The Child Development Association is the oldest not for profit organization in Roswell Ga. They offer children a chance at having a better life and the staff is pretty awesome, too. Tucked back off the square in Roswell, they have a bi-level, award-winning playground, garden, ampitheatre and a built in sprinkler system outside for the kids to cool off. I brought Sam, Scully and Nigel to visit this morning. Thanks to Sally Hansell and Sean O'Keefe for making our visit possible...
I love this bird with all my heart. Sam turned 22 in January.
This is how the owl sees! :)
Sam modeling his cousin's skull
Every color, creed and ethnicity...we all are here to learn and share
It was a year ago on this day, July 4th 2011, that Francis, the beautiful female Great horned owl came into my life through no fault of her own. She was hungry and had made the unfortunate decision to visit this horrible old man in Blue Ridge who raises fighting cocks. The tall perch upon which she lighted to survey her supper opportunities was set with a rusted, steel trap.
The immediate shock and pain must have been tremendous for her and most birds tumble over the side of the pole trap and hang upside down until they die a miserable death. But our intrepid Francis was able to keep her wits about her, remaining upright and although breaking her beak off in the process, was able to physically dislodge the trap from the top of the 6 foot tall 4x4. Man, she must have been pissed! I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams what strength and tenacity that must have taken on her part. Somehow she knew her life depended on it.
She hopped on one foot, dragging this trap that weighed as much as she did, about 200 yards and was spotted in an alley next to a doctor's office. The workers at the office did the actual rescue (I can't do my job without the Good Samaritan's help) and the bird was taken to a vet's office in the next town that works with me taking in injured and orphaned raptors. http://www.vcahospitals.com/appalachian
They ran fluids on her and called me to come get her, but unfortunately by the time I got there, someone had thrown the trap away. NEVER throw away evidence!Never. Many traps come with their own serial numbers and can be traced back to whomever purchased them. OK, so there went our open and shut case against this old man who has a history of being arrested while attending a cock fight a few years back. This old man is so entrenched in this archane blood sport and is so well known that he has his own recliner set up ring side!
All things considered, she was in pretty good shape, except the area all the way around her distal tarsus (where the leg joins the foot) had a very deep, infected laceration. How the trap didn't break her leg was a miracle and had it, it would most likely have been a euthanasia because with a break close to the joint, the callous formation of the bone healing interferes with subsequent rotation and movement.
My wonderful vet was at the ready with the first of three surgeries to open the wound and debride the dead tissue. Honestly, I could not do my job if it weren't for his talents and generosity. His name is Dr. David Martinez. He has a mobile practice http://www.semobilevet.com/ and also is land based at Loving Hands Veterinary Hospital in Alpharetta. http://www.lovinghands.com/ The clinic is owned by Dr. Joanne Roesner and a big shout out to her for allowing wildlife to be brought here and treated! The staff is terrific too, and I ply them with home made cream cheese cupcakes every now and then!
It was touch and go for a while and I was having to give some thought to her quality of life because we couldn't get the infection under control. This is why we had to keep going in to scrape out the dead tissue...we had to keep switching antibiotics and I was irrigating her wound three times a day with this tremendous product sold my Liz Nicholas...it's like jazzed up epsom salts, chocked full of 90 different minerals. If you are interested in purchasing some from Liz, contact her here - email@example.com
It's unbeliveable stuff and so versatile. Mainly used to re-mineralize your garden soil, it has many other applications. In my case, I was grinding it up and mixing it with warm Lactated Ringers trying to keep the infection localized and this stuff, along with a killer antibiotic that cost me 160 dollars FINALLY did the trick, but only after working on her for three months. Man, what a job and if she had been your typical aggressive female GHO, there is NO way I would have been able to gain her trust and to cause her all the physical pain I was subjecting her to on a daily basis.
When it was looking the worst. The bruising was caused by me...yep, I had to keep the area teased open so I could insert the irrigation cannula to keep the pus drained out of the wound.
If I wasn't fast enough in doling out her lunch, she was take the self serve route. I would be feeding her mice with one hand while draining her leg with the other. Whew...what a team we were.
After a good misting. I didn't have a bath pan in with her because I didn't want her wound getting wet, so I would mist her every day.
After a rain shower! What a beauty she was...I was privileged to care for her.
Her day of release had come sometime toward the end of October. It's the hardest thing to say goodbye. A year later, I don't know if she is dead or alive, faring well or struggling to survive. Frankly if I dwelled on this aspect of things, I would find another line of work. You do what you can with what you have to work with and just say a little prayer when you let them go. It's up to them after that...
One last look back before freedom...
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for those of you who have donated Mouse Money. I really appreciate your help....m. http://www.hawktalk.org/
OH - PS...While some people rehab when they want to and cannot be bothered during holidays of drinking and merry making, there ARE no holidays for dedicated rehabbers. To me, it's just another day.
Oh - And one more thing...Did you know that in Georgia, it is LEGAL to set pole traps for raptors within 200 yards from your poultry? Ga. Code - 27.3.62. This law is diametrically opposed to the federal regulations prohibiting the killing or maining of a federally protected species. We set a trap for that mean old man, but we couldn't catch him in the act. We had all sorts of circumstantial evidence and people willing to testify against him, but the old coot got off scott free!
And say, you have legally pole trapped the raptor and there he is, just hanging there all bloody and helpless and you start to develop a conscience. Yep, you start feeling sorry for what you have just done to this magnificent animal who was just trying to earn a living, so you remove him from the trap, put him in a box and start driving him to a vet's office or rehabber. NOW you are breaking a Georgia state law against transportation of wildlife without an ambulatory permit. I am not kidding. Ga Code - 27.3.90
Thankfully, I was able to re-nest all the young hawks, and I didn't get any calls for baby Screech owls this year, so all I've had to raise are the 5 orphaned Barred owls (and it's a good thing, too, because I've lost my wholesale mouse source and I'm freaking out, but I digress). The first babe came around the first week of April and they will probably all be dispersed by October.
Do some quick math...from April all the way to October??? This is why most rehabbers refuse to hack because it takes a lot of time and resources Their method? Just grow them to a certain size, toss them some live food before taking them off site to turn them out to slowly starve to death...logical, huh? Why waste your time?) Would a parent do that? NO, they stay with the babes for a given amount of time, giving them the life skills necessary to become a productive member of the gene pool. That said, 8 out of 10 babes born in spring won't be alive come winter. The natural world is a harsh mistress. If you don't employ good hacking methods, I would hazard a guess they they all die given that the whole, healthy parent reared birds have an 80% mortality.
The barred owls come in looking something like this...
Little "Lumpy" from last year!
Then they start growing into these fuzzy little creatures
And before you know it, June has arrived and it's time to open the door to the big, big world! Here you can see their chamber door has been opened and the hack board is outside garnished with mice. They will leave at their leisure and start to get a feel for the property...
I released the babes Memorial Day weekend and every once in a while I will see all five in the yard at the same time which makes me feel good knowing that they are all still viable. Lately, I am consistently seeing three in the yard together for breakfast and the evening meal. It's hard to tell them apart now, so I don't know hoo is hoo...
How many pairs of eyes do you see?
This shot was from the 2011 hacking season.
I won't go in to explaining 'hacking' again as I have just about exhausted the subject, but a quick synopsis is that I use operant conditioning techniques while they are still in captivity so they will start to associate a certain sound with food, so after they are released and about the property, I can literally 'call' them in for supper. It's pretty wild and crazy around here for a while. At first, the babes are very comfortable with my presence and they will hang out on the deck, on the window sills and if the door is open, they will walk right into the house. However, as they age and mature, they become more wary and less tolerant of me, so I take FULL advantage while they are young to do as much photography as possible.
I'm wet. I'm hungry. Feed me NOW.
Wha'chu lookin' at Willis?
I'll take mine to go, please.
This limb is over the pond, where they will learn to dine on fish and froggies...
This tree is right off the deck and was shot this morning. They were ready for breakfast!
These stiff feathers are called rictal bristles and they are the first feathers to grow out on the face. Momma will brush these sensitive 'whiskers' with the food and the owlett will open his beak to receive.
And THIS is the business end of things. His fuzzy slippers are being replaced by big-boy feathers!
It's thirsty work becoming an owl!
I know most people's economy is swirling around the drain and everyone is scared out of their wits, so you can just imagine how things are around here what with me losing my good pricing on mice and rats. I'm having to scrape together about four hundred extra dollars a month so that I don't become road kill myself from having to shovel dead things off the highway. It's a dreadful way to have to feed one's charges; it's dangerous and humiliating for me and it isn't healthy for the birds.