To Intervene or Not - That is the Question

Posted on 1 November 2010 by Dawn Keller
I wrote this post To Intervene or Not - That is the Question for the new North American Birding blog, which is a "mega-blog" of sorts with contributors from across the U.S. This post gives advice for birders and non-birders alike regarding when to seek help for injured adult birds. I hope that this information helps you to make more informed decisions in helping injured wild birds.

Heavy Migration Day - Over 100 Birds Recovered

Posted on 12 October 2010 by phil

Rescue efforts started early this morning. Teams swept through the loop recovering birds that collided with the skyscrapers as they made their migration south for the winter. The birds found alive on the street were treated at our Northerly Island Facility in downtown Chicago and over 90% were released back into the wild. 

This facility is a life saver for the birds. Head Trauma is a time sensitive injury and the close proximity of the treatment center to where they collide allows for quicker treatment. The ability to quickly treat the injured birds improves the survival rate from the mid 70s to 90% when compared to treating at suburban facilities.

If you find an injured bird please place the injured bird in a paper bag or box and cover the box. Place the bag or box in a quiet, dark place and leave the bird alone. It is important that you minimize any interaction with the bird in order to reduce the bird's stress and, therefore, to improve the probability of it being successfully returned to the wild.

Do NOT feed or give water to an injured bird unless you have been directed to do so by a member of our staff. Improperly feeding an animal can cause significant harm up to and including death. In a majority of cases, animals that arrive at Flint Creek Wildlife after a member of the public has attempted to feed them have significant problems despite the public's good intentions.

Call us at 847-842-8000 or on our toll free line at 888-FLINTCREEK. Please remember when you call us that we may not answer the phone since we are often busy taking care of other animals, but please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as possible.

‘The Care of Trees’ Comes to the Rescue!

Posted on 22 September 2010 by Dawn Keller

As employees at a Barrington office building worked, they enjoyed watching the baby Cedar Waxwings grow in their nest outside a third floor window. Fledging day came with the first babies leaving the nest successfully. As the last baby fledged the nest, the employees watched in horror as the fledgling Cedar Waxwing dangled upside down from the nest, flapping in a vain attempt to free itself.

Flint Creek Wildlife was called just before 3:00 pm regarding the struggling baby bird and we were on the scene before 4:00 pm. One look revealed a desperate situation. The windows on the office building didn’t open and the branches on the tree were too small to support a ladder…we were going to need the help of an outside agency if we were to save this bird.

We called the Barrington Fire Department, who kindly dispatched a truck but was unable to help with their equipment limitations. Our next call was to our friends at The Care of Trees. Charlie, our contact, told me he would check whether they could spare a truck. Charlie was afraid that a storm just passing through the area would have rendered all of their equipment unavailable. I drove to the hardware store to try and buy a pruner with extension pole just in case we needed to go to Plan C.

Before I walked in the hardware store, Charlie called back and said that The Care of Trees would be straight over. The Care of Trees arrived just after 4:30 pm. Al, one of their arborists, climbed into the bucket and maneuvered around the trees, reaching the nest. Using a pair of surgical scissors that I provided, he cut the string that tied the poor birds to its nest and safely brought the bird down to the ground. The Care of Trees arrives on the scene. Al, the arborist, is pictured. Al approaches the nest and cuts the string that is suspending baby Cedar Waxwing upside down.

The Care of Trees arrives on the scene. Al, the arborist, is pictured.

Al approaches the nest and cuts the string that is suspending baby Cedar Waxwing upside down.

The Cedar Waxwing, who had been suspended upside down 25 feet above the cement walkway by nothing more than a string around its toe, is now safe and recovering at Flint Creek Wildlife from a minor fracture to its leg. He will eventually be released back to the wild. Al hands the Cedar Waxwing to Charlie. The Cedar Waxwing in the safety of Charlie's hands.

Al hands the Cedar Waxwing to Charlie.

The Cedar Waxwing in the safety of Charlie's hands.

The Care of Trees is always there when we need help saving our feathered friends, whether a Great Horned Owl or a Cedar Waxwing! We cannot thank them enough for being such a group of caring individuals not to mention a company with an exemplary social conscience!

A Tail of Four Squirrelies

Posted on 1 September 2010 by Dawn Keller

For 10 weeks, Mom Squirrel has diligently and lovingly raised her four little grey squirrel babies. Their big day is here - to venture from the nest for the first time and Mom is anxious about her babies growing up and facing the world. The boldest one gets enough courage and runs along the branch from the nest. NO – something is terribly wrong! Tree sap from the beloved pine tree has stuck together Bold Ones’ tail to that of his siblings.

Mom Squirrel’s other three babies panic as their tails get pulled by Bold One and they start running too but in different directions from bold one. Each squirrel tries to make its own way on the branch but the pulling causes them to fall to a branch about 10’ off the ground.

Now their stuck-together-tails are now also stuck hanging from a branch. The four babies, now hanging near the tree near the trunk all try to separate but instead become twisted. As the jump back and forth over each other, their tails become twisted even worse. Mom Squirrel runs down the tree to help and desperately tries to pull her babies back up the tree but she cannot lift all four babies at once.

A nearby neighbor hears the commotion and goes outside. She realizes that the baby squirrels are in trouble and calls McHenry County Animal Control. When Officer Gardner arrives, she cannot believe what she’s seeing. She works diligently and finally gets them unstuck from the branch and they fall into a net. She transports them to the waiting rehabilitator at Flint Creek Wildlife.

Flint Creek Wildlife tries to remove the squirrels from the net, but they are all running in different directions and jumping over each other. They are each connected to each other by a knot that is comprised of pine sap and their four tails. Their poor tails are twisted, so when any one of the squirrels tries to move, all four scream in fear and pain.

Flint Creek cannot risk further damage to the squirrels and determines that the squirrels need to be sedated. She gives each squirrel a shot, covers them and waits until they are more relaxed so that she can begin work.



Now she feels the mass of tails and tries to untwist the puzzle. Each time she moves one squirrel over another, the mass untwists a little more. Finally, after about 30 minutes, each squirrel is free.

The tails are all broken, some in multiple places. The poor broken tails are cleaned and bandaged. The squirrels are given other medications to keep them more comfortable. They huddle together to sleep it off.


What a rough day for four little squirrels!

Note: All squirrels are doing well and expected to recover.

Sometimes I Hate Voice Mail

Posted on 28 August 2010 by Dawn Keller


Picture this….a hard-working, all-volunteer wildlife rehabilitation center that receives no government funding and is reliant on donations to pay for food, medical care, medical equipment and caging admits 10 duck eggs. The person bringing the duck eggs, let’s call her Betsy, makes a $40 donation and is sent a thank you note/gift acknowledgement for tax purposes. Betsy is told that she will receive an email update regarding the final disposition of each egg. If the eggs hatch, the ducklings will be raised until they are fully feathered and capable of flying and then will be released back to the wild.

Each egg is labeled with a patient number and then placed into an $899 egg incubator. Each egg is entered into a database that contains all relevant information, including all of Betsy’s information so that she can receive her final updates. Once the eggs hatch, the ducklings are moved to a $675 incubator where they are kept until they no longer require strict temperature control.

As the ducklings grow, they are moved to a duck barn that was specifically constructed to provide appropriate housing for ducklings and goslings. Once they get big enough, they are then moved to the barn where they are exposed to adult Mallards that are in rehabilitation healing from their injuries.

Throughout the process, the ducklings are tended to – sometimes multiple times a day – food, water, and cleaning.

2-1/2 months after the eggs are admitted but before the ducklings are old enough for release, the not-for-profit wildlife rehabilitation center gets the following voice message:

“I’m just leaving a message…um, we’re just terribly disappointed. A couple of months ago at this point we had rescued a nest of eggs and had ‘em a duck who had returned and then abandoned the nest after being attacked by a neighbor’s loose dog for a second time. And we brought the eggs down to you guys and we also made a donation and got our neighbor whose dog did it to make a donation as well. And we thought we would have had a phone call ‘cause we did speak to someone and the rules of the game over there changed, um, from the first conversation we had that we were to receive some sort of blanket email whether our the eggs had made it or not. It would have been better for all of us to know that they nothing happened after the thirty days that you guys had them than to wait and really not hear anything. It’s kind of a cheap way to deal with a situation when people go the mile to try to make a difference and do the right thing. And, um, definitely has made us reconsider further donations or promoting donating in the future because, you know, it’s not just a repository. So, we’re very disappointed and my husband and I have been debating about whether to call and he asked me to call and so I did. And our name is (name and spelling of name withheld). I don’t know that you even keep records but in the event you do you can look it up and see. Very disappointing - and for our children too. So anyway, good luck with your endeavors and hopefully you’ll continue to rescue birds and we’ll just turn our attention to another organization that has a little more follow through. Um, thank you. Bye.”

Although I wish this were an isolated incident, wildlife rehabilitators often receive rude emails and voice mails – often threatening to withhold much needed financial support – for reasons ranging from the person who wants the wild animals in his yard killed to the person who couldn’t wait for his or her final update or didn’t listen as the final update was explained.

On behalf of independent and privately funded wildlife rehabilitators everywhere, please think about your words before you are so quick to judge us. Many of us work long hours with little or no compensation, and with scarce financial resources, we put animal care first. We scrape for every dollar and worry about how to pay the many animal-related bills. Most people bringing in animals do not donate enough money to cover the cost of care of their animals. Take Betsy, for instance, whose donation of $4/duck didn’t pay for food much less for expensive equipment and caging necessary to raise them. And after you drop off the animal, it is the wildlife rehabilitator that cares for that animal every day until release and then, when the animal is released, doesn’t get an adoption fee from Mother Nature!

I only agree with one thing that Betsy said in her voice mail, “It’s kind of a cheap way to deal with a situation when people go the mile to try to make a difference and do the right thing“…’re right, Betsy, your voice mail was a cheap shot.

Oh, and by the way, your ducks are doing fine and you will receive your final updates after they are released.

I (My Dog) Found a Bunny Nest

Posted on 29 April 2010 by Dawn Keller

It's a fairly common situation this time of year. Somehow or another, you found a nest of baby bunnies in the yard. Maybe you were mowing the yard, gardening, or your dog actually did the sleuthing. In any case, what do you do?

First and foremost, don't disturb the bunny nest. If it was disturbed through your activities or by your dog, then repair the nest as well as you can. Any injured bunnies should be removed from the nest, but the uninjured bunnies should be left in the nest. We realize that the nest might be inconvenient, but it is against Illinois state law to knowingly disturb or relocate the nest - so leave it alone!

Second, place any injured bunnies in a box with plenty of bedding. If they are eyes-open, then it helps reduce their stress by also providing a small box for hiding. Lining the box with shredded paper towel works well. We use boutique-style Kleenex boxes placed on their side with all plastic around the opening removed. Place the box inside in a quiet, warm area away from pets, children and human noises. Resist the temptation to check on them frequently. We (humans) are stressful to wildlife, so checking on them can actually reduce the bunnies chance of survival.

Third, provide supplemental heat for any eyes-closed bunnies. The best way for the public to provide heat is to place a heating pad SET ON LOW TEMPERATURE under half of the box. This way the bunnies can get on or off of the heat as necessary.

Fourth, DO NOT FEED THEM OR GIVE THEM WATER. The leading cause of death of orphaned wildlife admitted to Flint Creek Wildlife is because well-intentioned members of the public fed the animals before they brought the animals to us. As a member of the public, you cannot possibly have the know-how, equipment or proper food to properly care for injured and orphaned wildlife. Additionally, it is against the law to care for wildlife without possessing permits from the state and/or federal government (state for mammals, federal for birds).

Fifth, promptly get the bunnies to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Our website contains a list of licensed wildife rehabilitators in Illinois. If you are from another state, contact your Department of Natural Resources for a list of licensed rehabilitators in your state.

Sixth, take steps to protect the nest from your dog/lawn service/etc. Using chicken wire, construct a fence around the nest. The fence should have two arches (8" high by 6" wide) cut in the bottom for Mom Bunny's access and should be large enough diameter that the dog cannot reach the nest even if he reaches through the arch with his paw. Stake the fence into the ground around the nest. If the original disturbance was aerial (Crows, Blue Jays, etc.), then you can also add a chicken wire top so that it becomes a cylindrical cage.

Last, leave the nest alone. Resist the urge to check on the bunnies. The more often you check, the more likely the nest will be found by predators.

Additional notes:

  • Mom bunnies only feed their babies twice per day. Just because you don't see Mom at the nest does not mean that the nest is abandoned. You will likely never see Mom Bunny regardless of the excellent care she provides.
  • Bunnies do not have good survival rates in captivity. It is always best to leave bunnies with their mom to give them the best chance of survival.
  • Mom bunnies will still care for their babies after a nest disturbance.
  • The trick of placing string or twigs over the nest to see if Mom Bunny came to feed the babies doesn't work well. It's really best to assume that Mom is taking care of the babies. It can be hard, but it's best to just stay away.
  • If you find a dead adult rabbit, don't assume it is the Mom Bunny. If you are able, check to see if the dead adult is a nursing female. This provides important information in assessing the best course of action.
  • Don't relocate the nest. First, nest relocation illegal. Second, why would you think the Mom Bunny will find the new location? If I moved your house to another street, how would YOU know where to look?

We have also posted a new decision tree "My Dog Found a Nest of Baby Bunnies" on our website.

I Found a Baby Squirrel on the Ground!

Posted on 26 April 2010 by Dawn Keller

So what do you do? Well, the answer depends on many factors. Is the squirrel injured? Does the squirrel have fur? Are there flies swarming around the squirrel?

Advice given without considering these various factors is probably not great advice. Advice given that is not complete is also probably not great advice. It can be dangerous to over-simplify when it comes to giving advice about living things....

We often hear, for example, that baby squirrels were left on the ground overnight. Squirrels left on the ground overnight are subject to risks such as hypothermia and predation. Further, there is simply no benefit from leaving squirrels out overnight. Squirrels are diurnal (awake during the day and asleep at night). Mom squirrel simply isn't going to venture down the tree to rescue her precious baby after dark. Mom raccoon, however, might think that baby squirrel would be a very nutritious snack for Junior.

To help aid you in making the best possible decision for the animal in your temporary custody, we are developing decision trees for some of the most common wildlife issues and wildlife conflicts you might encounter. We'll be posting these on our website as they are developed and also announcing these new postings in our blog.

Our first flowchart "I Found a Baby Squirrel on the Ground" is now available.

Thanks for making the best decisions for wildlife you encounter.

orphaned squirrel, squirrel, wildlife decision treeDawn

Great Horned Owlet being fed

Posted on 27 March 2010 by Dawn Keller

This Great Horned Owlet was found on a golf course in a bucket and brought to the Little Red School House. The great staff at the Little Red School House brought the owlet to Flint Creek Wildlife. When the owlet is fed the caregiver is camouflaged so the owlet does not get imprinted on humans. This video was taken from a blind.

Chicago Tonight - Segment on Phoenix the Red-tailed Hawk injured in the Sugar Grove plane crash

Posted on 28 January 2010 by Dawn Keller

Rising from the Ashes

Posted on 27 January 2010 by Dawn Keller

In the midst of Saturday night's Sugar Grove plane crash that regretfully claimed the lives of two Florida men, stood the remnants of a large hawk. Phoenix, as she is now known, is believed to be a female Red-tailed Hawk that miraculously survived the fireball which engulfed her while she was sleeping in a tree near the crash site.

Burned beyond positive species identification, Phoenix was recovered by Kane County Animal Control and was promptly transferred to Flint Creek Wildlife for emergency care. Since that time four nights ago, she has been receiving around-the-clock care for her injuries.

She has demonstrated an inspiring spirit and resilience. Although her recovery time will be long, Phoenix stands a good chance of making a full recovery and being released back to the wild to soar once again.

Please keep her in your thoughts and visit our website at if you are able to contribute to help offset the costs of her care.

Our sincerest appreciation to Kane County Animal Control and the sheriff's deputy who first spotted Phoenix standing in the snow near the plane wreckage.

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