunk on their examination table.
 Some interesting things we learned- Treated animals are always released where they were found if at all possible.  If not, they are released in a habitat that they hope will be inviting.  They feed raptors farmed quail, as well as mice from their own breeding colony.  Strict laws meant to protect birds from those who would kill them in order to sell their feathers mean the Wildlife Care Center cannot keep most feathers.  But they do keep some for the specialized medicine of feather imping, in which malformed or damaged feathers are replaced with healthy feathers from a deceased bird.  In the summer, they add an extra shift of volunteers to feed the many orphaned baby birds they receive in a total of three shifts. 

Patient rooms. 
One of the main messages that the Audubon Society wanted to share was their concern about lead shot.  Their vet was on hand to show x-rays of a bald eagle that had to be euthanized due to lead poisoning, and the images clearly showed lead shot stuck in its beak.  It probably scavenged a carcass or guts that a hunter left behind, and wound up with a beak full of lead.  Lead has been identified as the main cause of the near extinction of the California condor. Condors once lived in Oregon, and the Oregon Zoo is famously making a huge effort to breed condors for release to aid in repopulation. We have banned many common uses of this highly toxic metal, such as lead paint and leaded gasoline. But Oregon has yet to ban lead shot and lead fishing tackle, which Audubon knows firsthand kills wildlife. Lots more about this issue here.  Wouldn't you love to see condors in our skies again? Imagine that!
These tags are attached directly to the cloth covers of the bird cages to
communicate special care requirements.
One of their mouse houses.
Syd, the red-tailed hawk.  We don't often see this education bird, and her volunteer handler
explained that Syd doesn't trust more than a couple volunteers to handle her.
The always lovely Ruby, the turkey vulture, catching some rays.  If Ruby could be released, she would have migrated to warmer climates this time of year.  So her enclosure is kept warm.  

1 comment:

Nicki Mann said...

I love those types of places! Near Chicago there is a very similar wildlife center. I mean there are probably several, but there is one I'm really familiar with... they also try to release the animals whenever possible, but they keep and care for any animals that would not be able to survive in the wild. You can "adopt" an animal and get your name on a plaque on their cage. Once the kids I babysat, and I, adopted our favorite animal there, which was a three-legged fox!