Skip to content

First Post

August 23, 2009

I work at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center where I’ve been at since early July. I worked there previously from 8/06-5/07, and decided recently that I needed to come back. I missed the birds, my life lacked purpose, I had too much time on my hands, wanted to do good, and be closer to nature. And so I returned.

I work with two supervisors. One of them was there last time I was, and lets me do more interesting things than the other one does. The other supervisor is fairly new and doesn’t know all that I can do yet. They each have their own style, and both are good to work with thus far, but I have more fun days with the one who has been there longer.

The wildlife center where I work provides care and rehabilitation for wild animals that live in this area, and we also occasionally take in exotic animals that have been found, and find people who want to adopt them.

There are also birds and other animals, that, due to injury or other reason, are non-releasable. These are our educational animals, also referred to as residents. My favorite resident is a Barn Owl.

Our resident animals are taken to schools and other locations to be shown and talked about. They are our animal ambassadors. No one is allowed to touch the them besides paid and volunteer staff. I am a volunteer.

I am only allowed to work with some of the animals at the center. Since I cannot afford preventive rabies vaccines, which cost almost $700.00, I do not work with mammals ordinarily. I work with birds. We get in on average 1,700 animals per year – mostly birds. I usually work with the raptors – hawks, owls and falcons, but also help with the care and feeding of other animals.

Today I went to work, and before I could gear up and get started on the walk-in raptor enclosures (various size rooms – from the size of a small bedroom to much longer, larger flight cages), someone brought in a badly mangled jack rabbit that needed to be euthanized. Some animals we just can’t save, so we put them down as humanely as possible.

I had never put an animal to sleep before, but really wanted to end the poor rabbit’s suffering, and also learn how to perform an important task, so I asked my supervisor if I could ease the rabbit’s passing. My supervisor showed me how, and I put the rabbit to sleep.

I am not a hunter or a fisherman, and not in the habit of killing animals, although I do eat them. Yes, this is hypocritical. I went vegetarian for several months, but it was quite stressful, so I stopped.

The only animals I have killed in the past 20 years or so have been a few birds that cats had left injured. This was the first time I had killed a rabbit. It is an unusual thing to take a life, even if it is the best thing for the animal.  I did not feel very sad, because I have been reading books on Buddhism, and working on accepting life as it is. So, I accepted that I was brought a rabbit with terrible injuries who needed the only help that could be given it. I felt good that I could end its pain and send it on to its next life, if there is one.

I am not a Buddhist, but may someday become one, or maybe not. It is one thing to read and study Buddhism, quite another to actually practice meditation. I am studying, and applying teachings. It helped today, when dealing with the rabbit.

Other wildlife center experiences lately..

There are two small enclosures, each with two red tail hawks:

One hawk in each of these has attacked me – the hawk in one of the cages has attacked me repeatedly. They don’t attack other workers. Strange. Today I chose not to go into those cages, and asked another person on staff – a tall and attractive blonde with a mellow personality who, surprisingly, does not seem full of herself at all – if she would mind going in those cages, since the birds have not bothered her at all in the past. She obliged, and was fine.

I am still uninjured at this point in time – I’ve so far been able to shove the birds away when they’ve flown at me. The woman who helped me today has not been attacked by any raptors, as far as I know.

It seems these hawks have not attacked with the purpose of actually harming me. They could have easily taloned me rather badly, but instead, they have flown at me, and landed on me, but have kept their talons tucked in. I really think these hawks play mind games.. they like to scare people. I’ve dealt with this type of behavior before. However, in the past, I’ve only encountered these intimidation tactics while working in the much larger main hawk flight cage. It’s a lot scarier dealing with an aggressive hawk in a small space.

After the hot blonde and I worked in the various cages – power-hosing the gravel on the ground to clean it of droppings, picking up feathers and the dead mice which the birds had not eaten – we went into another building, so I could fetch our resident raven, and she could help me.

The raven does not like to be held, even though he loves company. He lives in a fairly large enclosure, and my coworker and I had to chase him around some before I could grab onto his jesses (leather straps attached to anklets – you’ve seen these on falcons in movies and on tv).

I sat him up on my gloved hand. I wore a large leather glove that protects both my hand and part of my arm, and has kevlar woven in. Kevlar is used to make bulletproof vests bulletproof. Even the sharpest talons of any of the raptors cannot pierce the glove, as far as I know. I attached a leash to the raven’s jesses, which I wound around my hand, and slowly took the bird inside the main building. I had to bring him in there to weigh him. We weigh all our resident animals at scheduled times throughout the year.

As you can see, the raven looks rather put-out.

We have two buildings, one for housing and display of some residents (this building has large windows) and one building, the main one, used for care and treatment. We also have two wings of enclosures, and a coyote run.

In the main building,

we have a critical care room where the animals are worked on,

a hospital cage room – very small cages used for injured birds and other animals that have not yet healed enough to be moved to larger quarters, two rooms for songbirds too young or injured to be moved to songbird flight cages, a kitchen, bathroom and lobby with desk and computer for intake. This is the room people come into with songbirds, raptors, racoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, foxes, etc.

In the main building, a perch was set up on a scale, and the scale zeroed out. I put the raven on the perch very briefly to weigh him, then took him into the treatment room where he received an injection from the main supervisor, then I took him back to his room.

Later, I cleaned up in the main owl flight cage..

..where we currently have 15 Great Horned Owls – some of them dangerous, and the main hawk cage..

.. where we currently have 14 hawks – mostly red tail hawks, but also a few red shoulder hawks and one Swainson’s hawk. Certain types of hawks can be housed together safely – what I mean is they will get along fine and not kill each other. We do not put hawks and owls together. We only house different species of owls together if they are similar in size. In the past, we had a burrowing owl and a screech owl in the same enclosure, because both owls are small. We don’t house great horned owls with any other kinds of owls. Great horns get their own rooms, and so do barn owls.

I cleaned up the enclosures of barn owls, great horned owls, our resident kestrel (don’t have a picture of him, here is a wild male kestrel, which looks just like our resident)

.. our resident merlin:

..our resident barn owl (already pictured above), and a marsh hawk – also called a northern harrier:

Yes, I know these names of birds should be capitalized, but it is just past 2 AM and I’m tired and my eyes hurt.. so I’ll wrap this up pretty soon.

I got over a hundred dead mice in a bag from the fridge to feed the raptors – the wild ones don’t get live food until we are ready to test them before release. The resident birds are incapable of killing live prey, and also are fed dead mice. The mice are brought to us pre-killed. I don’t know where we get them.

It took over 3 hours to get this all this done. I then took a break, ate, and drank lots of water and Gatorade. I sweated a LOT today. It’s been unusually humid, and just under 100 degrees. It was overcast, for a change, and I liked that.

After my break, I took out the barn owl for a little while on my glove (with leash of course), then put him back and held the kestrel. He is a fairly new resident, and not tame yet. After that, I took out the merlin, which, like the kestrel, is a small falcon. The kestrel is the smallest species of falcon in North America. Merlins are just a bit bigger, and a lot LOUDER. The merlin quieted down some after I held her for a little while, and she was mostly good while sitting on my hand.

After that, I gathered up my stuff and headed home, with a leopard gecko in its tank, in my car. Before I had gotten to work, a woman had brought in a gecko inside a ten gallon tank. After I arrived at the center, my supervisor offered me the gecko to adopt, and I said yes. I am not sure if I want this gecko. Some supplies need to be bought and I have little cash, but just before I left work, I took the lizard tank into my car, strapped a seat belt around the tank, and then drove home.

Tomorrow I will go to a pet store and get the needed supplies. I’m not even a lizard fan, I like snakes. Maybe I will keep the lizard, or else find him (or her?) a good home.

That’s all I’ll write about today.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: