Working in a wildlife rehabilitation clinic, you get used to people arriving with cardboard boxes – small, large, beer boxes, air conditioner boxes, shoe boxes, the lot. Inside each box is an animal or bird requiring care. The funny thing is that often the size of the box does not relate at all to the size of the animal inside: a huge box might contain an injured sparrow; a tiny box might have a huge Red Tail Hawk stuffed and contorted inside.
Usually we get to watch people leaving their car with the box, so they tell us what is inside the box as they enter the clinic, before we have to peek. However, sometimes people leave boxes in the lobby or on the doorstep when we are closed. Sometimes, they leave a note, saying what is inside, sometimes they don’t. So, a box that once contained a pair of boots could contain a squirrel, a crow, a small hawk, a sparrow, an oppossum, a nest of baby birds…who knows until you open it.
We’re in the so called ‘quiet season’ in wildlife rehab. It gets quieter because there are no baby animals being born. So, every animal we get is injured or sick. The other day, my boss and I had to go to a meeting for a half an hour. A sub-permitee watched the place for most of that time, but in perhaps 10 minutes, 3 boxes arrived. So when my boss and I got back, we had 3 boxes waiting for us. And they were all roughly the same size. They contained:
1.) A small, sickly dehydrated baby squirrel, about 6 weeks old (this is VERY late in the season for baby squirrels and quite unusual). We gave him an injection of fluids, started him on antibiotics, and began bottle feeding him. The next day, he perked up a bit.
2.) A Canada Goose. His feather condition was terrible. His wing and tail feathers were completely shredded and dirty. He had no use of his legs, which were dirty and road-burned. He also had no feeling in them. He must have been dragging his legs along, propelling himself with his wings as crutches, for some time. He had no broken bones, but must have sustained spinal trauma. He was also completely emaciated. There was no chance of him ever recovering. So we ended his life humanely. The woman who had captured and dropped him off called, and we explained to her that she did him a kindness. Eventually, he would have died on the street, but it could have taken weeks. He was able to die peacefully and painlessly.
3.) A ‘seagull’ – (there is no such thing as a seagull, really – they’re ‘gulls’). He is a Herring Gull. Like the goose, was emaciated and he had no use of his legs, and kept falling over. However, the difference was that he has ‘deep pain relexes’ – in other words, when you squeeze his foot with an instrument, he can feel it, and pull his foot away. He could not stand up because he was weak, not because he was paralyzed. So, we gave him sub-q (under the skin) fluids, and we tube fed him (down the throat) a rich nutritional mixture. We did that a few times yesterday, and once this morning, and by the afternoon, he was standing up on his own! And, he was picking at the food in his dish (shrimp, soaked cat chow, and baby mice). I have high hopes for him. Gulls smell like the sea btw.
Later in the day, another box arrived. The woman said it was a turkey vulture. In fact, it was an actual turkey. Just in time for Thanksgiving. He has a terrible skin condition on his face – either avian pox or mange. We are working on him. Watch this space. I’ve never been this close to a large, male wild turkey. His feathers are varied and gorgeous.