(Mark Coleman is our new Community Relations Manager here at PAWS. For the next couple of weeks Mark is shadowing different members of our staff, and blogging about his experience. It’s our way of showing Mark what we do, and it gives us chance to get the “new guy” dirty!)
Why is it always the cute puppies and cuddlesome kitties that get all the press around here? O.k., that’s a silly question, but sometimes people forget that PAWS is also a world class ER and Trauma center for sick or injured wildlife.
Today I follow wildlife rehabilitator Nicki Rosenhagen during her morning duties. Nicki’s a veteran “rehabber” here at the Wildlife Center. With a touch of Midwest in her voice, and a little sarcasm in her smile, she tells me this is the “slow” time of year. That must be a relative term, because today we admit or treat more than a dozen wild animals in the span of just two hours. You wouldn’t believe the range of animals they treat here. From a pigeon with a chest wound, to a bat that got a rude awakening during his hibernation, Nicki and Veterinary Technician Jean Leonhardt admit, triage, and feed anything that flies, crawls, or hops in the front door. In the world of not-for-profits, “if you’re in the room, you’re on the job”. Today I’m in the room, so….
“You just lay the blanket over them gently. Then wrap it around as you lift.” Nicki’s teaching me how to handle a bird with what looks like a donated baby blanket. I slowly wrap the House Finch with the pink “blankie” and hold him up for examination. This is amazing. I’ve never held a bird in my life, but now I can feel it move against my fingertips. Nicki opens the birds’ beak gently, and looks for any sign of distress. With a gentle puff – she blows on the bird to separate the feathers. On the wing, there’s dried blood and a bald spot. She’ll let the bird rest with a dose of antibiotic, and check back later. I’ve never considered this, but do you know what the biggest risk to a sick or injured animal is when it comes into the Wildlife Center? I thought maybe it was how a bone was broken, or how much blood the animal has lost. Believe it or not, the biggest threat to an animals’ safety is stress, not just from the injury or illness, but from being captured and transported to the Wildlife Center. A period of rest is mandatory.
If you haven’t had your lunch, feeding the wildlife isn’t going make you run out and grab a bite.
“It’s some cat food and some worms”, Nicki proclaims as she butters the concoction onto a slab of wood. Such is lunch for a Red-breasted Sapsucker with a bum carpometacarpus (A “hand” to you or me). I would never have thought of this, but the slab of wood makes our Sapsucker friend feel at home, while the worms make him feel nourished. To feed the smaller birds, Nicki loads up an industrial bar blender with protein powders, vitamins, and other carefully measured nutrients. This enticing “slurry” is then warmed a little, and loaded into a syringe with a thin rubber tube attached. This is how she’ll “tube”, or “tube feed” the baby pigeons while I nervously hold them in the blanket. These pigeons may be the homeliest “cute” babies you’ll find at the Wildlife Center, but then again, nobody’s asking them what they think of me….
I’ll be back on Thursday to show you a Blue Heron with a bum wing, and a gang of bear cubs with mischief in their hearts. Stay tuned…