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Timing is Everything

Posted on 26 February 2014 by Dawn Keller

I hate getting calls on injured raptors during nesting season. So when we received a call on an injured Great Horned Owl first thing this morning all I could think about was whether it had an active nest.

If it was a female with a brood patch (an area on her lower abdomen where she pulls out her feathers so that the warm skin rests directly on the eggs, or later, on the owlets to keep them warm), we would need to release her right away for the eggs or owlets to survive in these extremely cold temperatures. I would be somewhat surprised, however, to find a female off the nest this early in the nesting season - especially with last night's -3 degree Fahrenheit low temperature.

If it was a male, then the female would be back at the nest waiting for him to hunt and provide her and the owlets with food. If he didn't return promptly, then she would be forced to leave the nest, thus exposing the eggs or owlets to the cold temperatures and possible predation.

When we arrived, we found a male Great Horned Owl entangled in Christmas lights - the kind of Christmas lights that are like netting - easier to put up but much more likely to cause entanglements.


We proceeded to unplug the Christmas lights and began to cut them off of the owl. The lights were badly entangled around one wing. We covered his head, as possible, to reduce his stress.

Check out the nictitating membrane in this last picture. It is basically the third eyelid smile.

Once we removed the lights, we did a quick exam and found no fractures, tendon damage or significant bruising. Rather than bring him back to our Barrington facility for flight testing (we were just over an hour away), we decided to test him on a creance in a nearby field. We'd come prepared to do this just in case....

We went back to the van and drove to a nearby soccer field. We then proceeded to put on removable alymeri anklets (the leather things with the grommets) and jesses (the blue things you see in the picture).


 

(How do you like my owl mittens? And what about those talons?!)

We then took the owl to the middle of the soccer field and attached his jesses to a creance. A creance prevents a bird from flying away and slows him down gradually so that he doesn't injure himself. Back before flight chambers, many rehabilitators only creance trained their rehabilitation birds prior to release. It's really a suboptimal way to recondition birds, but it's fine for a quick test since this bird's breast muscles hadn't yet atrophied from an extensive time in rehab.

 

He flew strong on the creance, so back to the van we went where we removed the jesses and temporary anklets and then drove him home for release.

Good luck, Buddy!

Oh, Deer!

Posted on 12 February 2014 by Dawn Keller

It was quite a morning for a Lake Forest homeowner who ended up with a full-sized White-tailed Deer in their house!

An adult female White-tailed Deer fell into the window well of a Lake Forest home last week. Thick snow cover was hiding the window well and it gave way as the doe stepped onto it. The homeowners contact Lake Forest police who were first responders.

Lake Forest Police tried to remove the doe from the window well using a catch pole but she thrashed around, broke through the window and ended up in the homeowner's basement. Lake Forest Police contacted Lake County Animal Control (LCAC) for an assist.


































LCAC arrived on the scene to find a doe in the basement. She was struggling - slipping and sliding on the concrete floor of the unfinished basement. She had a large avulsion (area where the skin had been ripped away to expose the muscle below) to the front of her right rear leg, presumably from when she crashed through the window.

LCAC chemically immobilized the doe and contacted us to discuss options. We advised them that once the deer was removed from the basement and if the wounds were fairly superficial, we could dress her wounds, reverse the anesthetic agent and release her.

Unlike many animals we treat, adult deer cannot be kept in captivity for rehabilitation. They will literally die of a stress-related condition known as capture myopathy, or they will thrash about in their enclosure thereby injuring or kiling themselves. So with adult deer, we hope for minor injuries that can quickly be treated so that the deer can immediately be released back to the wild for the injury to continue to heal.

LCAC had one more major hurdle - getting the roughly 200 lb. doe out of the basement! LCAC contacted Lake Forest Fire Department for help and they carried the sleeping doe out on a stretcher through the homeowner's house.


That's where we came in...with adult deer, field triage becomes necessary. It was only 8 degrees Farenheit and we had to prevent the doe from becoming hypothermic, which is far more likely under anesthesia. We prepared the ground by shoveling a flat area in the deep snow, putting down plastic, covering the plastic with cardboard, covering the cardboard with insulation, covering the insulation with towels, covering the towels with a soft heated kennel pad (running extension cords about 150 feet to plug it in) and covering the heated kennel pad with a blanket. The doe was then on top of the blanket and covered with four additional blankets.

We worked quickly to clean and dress her wounds. We wanted to minimize her time under anesthesia to minimize the risk of hypothermia and bloat, another possible complication. Also, the chlorhexadine used to clean her wounds was freezing almost instantly due to the extremely cold temperature. After dressing her wounds, we gave her a shot of antibiotic and reversed her anesthesia intravenously.

She was free at last after quite a stressful morning!

Our sincere thanks to Lake Forest Police, Lake County Animal Control and Lake Forest Fire for giving her a second chance.

On a Wire - A Story of Courage

Posted on 19 April 2013 by Dawn Keller

Survival against extreme odds requires incredible courage and so we've named the Ring-billed Gull now safely in our care Courageous. Our participation in Courageous' story only began Thursday morning, but Courageous' fight for survival began sometime on Wednesday.

We don't know exactly when and we certainly don't know how Courageous became suspended in mid-air just behind Patricia's back yard on Chicago's near south side. More than two stories high, Courageous almost appeared to be floating in mid-air, suspended by a nearly invisible filament seeming from the heavens above.

Dangling by a wing, Courageous was getting pounded by a horrible and relentless storm that included hail, several inches of rain that resulted in widespread flooding, lightening and 40 mile per hour wind gusts. Courageous flapped and struggled trying to free himself. When the weather allowed, the other gulls circled as if protecting their suffering friend. And the storm continued all throughout the night with poor Courageous hanging there fighting for life.

When the sun rose on Thursday, Patricia saw that Courageous was amazingly still alive. She and her sister-in-law Maretta resumed their mission that started Wednesday to find help for poor Courageous.

When Maretta first reached us, clearly skeptical that we would help, she asked me if I was just wasting her time asking all of these questions. I assured her that I wanted to help, but that I needed to understand the situation to know what would be involved in effectuating a rescue.

Once I understood the situation, I called our friends over at Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) and learned that Maretta and Patricia's efforts had already gotten Courageous' plight on CACC's radar. Flint Creek Wildlife's volunteer (extraordinaire) Barb met CACC's animal control officer over there....it was now about noon and Courageous had been dangling over 17 hours in nearly constant and sometimes treacherous rain. They quickly determined that additional help would be needed to free Courageous.

Next came Chicago's Division of Forestry armed with a boom truck that would potentially allow someone to get near Courageous. The site was challenging even with a boom truck due to a narrow alley and numerous high-tension lines. Finally, the truck positioned from the proper angle, the CACC officer was able to cut the filament suspending Courageous. It was 1:15 pm on Thursday - at least 18 hours, inches of rain, lightening strikes, hail and wind gusts after Courageous first started dangling. Barb left with Courageous heading back to Flint Creek Wildlife's Barrington location.

We were ready to work on Courageous when Barb arrived at Barrington. Expecting the worst after such a trauma, we hoped to find him alive. We found this resilient bird alert and possibly grateful. We expect him to make a full recovery.

Many thanks to Patricia and Maretta for not giving up, to Chicago Animal Care and Control and Chicago's Division of Forestry for the rescue and the resources, to Barb for everything she does to help Flint Creek Wildlife in our mission of Saving Lives and for being a super amazing volunteer, and to Courageous for inspiring us.

And to all - please remember that any fishing line left outside is extremely dangerous to birds!


 

 

 

Late Winter Storm Damage

Posted on 10 March 2012 by Dawn Keller


The morning after the storm - taken February 24, 2012

I cannot think of a single sound in the world (minus human or animal pain) that ellicits a more visceral reaction in me than the sound of a chain saw. So when two late winter storms with heavy snow caused a domino effect that started with the mid-trunk snapping of a 75’ oak and ended with a total of 6 trees uprooted in its path from bearing its weight – parts of the mass potentially threatening our Barrington facility – we were left with no alternative but to call the experts and have them removed with near-surgical precision (as near surgical as a chain saw can be, I suppose).

Our one pond-side spruce seemed to be holding up the mass and we hoped that it would withstand the heavy load until the tree cutters could arrive, which they said had to wait until the snow melted due to safety concerns. The spruce leaned and struggled under its burden but held it did. And now it stands alone amid a clearing of nothing more than piles of formerly statuesque oaks, cherries and spruce.

When the storms first hit, I felt my normal anxiety over the heavy, wet snow that came late enough in the year to threaten Great Horned Owl and squirrel nests. I found myself conflicted when admiring the beauty of the snow recognizing the damage that the storm could have on our native wildlife. Sometimes storms cause devastation to the animal population we serve and it really just all depends on the timing of the storm relative to what species are nesting as well as the storm’s severity, of course. A couple of summers ago, torrential downpours led to an influx of 34 nestling Cooper’s Hawks. This year’s late winter snowstorm didn’t lead to a similar spike in our admissions and my hope is that the nestling owls and newborn squirrels weren’t impacted.

We often ask people not to cut trees during nesting season, which in Illinois spans from January through October, unless the tree is a safety issue. There was absolutely no way that we could wait on this dangerous situation and I knew that it was very early in nesting season with squirrels, raccoons and Great Horned Owls being the only likely candidates. We knew that we didn’t have a Great Horned nest in any of the trees but couldn’t be certain about the other two.

So as I listened to the sound of chain saws I hoped that the cutters wouldn’t find babies. I was relieved when they reported that there were no nests in the trees. They agreed to put our business cards in all of their trucks because, although nests are protected and tree companies are not supposed to cut a tree if they know it has an active nest, sometimes mistakes happen.

We are grateful that our spruce stood strong and tall and that the trees didn’t fall on our buildings.  We’ll clean up the massive piles of our former trees  and begin planting. I see young oaks in our future.To the right of the original oak tree that snapped, five other trees
uprooted and were leaning on our one remaining spruce

The oak tree that snapped and started the domino effect


To the right of the original oak tree that snapped, five other trees
uprooted and were leaning on our one remaining spruce


By the time the snow melted and the tree cutters could safely remove
the trees, the spruce was signficantly leaning under the weight


Some of our former trees


Piles of debris surround our ponds and waterfalls, waiting to be cleared away


And our half dead spruce, now relieved of the weight of the other trees,
once again stands tall
! We are grateful that this spruce never gave away.


 

Funniest Bird Releases

Posted on 8 March 2012 by Dawn Keller

In working on content for our new website, we found some release photos and video that I just had to share. No birds were injured in these releases - these are birds that were fully recovered from their injuries and ready for release but simply did unexpected things during their releases. I can only say that these images captured some of the funniest release moments we've had so far at Flint Creek Wildlife.

Enjoy!

Red-tailed Hawk - we called him Spider Man while he was in the flight chamber:

   
Red-tailed Hawk (Spider Man) Release photo copyright 2009 Phil Hampel

Scarlet Tanager that flipped upside down (voluntarily) as he left my hand then righted himself mid-air and flew off:

   
            Scarlet Tanager Release Photo copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

Summer Tanager - I love the look before it flies away:

American Kestrel that was so focused on me he didn't realize he could be free - these images are sequential:

   
American Kestrel Release copyright 2010

   
American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

   
American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

   
American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

   
American Kestrel Release copyright 2010 Phil Hampel

For more information about Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation visit our NEW website at http://www.flintcreekwildlife.org or our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/flintcreek

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This post originally was written by Dawn Keller, Founder and Director of Flint Creek Wildlife, for North American Birding http://www.nabirding.com

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A Red-tail of a Different Color

Posted on 3 March 2012 by Dawn Keller

We originally received a call about an injured Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a low fence on an entrance ramp to the expressway. Although we responded to the call right away, by the time we arrived there was no sign of it. We searched all around to no avail and then left.

Same thing two days later - another call about an injured Red-tail at the same location. Again, we went to the location - and again we came up empty-handed. We were frustrated and worried that this bird had been injured and without help for a couple of days.

Three more days passed and we received a call from a resident that lived near the expressway. It's got to be the same bird, we thought. Fingers crossed that we would find him this time. We high-tailed it over there.

He was sitting on a fence facing me when I approached and at brief glance looked a bit unusual to me. I confess that when I am about to rescue a bird, I get tunnel visioned and focus strictly on making sure I get the bird swiftly and safely. I quickly assessed the condition of the bird, its apparent injuries and any surrounding hazards that might jeopardize its safety during the recovery. As soon as the bird saw me, he flushed backward off the fence into a large open park-type area between the back yard and the expressway. He could fly low but not correctly.

I went several houses south to gain access to the open field and then circled the bird wide in order to approach it from the direction of the expressway. This way if he flushed again he'd be headed back towards the houses. He was flying low but not well or correctly. He obviously had a fractured right wing.

As I approached the bird in the field, I approached low. He didn't fly again but flipped on his back and extended his legs in defensive mode. I realized that the bird was an older male - quite striking and absolutely different than the many other Red-tails I'd rehabbed in the past. He was a bit leucistic with a lighter than normal head and creamy white up the base of his tail.


His Beautiful Chocolate-brown Eyes Contrast with His Lighter than Normal Chest and Head


The leucism is evident in his tail


Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk - Back View

His wing fracture wasn't too bad but he was emaciated - no doubt from the many days of not hunting while we searched for him in vain.

Fortunately, his rehabilitation was smooth and uneventful. He pulled through the emaciation just fine and the wing healed perfectly.

We took him home and released him in time to hook back up with his mate in time for season. He's been spotted hunting along the expressway - just like old times.


Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk Just as He Is Released


Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk Showing No Signs of Prior Injuries

For more information about Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation visit us at www.flintcreekwildlife.org or www.facebook.com/flintcreek.

Coming Up Short

Posted on 9 April 2011 by Dawn Keller

Sometimes the job of a wildlife rehabilitator is frustrating - you work long hours to save a patient only to lose it in the end, or in this case you never find your patient at all....

Thursday night we admitted a gorgeous female Red Fox that McHenry County Animal Control recovered in Huntley. She died within five minutes of getting her inside before we had even finished administering meds and running her intravenous catheter. She was in shock upon admission after being hit by a car. To make matters worse, she was a lactating female and was quite heavy with milk which is usually an indicator of very young kits.

It was late in the day - maybe only two hours before dark.

I immediately called one of our volunteers who is exceptionally capable and who I knew would drop everything and help if she possibly could. I explained the situation to Kim and, of course, she headed straight out to Huntley.

We had information from the residents that in past years the Fox used a den in the park less than a block south of where she was hit by car. They also knew that the Fox typically used a long culvert and she had been spotted in the park in the preceding days and weeks.

Kim called in after dark to report that she had not found the kits. She checked the park thoroughly but had limited access to the culvert which she estimated to be a 300' long 1-1/2' diameter concrete pipe. She had shone her flashlight in the pipe from both ends but knew she didn't come close to seeing the whole thing. The kits could be anywhere in the middle.

The next morning, we started planning for a pipe/sewer inspection camera to check the entire length of the reported den location for kits. We called the police to make sure that if they received any calls regarding the Fox kits that they would direct them to us. Although we suspected the kits were too young to leave the den, we weren't positive and didn't want to take chances. We then contacted the Village to see if they had an pipe/sewer inspection camera. They didn't but were very helpful. They provided names of about five companies in the area they used. At the same time we called the Village, we also called a friend and fellow rehabilitator who gave us the name of her personal plumber, Kevin.

We called Kevin first of the list of six names. "Well, as a matter of fact," he said "I just rented one of those cameras this morning." Stars aligning!

Kevin unbelievably called his afternoon appointment and explained the situation to his client who and agreed that Kevin should look for the kits before helping her so he made arrangements to meet Kim at the location shortly after noon. Amy, another great Flint Creek volunteer, was also going to assist in any recovery or search more, if necessary.

We contacted the management from Del Webb's Sun City. They began coordinating a communication effort for their area residents to make sure that Flint Creek would be called if anyone saw the kits, saw the male Fox or had other information regarding the den location.

The pipe inspection began just after 12:30 pm. Kevin was phenomenal. Not only did he donate his time, but he arranged for the camera rental company to donate use of the camera. Sadly, video inspection of the entire culvert revealed no Fox kits.

Kevin King inspects the culvert pipe using a pipe/sewer camera looking the Fox kits.

Kim and Amy began searching. Amy and Kim mapped out all of the areas where they found Fox scat (feces) in an attempt to hone in on other possible den locations. One of the beauties of Sun City is large areas of woods and open space but this made the search feel like we were looking for a needle in a haystack. I joined up with the search effort later in the afternoon as Kim and Amy continued to walk many acres.

As Friday evening approached, we found a Fox den in the woods. There were signs that the den had been recently occupied, but no Fox kits. The den contained a recent Great Horned Owl kill and some unidentified mammal remains were nearby. We assumed that this was only one of the dens Mom Fox was using and that she had moved her kits elsewhere.

The Fox den in an uprooted tree, above, and the den entrance complete with remnants from a Great Horned Owl, below.

As dusk descended we packed up and left, all of us disheartened and feeling like we were leaving the kits behind.

We had been Facebooking our Fox saga and Christine, a wildlife rehabilitator from Ontario suggested we try dogs - brilliant!

Saturday morning brought another Flint Creek volunteer, Pam, to the scene as well as another flurry of phone calls - this time to network finding a Fox hunting dog. Thanks to many people (some of whose names I didn't even know), we were eventually led to some very nice people Brian and Michelle, owners of Ricci, three-time High-Point Champion, and Dexter, not a champion yet but horribly cute. Brian agreed to help us locate the den.

Brian met me on site that afternoon along with Ryan, Jody and Zack and dogs Ricci and Dexter. Jody headed out one direction with Dex while Brian headed out another direction with Ricci.

Definitely not a Fox kill, but we did find this beautiful skull/rack from a buck.

Sadly, after hours of searching, Brian and the dogs concluded that we had probably identified the correct den location in the uprooted tree but that the kits had probably been killed the very first night.

This clearly wasn't the news we wanted and despite our considerable efforts we came up short. Many volunteer hours and the help of many really good people went into locating these kits - all to no avail. I can only rest knowing two things: 1) there are good people who dropped everything and went the extra mile to help us help the kits and we are grateful to each of them and 2) we did everything possible to ensure that the kits weren't left behind to starve and suffer a slow death.

Thanks to the following people:
Kim, Amy and Pam - Flint Creek Wildlife volunteers
Kelly - McHenry County Animal Control
Lynn, who originally contacted us about the hit-by-car Mom Fox
Linda - dear friend and fellow rehabilitator who recommended Kevin King
Village of Huntley Police
Denise - Village of Huntley Public Works who provided us a list of pipe/sewer inspection resources
Debby Seger - Del Webb Sun City for coordinating communications amongst the residents
Kevin King - plumber who donated his time to video inspect the culvert pipe
The company who donated the rental of the pipe/sewer inspection camera
Candy - American Working Terrier Association who hooked us up with Brian and Michelle
Brian, Michelle, Jody, Zack, Ryan - owners and handlers of Ricci and Dexter who brought their dogs up to Huntley and spent hours looking for the den
Ricci and Dexter - fantastic dogs and working Terrier champions

And if you need a plumber in the Chicago area who was kind enough to help us and donate his services, please call Kevin King at New Century Plumbing 847/526-2706.

Owls Don’t Build Nests

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Dawn Keller

“A Great Horned Owl baby is on the ground” the caller said. From the description, the bird was clearly a nestling and far too young to be on the ground.

Mom and Dad owl were attentively watching over the baby from nearby trees. Hoping that Mom or Dad wouldn’t hit me as I approached the baby, I leaned over and picked it up while John, the homeowner, kept me advised of Mom and Dad owls’ position, ready to warn me if either parent flew towards me to protect the baby.

The nest site as seen from the ground

A quick physical exam showed no injuries and a baby owl in excellent weight and condition. A look at the nest sight showed that it was only about 25′ high and should easily be accessible by ladder. We put the baby owl in a safe and warm location while we propped an extension ladder against the tree. I climbed the ladder and looked into the nest. The nest was nothing more than some leaf litter and a large cottontail – apparently last night’s dinner – lying in the crook of a tree. And there wasn’t another chick…no surprise that an egg would have rolled out of this crook. These parents, perhaps inexperienced, had chosen a really poor nest site – maybe the result of our brutal February blizzard destroying the decent nests from last year.

It was clear that if we put this baby back into this nest he would likely fall out again.

The nest complete with cottontail

I ran out to local stores and bought a wire plant basket with a cocoa liner and some sphagnum moss to create a soft lining and to build up the bottom of the basket so that the baby would be at the proper height within the new nest. John supplied wire that we used to attach the basket to two different limbs of the tree, thus allowing it to be really solidly placed in the crook. Back up the ladder, I placed the basket in the crook and then attached the wire to the limbs directly below.

Great Horned Owlet

Next I returned with the baby and placed it back into the nest along with the half-eaten cottontail. A perfect solution! Descending the ladder, I advised John to make sure that the owls began attending to the baby again.

Ten minutes after I left the owlet, John emailed me to say that Mom was already back on the nest. Happy owls, happy rehabber, happy homeowner. Good luck and long life.

Great Horned Owlet in its new and improved nest

To learn more about us: www.flintcreekwildlife.org and www.facebook.com/flintcreek

(Originally published by Dawn Keller of Flint Creek Wildlife 3.24.11 in North American Birding)

Can Owls Swim?

Posted on 4 March 2011 by Dawn Keller

This is my most recent post to the North American Birding Blog....

Last night I gave an educational program on owls. I have to admit, had someone asked me whether owls swim I would have answered no. In fact, I may have flippantly responded “Can pigs fly?” Well, that was until today.

Today I responded to a call about an injured owl at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. As I arrived, the owl was in prairie grass about 30 feet from a creek. I approached the owl who started hopping away from me. It was immediately clear that the owl had an injury to its right wing. Convinced of my ability to recover this bird and thinking that the creek would provide the end to its escape path, I continued to approach the bird. I got within two feet and before I could grab for the bird, he again hopped toward the creek. I made a final reach as the bird hopped into the creek, head above water level and wings spread.

Shocked that the bird jumped into the water, I contemplated my next move. I took my coat off, I took my shoes off and then looking at the murky creek bottom, put my shoes back on. I removed the key fob for my car from my jeans pocket. I looked up at the employee who contacted us and asked, “How deep is this water?” She didn’t know. I stuck my foot in the water and pulled it back out thinking there must be another way. Wouldn’t you know that I hadn’t brought my big net on the extension pole?

The creek that the owl swam across

Fortunately, the owl wasn’t struggling in the water. I wasn’t having to life guard this owl at all. It kept its head above water and seemed to be moving its feet, almost as if it was kicking or paddling. The owl was making a direct path to the opposite shoreline – quite honestly, swimming better than I could have.

As the owl approached the opposite shore, it climbed ashore and stood several feet from shoreline not appearing any worse for the swim. I, on the other hand, now had one soaking wet and cold foot and still no owl.

Thinking better of trying to swim or wade across the creek’s cold waters, I asked if there was any way to drive to the other side. Thankfully there was….

The Botanic Garden’s employee Chrissy stayed on the owl’s original side of the creek while I drove around to the new side. With Chrissy standing on the original creek side waving her arms, I was able to approach the owl from the shoreline and he decided to move further from the creek rather than jumping back in. YES! I followed him through some standing water and then grabbed him.

Male Great Horned Owl immediately after recoveryMale Great Horned Owl immediately after recovery

The owl’s prognosis is very good. My feet are still warming up. My shoes are squishy.

We’ve named the owl Spitz. Oh, and by the way, Great Horned Owls can apparently swim.

Need I say more?

Modern Day Witch-hunt

Posted on 24 February 2011 by Dawn Keller

A member of the public reported that a dog was adrift on a piece of ice on Lake Michigan off of Lake Shore Drive and Fullerton. A canine, yes, but of a different sort. When the Chicago Fire Department arrived on their rescue boat, they realized it was a coyote – not a domestic dog.

With the help of a Chicago Animal Care and Control officer, Chicago Fire Department rescuers attempted to secure the coyote, but she panicked and jumped into the frigid waters. She climbed her way back up on the ice floe and the Fire Department rescue boat made another attempt. This time, they pulled the ice-covered canine into the rescue boat.

By now, the coyote's rescue had the rapt attention of the media. A photographer beautifully captured this ice-covered, exhausted and frightened coyote shortly after she was placed in a Chicago Animal Care and Control vehicle. Her fur was covered in icicles, her rear paws were almost encased in ice.

The coyote, dubbed Holly for the upcoming holidays a.k.a. Gilligan for being adrift at sea, was transferred to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation where her rehabilitation began.

Upon admission, Holly was unable to place any weight on her rear paws and they curled under her in pain – a result of frostbite. Now the work began to minimize any permanent damage in an attempt to secure her eventual freedom.

Holly was lucky and incurred no limb necrosis and no significant tissue necrosis. After a couple of months, she was ready to be released to the wild.

Upon her release, Holly left her transport carrier like she was shot out of a bullet – never looking back. We wished her good luck for a long and safe life.

The video of Holly’s release clearly shows how badly she wanted to get away from her human caregivers. We at Flint Creek Wildlife rehabilitate quite a few coyotes and I will tell you that, without exception, they have always been far more afraid of us than we could ever be of them. I have personally found coyotes to be amazing animals. They are smart, they are resourceful, and they hide in the corner of a cage and avert my gaze hoping that I don’t come near them. Never in my experience with coyotes have I found them to be aggressive, vicious of fearless.

So why is this species so misunderstood? Why do we get calls from people afraid that coyotes will attack them or their children? Why do towns and villages of presumably intelligent people act based on fear and ignorance and advocate the persecution of their perceived canine enemies instead of gathering and acting on facts and, in doing so, why do we fail to make fact-based decisions and exemplify compassion in a way that is reminiscent of McCarthyism or witch-hunts?

Holly’s story tugged at the heartstrings of many people - both in the Chicago area as well as nationally. Her rescue was a great example of human capacity for compassion. But despite her heroic rescue and the media surrounding both her rescue and release, just days after her release we were faced with another coyote witch-hunt in which someone alleged, devoid of basis in fact, that a coyote was vicious, thus resulting in an organized effort to contain it. Fortunately, cooler and more erudite heads prevailed and the coyote, after hours of being tracked, was finally left alone to go back to its life.

So, as rehabilitators and educators, we must continue to spread the word that coyotes can and should be allowed to live peaceably among us.

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