Friday, January 26, 2018

2017 in Numbers

In 2017, we saw a record number of patients at The Raptor Center. Here, we break that down a bit. Where do these numbers come from, what do they mean, and how can you help protect raptors so they don't get injured or sick in the first place?

From January 1 to December 31 of 2017, TRC received 1,085 patients. That's 27 more patients, or roughly 2 more patients per month in 2017 than in 2016. That also means that our clinic took at least 2,170 radiographs, 1,085 blood samples, and performed 1,085 physical/ophthalmic exams. And that's just for the admissions! Care of our patients often requires our clinic staff to go through these processes more than once, and in some cases, many times.
 (Left: a rough-legged hawk is held by one of our volunteers after having physical therapy performed to help recover from a wing fracture)

Let's break it down: First, which species did TRC see the most of in 2017? Last year, the four most prevalent species admitted were:
  1. Red-tailed hawks (197)
  2. Eagles (183)
  3. Great horned owls (171)
  4. Cooper's hawks (161)
TRC also saw a higher number of rare or less common species. The following is a list, with the number of the species admitted in 2016 for comparison. In 2017, TRC admitted:
  1. 33 American kestrels (2016: 25)
  2. 8 Long-eared owls (2016: 7)
  3. 11 Short-eared owls (2016: 2)
  4. 7 Northern goshawks (2016: 4)
  5. 13 Rough-legged hawks (2016: 5)
  6. 28 Snowy owls (2016: 1)
For species like snowy owls, we know why we had such high numbers - this year was an irruption year! But for other species, it can be difficult to ascertain the cause of injury or illness with 100% certainty - our clinic staff use symptoms and signals from the patient in order to better understand what might have occurred. Out of 1,085 patients, 877 were admitted due to 'undetermined' causes. In order to establish a determined reason the bird was injured, there must be a confirmed witness to the event. With that in mind, here are the number of patients that were brought into the TRC clinic for the following reasons:
(Right: one of our many snowy owl patients recovers from anesthesia after a bandage change)

  1. Pediatrics (young bird found on the ground) - 216
  2. Starvation - 162
  3. Vehicle collisions - 64*
  4. Window collisions - 42*
  5. Projectile - 39
  6. Lead toxicity - 34
*Several other patients were suspected to have collided with windows or vehicles because they were found close to windows/walls or on roads and due to the nature of their injuries. However, there was no witness to the event so it cannot be confirmed.

Many of these injuries and illnesses can be prevented. So what can you do to help?

  • Drive carefully and dispose of waste properly! Raptors and other birds are often drawn closer to roadways by carrion and their prey, who tend to pursue scraps of food tossed from car windows. This increases the likelihood of a raptor coming into contact with a vehicle. Drive carefully, especially when you see roadkill ahead. Also, please dispose of your compostable and other waste items at home or at a rest stop - together, we can keep raptors away from the road! (Right: a bald eagle eats roadkill- photo credit:

  • Decorate your windows! Raptors and other birds flying into windows of homes and businesses is an unfortunately common occurrence. A simple solution is for home and business owners to apply patterns or decals to their windows. Research shows this to be effective in deterring birds from this often deadly behavior. You can find some of these products here.

  • Use non-toxic ammunition! 1 in 4 eagles in Minnesota are found to have toxic levels of lead in their bloodstream. This is the result of ingesting small lead-bullet fragments from the gut piles of hunted and cleaned deer left behind by hunters. Non-toxic ammunition alternatives are comparable to lead bullets in effectiveness and cost, and are readily available for use. Switching from lead to copper or other non-toxic ammunition is an easy way to prevent the risk of poisoning raptors when hunting. For more information, visit our website.

    Above: copper bullets (left) stay intact as opposed to splintering into many small pieces like lead bullets (right)

  • Consider a donation to The Raptor Center! Rising admission numbers means rising costs. As previously mentioned, the TRC clinic performed at least 2,170 radiographs, 1,085 physical exams, and took 1,085 blood samples in 2017. These tests and exams as well as the care of our patients is costly, and much of our funding comes from our donors. Please consider a gift to The Raptor Center today to help us continue our work. Thank you!