Sunday, April 10, 2011

Grebe Expectations - Part 2 - Duck out of Water

So last Thursday I went out to check on the little rescued Grebe.  She (and I'm assigning a gender totally arbitrarily since grebes aren't gender dimorphic, and as the woman I interviewed explained, there was no medical reason to try and determine a gender to treat her) ended up at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.

I called up to see if I could do a follow up on her and I was able to interview one of the rehabers named LuAnn.  Because they're a wildlife rescue and rehab first and foremost I wasn't able to see the grebe.  She's being treated, but they want her to have as little interaction with humans as possible to facilitate her re-release into the wild.

The vets did take a couple pictures which they were gracious enough to send to me.

I look at those back legs now and I completely understand why she couldn't get off the ground.  Those are not walking, let alone running, feet.  Those are clearly paddling feet.

(These two photos belong to the Center and are used with their gracious permission).

As I mentioned in the first post, she had a bit of a chunk taken out of her neck and required medical intervention, antibiotics and painkillers.

When I got out to DuPage County, LuAnn and I sat down to discuss the care this animal received and what people should do if they find an injured wild animal and a little bit about the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in general.

What did you do for the grebe?

The vet cleaned up his wounds, she gave him a check up this morning.  He's on pain meds and she put him on antibiotics.  A lot of what happens over the next few days is watching him, getting him to eat... we give him a variety of food in his water.  He has shallow water right now because of his wounds, so he can't go totally in water.

Can you tell what attacked him?

No.  We can't tell if he was attacked or if he got caught on something.  We don't usually know unless somebody sees what happened.

We found this bird flopping down the street and she obviously needed help, so we picked her up.  What ideally should people do when they find something like this?

She needed to get picked up, because she obviously had wounds and couldn't fly away.  I wouldn't have suggested anything different.  But the people need to be safe first.  She was in the road, so people need to be careful when trying to help.  A lot of times the first car can see what's going on, but then someone tries to get around the stopped car and doesn't realize what's happening.

Someone at the scene suggested we use a plastic bag, but I said that plastic wasn't a good idea because some animals may eat it, is that right?

We use paper bags a lot.  You could have a problem with suffocation with plastic.  The migration group uses paper bags.  They're inexpensive and if they put tissue on the bottom they can get some traction, if it stays clean then you can reuse it.

How common are grebes to this area?

Not all that common.  We might get two or three or four a year.  It's not like a mallard or something.

How many animals does your center treat?

It varies a lot.  We can get a couple hundred in one day during migration. Last year we had over 8000 for the year come in.

What percentage can be rehabbed?

Most centers will say about half - between 45 and 50 percent.  Though it depends on how they do their numbers. Some count the ones that are dead on arrival, others don't.  Most animals have so many strikes against them by the time someone can catch them...

Of that 50%, how many can you re-release into the wild?

Almost all of them.  We have about 90 or 95 permanent animals that stay here for education.  There are some that live on the grounds that people learn about them by seeing them, and some that go out for school programs - like a red-tailed hawk that has a wing injury and can't hunt.  We also have a relationship with Brookfield Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium and Lincoln Park Zoo and they have one with us as well.  Sometimes we can place animals in different places.  We have a reintroductory program for some animals where we collect and hatch the eggs to make sure raccoons and other animals don't get to them and then release the young animals when they can protect themselves.

What's the most exotic animal you've ever received?

We get in mink occasionally.  A couple years ago we had three young mink that we raised and released. There's a few animals where we only get a few in a year, and then we may not see them again for a couple of years. We rehab anything that's native to the area.  We don't do non-native species, we have referrals for those.  Sometimes we get a call that an animal has been confiscated at the airport and they need someone to take it.

Do you ever get maxed out?  Do you ever have to say, "I'm sorry, but we just don't have any more room?"

We have a limit on raccoons.  Our cage will only hold so many because they're territorial.  And there's a second breeding season later in the summer, so we'll start taking more then.  It's hard to say no, but if we take too many we risk introducing a lot of disease.

So after we talked, I walked through the permanent collection and then did a walk through the attached wild forest preserve.  I'll post about both of those under separate covers in the next day or two.

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