Wild bird injuries not as uncommon as you might think

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 22, 2006

FERRIDAY &8212; From watching them effortlessly glide through the air, it&8217;s hard to believe a bird of prey could ever need help.

But whether it&8217;s from a car, another animal or bad luck, sometimes they find themselves in just that position.

If encountering a wounded bird of prey, the situation is very easy to handle.

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&8220;Absolutely do not try to handle them at all, they can be very dangerous,&8221; Lisa Smith said.

Smith, the director of the Concordia Animal Welfare Shelter, knows what she&8217;s talking about.

Her shelter receives anywhere from two to four calls a month from residents who find wounded hawks, owls and occasionally eagles. And while the odds of a predatory bird surviving an injury aren&8217;t great &8212; she estimated one in four recover enough to head back into the wild &8212; the chance does exist.

&8220;If people call as soon as they see the bird, there&8217;s a chance,&8221; she said. &8220;The longer they go without food, the harder it is.&8221;

Case in point is the owl Smith was called to rescue from a resident&8217;s back yard Tuesday.

Using a towel, she carefully wrapped the bird up and took it to Miss-Lou Veterinary Clinic and Dr. Debbie Guillory.

The owl was given fluids, steroids and antibiotics and diagnosed with a broken tibia on its left talon.

And while subdued, Guillory warned not to be fooled into thinking the owl was a pet.

&8220;If he starts feeling better, he can rip you apart with his talon and beak,&8221; she said.

While many minor problems can be rehabilitated at the clinic or at CAWS, Guillory said an injury of this magnitude needed the care of the Louisiana State University Raptor and Wildlife Rehabilitation Unit, which is run through its School of Veterinary Medicine.

It is there that the avian patient nursed until it regains its health or else becomes a resident is permanently disabled.

Smith, who had booked an appointment to take her injured owl to Baton Rouge Wednesday morning, never got the chance, as the trauma from its exposure killed it during the night.

Smith said the bird had earlier eaten some hamburger meat and thought he had been on the road to recovery.

&8220;I was encouraged because he had eaten out of my hand and we&8217;d given him fluids,&8221; she said. &8220;But he didn&8217;t make it through the night.&8221;