Blog Archive February 2014

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.