Monday, January 30, 2012

TRC Clinic Census Jan 30

We have received 31 patients so far in 2012. We have 39 currently.

Bald Eagle - 9

Hawks - Buteos
Red-tailed Hawk - 10
Rough-legged Hawk - 1

Peregrine Falcon - 3
Merlin - 1

Great horned Owl - 8
Snowy Owl - 3
Long-eared Owl - 2
Eastern screech-owl - 1
Barred Owl - 1

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Raptor Center Annual Report

The Raptor Center published our 2011 Annual Report, which covers our activities, financial report and list of donors for our last fiscal year. We are so grateful for the 350 volunteers who help us in so many ways, as well as our many supporters.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Long-eared Owl rescue and TRC

Recent article in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, from the author's viewpoint of what it is like being a part of a rescue and transport to TRC's clinic. (Text also copied here)

I lifted the box and sensed something wrong — I felt no weight, where was the long-eared owl?I was given the box with what I was told was an injured owl inside to take it from Winona to Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester. There, another volunteer would take it, and an injured great horned owl, to the Raptor Center in St. Paul. The Raptor Center is internationally known for its treatment of injured eagles, hawks and owls.

The staff of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Winona had shown me the bird, which a woman brought in after finding it injured near downtown Winona. The long-eared owl is a smaller version on a great horned owl. It has striking, yellow-gold eyes and beautiful brown plumage. It's a medium-sized owl, but still it should have had some weight when I picked up the box.Then I remembered once holding a goshawk while it was being banded. It too felt weightless, like it was made of the air it masters. The owl, with hollow bones and featherlight feathers, is the same way: It looks big but weights little.In that near weightlessness and beauty, however, is what seems a contradiction. The owl has the grace, power and agility that we find so alluring, but it also has talons that kill and a beak that can rip apart a mouse. That is the nature of a predator. What we might see as beauty could be efficiency, and predators, above all, must be efficient to survive.

So I loaded the owl in my car and headed toward Rochester, just one of a large number of volunteers who transport injured raptors to the center. Raptors tend to live, and get injured, in remote places, so the volunteers help by giving the birds a lift. That's what I was asked to do, though it was not in my plans for last Friday.

I stopped at the Houston Nature Center in Houston to interview director Karla Bloem. Are you heading back to Rochester but might also be going to Winona? she asked. They're looking for a volunteer.In fact, I did have some work to do in Winona and would be happy to pick up the owl. It sounded like fun and a way to help nature just a little bit.Once on the road with the owl, I faced the question of which route to take: much-used U.S. 14 or the back roads through the Whitewater Valley.I decided to give the bird a trip on the wild side, though it couldn't see it, and went through the blufflands of Whitewater. I have to admit, I took curves just a bit slower and tried to not make the abrupt stops at stop signs that my family hates. I had that owl in my backseat and didn't want to jolt it.

At Quarry Hill, everyone wanted to see the long-eared owl. For some reason, as Bloem often says, people are attracted to owls. The bird sat quietly in the box, not trying to fly because of an injury. The owl — a terror to small animals — was a docile, harmless bird in a box.From there, Alice Kerr of Rochester took both owls to the raptor center.On Wednesday, I got an email from Lori Forstie at Quarry Hill: "The great horned owl has a fractured radius and the long-eared owl has a fractured ulna; both have been treated and are eating well."

Staff writer John Weiss travels the region's back roads looking for people, places and things of interest for this column.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snowy Owls

"Season of the snowies" best describes the winter of 2011/2012. Sightings of snowy owls across the country have occurred in record numbers since the end of November. Snowy owls live in the arctic but wander south outside their normal range ("irrupt") in large numbers somewhat cyclically, usually in search of prey. From the clinic's point of view, however, the 2011 movement of snowy owls was a little different than those experienced in the past. A significant number of snowy owls were admitted to the clinic in 1993, 2000, 2001, 2008 and now again in 2011. This year, they first appeared a month later and a few more adults were seen. The majority of juveniles were admitted in a state of starvation (as has been the case in the past) and the adults sustained traumatic injuries.

In 1993 there were 28 owls, and date of first admission was 10/17; in 2000 there were 17 and first date was 10/26; in 2001 there were 20 and first date 10/19; in 2008 there were 11 and first date 10/29 and in 2011 there were 11, with first date 11/24.

Three juvenile owls remain in the clinic and will spend the next few months with us before it is time to make their journey back north.

Why are record numbers of snowies moving south? Biologists speculate that as with most owl irruptions, prey availability is the root cause. However this time it was not due to a low number of lemmings, small rodents that are snowy owls' staple food source, but instead from a high number present in the spring that resulted in a larger number of owlets surviving to independence. This increase in juvenile owls then put pressure on lemming populations and the birds were "forced" south in search of other food sources. Although predator/prey relationships can be quite complex, the end result in this case was a chance for many people to see a life bird - the magnificent white ghost of the great north. They will most likely begin moving north to their breeding grounds in the spring.

One of our clinic cases is a hatch-year (2011) male. After suffering internal trauma from an unknown cause and a lack of hunting success, some people found it grounded near railroad tracks in Minneapolis without the strength to fly. Upon admission, the bird was malnourished, dehydrated and covered with feather lice. It responded well to treatment for its low condition, and has done well in test flights. It will go through TRC’s pre-release preparation program – intensive exercise therapy to rebuild weekend flight muscles and a refresher in catching live prey – before given the opportunity to return to its arctic home in the spring.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bald eagles and lead article in Star Tribune

The Raptor Center was featured in a Star Tribune article on bald eagles and spent lead ammunition. This photo was taken by the Star Tribune.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Environmental Initiative for TRC

The Raptor Center is always looking for new ways to contribute to our mission of a healthy, sustainable environment. Our volunteer-run Recycling for Raptors program has been a wonderful initiative to keep used ink cartridges out of landfills (100,000 as of 2010!)

We are now working towards reducing unwanted mail in our offices for 2012. We are part of a pilot program through a University of Minnesota Conservation Corps volunteer who is implementing a “junk mail” reduction project. Each day we weigh how much mail we receive and then staff sorts out any mail that is unwanted and places it into a box to be weighed at the end of the week. After a month our volunteer will begin to contact some of the organizations that the “junk mail” has come from and work towards removing our name from the lists. Two days into the program, we have already noticed we have duplicate catalogs from companies as well as numerous mailings for employees that are no longer working at The Raptor Center.

Want to make a difference in your own home or office?
Try contacting these organizations to remove your address.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Farewell to Harley

A few weeks ago, we sent a note that we did not have final word on Harley the bald eagle’s satellite transmitter, but did want to give an update to his many “followers.”

We recently received notification that Harley's body was found in a farm field near where he was last known to have been in the Evelyth area. In September, Dr. Ponder traveled to the area to hike the farm and scour the area where his last transmissions were from. She talked with the local land owners, but did not see Harley. It was possible he was already down in the hay field. The local Department of Natural Resources conservation officer returned his transmitter and what is left of the body to us.

While we are still hoping we might get a bit more information from testing, the cause of Harley's death is not clear at this time. One very interesting finding raised a few questions - Harley had recently molted almost all of his primary flight feathers on one wing. This is a very abnormal molt for a raptor as that many missing flight feathers would make flight challenging or impossible.

After following Harley's story for two years, it is hard to believe he is gone; we had hoped that only his transmitter had died. We enjoyed watching Harley's travels, we got a lot of information from him, and we set the stage for piloting some new education initiatives and began to see some new possibilities. We have many reasons to remember Harley fondly.

Click here for Harley's back story. We also have a journal with monthly maps of his journey there.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WCCO-TV story on Bald Eagles and TRC

TRC's Dr. Pat Redig was featured on a story WCCO-TV ran Tuesday evening about bald eagles and lead poisoning. (Text also featured below).

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — On a frozen Washington County field partially covered in snow, bald eagle number 11-694 was found motionless and barely breathing.

The landowner placed it in a box and brought it to Carlos Avery Wildlife Area where the mature eagle was quickly taken to the Gabbert Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota.

“This was an acute lead poisoning. This bird didn’t live more than a few days after it ingested this poison,” said Dr. Pat Redig, co-founder of the Raptor Center.

For the 29th time in 2011, Redig and veterinary staff at the Raptor Center would try in vain to save the sickened symbol of our nation’s freedom. In the more than 40 years that the specialty veterinary clinic has been tending to sick and injured raptors, roughly 25 percent of the bald eagles that enter are suffering from lead poisoning.

Showing up as little white dots in the X-ray images of the bird’s body, the tiny lead fragments ingested by 11-694 were simply too toxic for the eagle to recover. In fact, of the 29 bald eagles admitted last year, only one survived the lead poisoning to be released back into the wild.

It is a sobering and sad outcome for the birds that are unintentionally ingesting the lead contaminating the carcasses of waterfowl, varmints and wild game shot by hunters.

Since October 24, 2011, 13 bald eagles were taken to the Raptor Center, each one suffering the effects of lead poisoning. With little or no snow cover to conceal the gut piles of field dressed deer, eagles can feed freely on the remains. It’s within those remains where the tiny lead fragments contaminate the soon to be ingested food. Certainly unintended and without thought, a hunter’s spend bullet can cause a second death.

Carrol Henderson is the Department of Natural Resources’ non-game wildlife expert.

“This year, because of our ironically mild winter and late fall, the eagles are continuing to feed on a deer’s gut pile and getting poisoned by shards of lead,” said Henderson.

Henderson hopes that the DNR and Raptor Center can help educate hunters about a better choice of ammunition. He points out that just as lead was banned from paint and gasoline to protect human health, the same protection is due our nation’s symbol.

Bullet manufacturers including Federal Cartridge, Remington, Winchester and Hornady, already offer non-toxic alternatives to lead shells. The tradeoff is cost. Expect to pay half to twice as much for the non-toxic shells.

“It’s not a matter of anti-hunting, it’s a matter of smart hunting,” added Henderson.