Blog Archive August 2006

Red-tailed Hawk with Broken Jaw Has Surgery

Posted on 26 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

Earlier this week Lake County Animal Control brought us a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk that was hit by a car or truck and found on the shoulder of Route 173 in Antioch. The bird was in good condition upon arrival except for a broken lower jaw and soft tissue swelling on its right leg. The fracture to the jaw was compound with ragged edge of the jaw bone protruding.

The bird arrived at Flint Creek Wildlife with a full crop indicating that it had just finished a meal before it was hit. Perhaps it was flying low, heavier than normal after consuming its prey.

We were hopeful that the jaw could be repaired surgically and, therefore, did not euthanize the bird upon arrival. Instead, we provided medication to control shock and pain and focused on maintaining ample hydration so that the bird would be ready for surgery if indeed surgery would be possible.

We transferred the bird to our veterinarians at Niles Animal Hospital the next morning so that they could evaluate the bird for surgery. The agreed that the jaw could be repaired surgically and scheduled the surgery for Wednesday.

The surgery was uneventful. Dr. Wilmes pinned the jaw bone using the smallest pins available. The jaw alignment is good and we don't expect any long-term problems with malocclusion.

The bird returned to Flint Creek Wildlife on Thursday for post-operative care. She is eating well (we are cutting her food into small pieces and hand feeding her). She will complete a course of antibiotics and will need her pins cleaned twice per day. We will take x-rays in two weeks in order to determine how the jaw is healing.

We'll keep you posted.


Flint Creek Wildlife Finds Permanent Home for Two Non-releasable American Kestrels

Posted on 26 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

We are thrilled to report that our two non-releasable American Kestrels have found a permanent home as educational animals with a great facility in North Carolina. This N.C. facility is licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have a male and female Kestrel for educational purposes.

The male and female Kestrel that we are placing both suffered from dislocated wrists. The male Kestrel arrived at Flint Creek Wildlife as an adult. Although he is flight-capable, he cannot fly well enough to catch prey necessary to survive in the wild. The female is not flight capable although she is cosmetically perfect.

Both birds have wonderful dispositions for education and will be used "on the glove" in educational programs.

The birds are being picked up at Flint Creek on September 19th after which they will begin their new lives.

We wish them good luck.


Don’t Leave Injured Animal Outside if Flies are Swarming It

Posted on 26 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

Don't read this posting unless you are prepared for graphic descriptions of maggot-related injuries.....

It was a horrible week for maggots on animals admitted to Flint Creek Wildlife this week. So many of the problems we encountered this week could have been prevented if rescuers would have brought animals inside and gotten help immediately at the first sign that the downed animal was being swarmed by flies.

For those that aren't familiar with maggots, flies lay eggs on injured or debilitated animals. They are particularly attracted to open wounds; however, even a debilitated animal without open wounds is vulnerable. Flies can lay thousands of eggs on an animal in a very short period of time and fly eggs can begin hatching into maggots in a few hours. Once the maggots hatch, they begin eating the animal. Although some people believe that maggots only eat necrotic (dead) tissue, they will actually consume perfectly healthy tissue as well. They will also tunnel deep inside of an animal - especially when a wound provides a convenient entrance. And don't think they won't quickly enter the inside of the animal through its ears, mouth and anus.

Animals that could have been saved if promptly brought to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator cannot be saved if maggots are not quickly and properly addressed. We had two instances this week, one with an Eastern Cottontail and one with a Great Horned Owl, where we were forced to euthanize animals due to maggot issues. In both cases, the animals stood a good chance of survival if they had been promptly brought to us. We also had one close call where just another hour or two would have rendered a juvenile Fox Squirrel beyond help.

The Eastern Cottontail arrived at Flint Creek almost a full day after its rescuers found it. Unaware of the devastating impact of flies, they left it lying in the grass about 12 hours before taking it inside and placing it in a box. Even then, they were completely unaware that maggots were essentially eating the bunny alive. By the time the bunny arrived at Flint Creek, its stomach was eaten completely through and maggots were even eating its internal organs.

The Great Horned Owl was found at the side of the road at approximately 6:30 pm. Its rescuers, unaware of the fly eggs that had been laid on the bird, didn't contact us until the next morning. When they called they were already at work and couldn't bring the bird out until 6:00 pm.

The bird was being kept in a garbage can with screening loosely covering the top of the can. Blood was spattered on the inside of the can and the birds head and neck feathers were covered in blood. I lifted the bird from the garbage can and, in horror, realized that the bird's entire face, head and throat were engulfed in thousands of maggots that were eating it alive. The blood was from the raw flesh that was being created by the maggots.

In both of these cases, we would have likely had a good chance of saving the animals if they had received prompt treatment. Below are some general tips to help you deal with maggots.

  1. Although it is often proper to leave wildlife outside so that the parents can continue to care for it/so that the fledgling can learn to fly/so that the mother squirrel can retrieve her baby and return it to the nest, you must watch for flies during this process and should immediately bring the animal inside if flies appear.
  2. If you cannot bring the animal inside, at least place it in a covered box with a sheet or blanket over it (in a shady location) so that the flies cannot get to it.
  3. Check the animal for fly eggs and maggots. If either are present, you should immediately get the animal to a licensed rehabilitator. Fly eggs look like miniature pieces of white rice. They are often stuck in the fur and will also frequently be found in the mouth and ears. Remember that these can become a major maggot infestation in a short period of time - do not delay seeking immediate assistance.
  4. In extreme cases where you have unsuccessfully tried to reach a licensed rehabilitator, use a pair of tweezers and a flea comb to remove maggots and fly eggs. You must get EVERY single maggot and every single egg; otherwise, some number of maggots will still hatch and begin eating the animal's flesh.
  5. In some cases, maggots cannot all be removed using tweezers. Newly hatched maggots, particularly when there are hundreds or thousands of them present, can be difficult to pick off with tweezers. If necessary, use cornstarch to smother the maggots. Please be careful not to get cornstarch in mouth, ears or eyes. Get the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately.

Hope this helps.


Update on Red-tailed Hawk

Posted on 17 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

The Red-tailed Hawk that I wrote about earlier this week went back to Dr. Welle yesterday for removal of her external stabilizing bars. Dr. Welle reported that the x-rays look good. At this point, we expect her to make a full recovery so that she can eventually be released back into the wild. Her final procedure, removal of the IM pins, is scheduled for September 7th.

Car Raffle to Benefit Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation

Posted on 13 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

Ticket sales for Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation's 2006 Car Raffle begin August 13, 2006. Grand prize is a 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid or $25,000 cash, second prize is $2,500 cash and third prize is $1,000 cash. The drawing will be held on December 16, 2006.

Tickets cost $75 each or 3/$200. Tickets may be purchased on-line at or by completing the raffle flyer that may be downloaded at and mailing it to the address indicated on the flyer.

This is Flint Creek Wildlife's biggest fundraising event of the year. Since Flint Creek Wildlife is a privately funded facility, the proceeds of this raffle help Flint Creek Wildlife provide much needed services to wildlife - and the people that find it. "Proceeds from the raffle will help Flint Creek Wildlife cover the costs of caring for an estimated 2,000 animals during 2006, including medical care, food and housing. We also hope to raise enough money to hire a full-time rehabilitator for our new downtown Chicago location at Northerly Island," stated Dawn Keller, Flint Creek Wildlife's founder and executive director.

Flint Creek Wildlife's Northerly Island location, which is a satellite location to Flint Creek Wildlife's primary location in Barrington, is the only wildlife rehabilitation center in downtown Chicago. Its close proximity to the city allows Flint Creek to rapidly treat injuries, thus improving the birds' chances of survival, and eliminates the need for Chicago-area residents to make the long drive out to suburban wildlife centers.

"Who would want to pass up an opportunity to own a hybrid in these days of high gas prices?" wondered Keller.

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned wildlife with the goal of returning fully rehabilitated wildlife to its natural habitat. Flint Creek promotes respect for wildlife and wildlife habitats through public education programs. Flint Creek also supports efforts to repopulate endangered and threatened wildlife species.

Established in 2003, Flint Creek Wildlife currently operates from a property along Flint Creek in the greater Barrington, Illinois area. Flint Creek is seeking a larger property that will support its longer term growth.

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation relies solely on public funding and graciously accepts donations in order to support its life saving work. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed under law.

Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine Story

Posted on 12 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation will be the cover story in this coming Sunday's Chicago Tribune Magazine. Shortly after opening Flint Creek Wildlife's second location at Northerly Island on April 1, I was contacted by Scott Strazzante, photographer for the Chicago Tribune. Scott expressed interest in taking some pictures of us at Northerly Island.

Before I knew it, Scott's project had grown into a possible Sunday magazine piece. Scott spent many hours with us a Flint Creek documenting our work.

I was almost speechless when I saw Scott's first photographs taken at Flint Creek Wildlife. Scott's amazing photographs truly capture the essence of our work. There is no question in my mind why Scott is a nationally acclaimed photo-journalist.

Scott was soon followed by Don Terry, a Tribune reporter, who wrote the story that accompany Scott's photos. Don was another true professional and we enjoyed his time with us at Flint Creek.

I hope that you enjoy the photos and story.

My personal thanks to Scott for his time, professionalism, depth of talent and for having the vision to want to document Flint Creek Wildlife, to Don Terry for his professionalism, patience and sense of humor (I can't wait to see the story), and to the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Park District for supporting this project.


Red-tailed Hawk Hit by Train Making Good progress

Posted on 12 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

About five weeks ago, we received a call late on a Sunday night regarding a Red-tailed Hawk that had been found in a Union Pacific rail yard. Unfortunately, the bird was south of downtown Chicago and we had no way to get the bird to our Barrington facility at 11:30 PM on a Sunday. We instructed the people to put the bird in a box and keep it in a quiet, dark place until morning and that we would collectively work on transportation the next morning.

When I got the call the next morning advising that the bird lived through the night, I sheepishly called Chicago Tribune reporter Don Terry to solicit his assistance. Don was scheduled to drive to Barrington that morning to work on the Chicago Tribune (Sunday) Magazine story. Don graciously agreed to meet the bird's rescuer in the city and transport the bird to Barrington.

We triaged the bird immediately upon Don's arrival and quickly determined that the bird was critical. She suffered from multiple fractures to her legs and needed to immediately be evaluated in order to determine whether the fractures could be repaired. The bird would either be a candidate for surgery or would have to be euthanized. Only x-rays would tell us the appropriate course of action.

The x-rays showed four fractures in the birds legs. All fractures were complete breaks (all the way through the bone and dangling - not just cracks). The birds right femur, left femur, left tibiotarsus and left fibula were all broken. Each break, however, was clean and simple (mid-way between the joint, no splintered bone) so we thought surgery was an option.

We located a veterinarian in Urbana who has extensive experience with avian orthopedics. After reviewing the x-rays (via email) he agreed that we should bring in the bird for a consultation. We tentatively scheduled surgery for Friday and drove down to Urbana, bird in tow, on Thursday for the consultation.

Dr. Welle repaired the left femur and tibiotarsus on Friday. He decided that, rather than risk having the bird under anesthesia too long, he would perform a second surgery on Monday to repair the right femur. Both femurs and the tibiotarsus had metal pins inserted in the hollow of the bone (called IM pins) and had external stabilizing bars inserted perpendicularly to the bone and tied together externally with dental acrylic (this helps prevent the healing bone from torquing).

Now about four weeks after surgery the bird is standing in her cage on a regular basis. Beginning a couple of days ago, she jumps to the front of her cage, legs extended, to aggressively get food. She is grasping with both feet.

The Red Tail returns to Urbana on Wednesday to have her external stabilizing bars removed. Her IM pins will be removed about 3 weeks after that.

Let's hope that she continues to do well. Right now, things are looking excellent for this bird.

I'll post a picture of her as soon as possible.


Northern Flicker Fights Back for Freedom

Posted on 12 August 2006 by Dawn Keller

Thought you'd be interested in this amazing success story:

On April 4, 2006, CBCM brought in an injured Northern Flicker to Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation's Northerly Island facility. The bird had just struck a building in the loop and was critical when it arrived at Flint Creek. Thankfully, due to the close proximity of our new downtown location, we were able to quickly administer life-saving drugs that help control brain swelling.

The impact of this bird striking the glass was so great that the bird suffered from major neurological damage. Her head was completely upside down (called torticollis). She flipped around in circles when stressed. She suffered from head tremors and eye tremors (the latter is called nystagmus).

Amazingly, this bird ate and maintained her healthy weight in spite of such major neurological impact. Just as amazing, and probably largely because of the rapid treatment the bird received, she didn't die of brain swelling over the first days. Although her nystagmus and head tremors corrected over the first one - two weeks, she continued to suffer from torticollis and she always flipped around in circles when stressed.

Becky, our full-time rehabilitator, and I often discussed her case. After the first one - two weeks, she stopped improving. She continued to eat, but her progress from a neurological standpoint had plateaued. As with all animals at Flint Creek Wildlife's care, we wanted to give her enough time (not hastily make a decision to euthanize). She seemed comfortable enough and was eating well; however, without significant additional improvement we had to question whether she could have a reasonable quality of life. Additionally, it would be difficult to find any educational facility that would want a bird with such a major physical challenge.

We revisited her case regularly and decided that we would put her in outside (pre-release) caging first before making a final decision. Many times in the past, birds with torticollis have made dramatic recoveries in outside caging. Our experience has shown us to stabilize the animal first, then consider outside caging if the animal plateaus before making a full recovery.

We hadn't yet moved her outside when one day, after having shown no improvement for six to eight weeks, this beautiful Flicker started improving leaps and bounds. First it seemed that she was holding her head more upright, then she stopped flipping so much. Before I knew it, when cleaning her cage and feeding her one day, she escaped from the cage and flew around the room. Her flight wasn't perfect the first time but it was FLIGHT! Soon she escaped on me with regular occurrence and was flying like a dream.

We transferred her into outside caging with four Flickers that we raised from babies (someone cut down their tree) and gave them time to condition their flight muscles.

Today we released all of them. Our beautiful girl flew perfectly. She flew fast and strong out of the flight chamber and headed towards a stand of majestic oaks. She landed on one momentarily and then took off again.

I am so grateful that we gave her time to heal. She is a stellar example of courage and will to live.

I wish her good luck.