Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything

by Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital
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Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Fellow Mortals--Compassion Changes Everything
Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker

“Nature’s Mighty Law”

"Look abroad through Nature's range; Nature's mighty law is Change."  Robert Burns

In the morning mist, a young grey squirrel is barely visible where she sits with a nut in the crook of a tree, her hard-won prize held carefully in furry fingers.  Across the field, a formation of geese sleeps, heads and elegant necks tucked for warmth among the downy feathers on their backs.  Four bright and raucous crows announce a passing red-tailed hawk, and the squirrel drops her nut to scurry into a cavity of the tree.  The geese dream on.

Each one of these wild ones has survived amidst the changes felt across months and seasons.  Eating, sleeping, playing, surviving—they move on.

A ways distant from the oak where the squirrel now hides, and down the road, a still, frost-covered form is all that remains of an opossum who passed suddenly in the night.  I move her gently from her place of death as a sign of respect for her life—knowing that the crows will eventually find her and complete her physical passing.  I move on.

In the midst of loss and suffering we cannot alleviate, when we sometimes feel like everything is falling apart—nothing is more important than finding a way to move forward, to move on.  With every act of kindness and compassion, we move past grief and fear toward hope.

These past months have been a test—and you have passed with flying colors!  Despite uncertainties and challenges that threatened to break you, you responded to the crying of the orphaned fawn and the plight of the nestling bird helpless on the ground; you found a way to someone who could care for the eyes-closed newborn bunny and who could give a family to the duckling wandering down a dangerous street; you travelled hours for the sake of a ‘pigeon’ nobody else cared about, and you never, ever took your eyes off the sparrow. 

Each of us, no matter where life may find us, still has something to give that will be life-affirming, even life-changing for another—no matter how insignificant that gift may feel. 

Thank you for the gift of your time or funds, great or small.  You are the reason that we were able to keep our staff, bring interns in for the busy summer months, and cover the cost of running a wildlife hospital.  You are the reason our doors never closed to the wild ones and the people who need us.

1840 wild ones, 1014 birds, 826 mammals, 365 days, 123 communities, 100 species, 79 wood duck ducklings, 35 years, 31 white-tailed deer fawn, 25 chimney swifts, 25% increase in wildlife calls, 16-hour days, 4 wildlife rehabilitators, 3 beaver, 2 eagles, 1 pileated woodpecker—and you.

 In the aftermath of the storm, from within the tangle of broken trunks comes a heavy ‘Rap-Rap-Rap’ echoing through the damaged woods.  I step through fallen boughs in search of the source and finally look up, and up, and up to see the brilliant red crown of a pileated woodpecker silhouetted in the broken canopy, wielding his strong bill like a sculptor to create a new purpose for the jagged remains of the fallen tree.  Moving on.

Pileated woodpecker before release
Pileated woodpecker before release
Pileated release
Pileated release
Pileated woodpecker at admit
Pileated woodpecker at admit
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Release
Release

While our hospital will see 2,000 wild birds and mammals this year, it is the 'big' birds, especially Bald eagles, that capture people's attention.  When the eagle is one that is from the community where we are located, it really creates interest in the bird's admitting injury and rehabilitation.

"Fontana," was reported to us after he was found sitting in a yard in the village of Fontana, which is on Geneva lake.  

Just because a bird is sitting in a yard doesn't necessary mean it's sick or injured, so we asked for photos first and got information about how the bird was behaving.  The eagle was not moving, looked dull, and was having trouble breathing, so Jess and I headed out and were at the location in under 10 minutes.

The bird was easily captured and Jess cradled him in a blanket before putting him into the kennel cab for the trip back to hospital.

It was obvious he had suffered impact of some kind--most likely a car, as he was having difficulty breathing and held his wings out from his body as if he were terribly bruised.  He also had blood in his mouth.

Back at the hospital, we quickly took x-rays and then drew blood for laboratory tests.  We could tell he had blood in his lungs and was bruised, but we didn't know if there was a reason that he had been hit by a vehicle.

X-rays showed no lead, which was a relief, and no fractures, but only the blood tests would tell us the whole story.  When an eagle has lead poisoning, it is not because the bird was shot, but because the bird has ingested lead accidentally while feeding on a fish with a lead sinker in the gut, or on the remains of a deer that was killed with lead shot.

At first, Fontana could hardly stand, and we housed him in our raptor preflight, an indoor room with a carpeted floor, low soft perch, and with supplemental heat and low light.  He was in good weight when he arrived, about 8 pounds, which is why we identified him as a male.  Females are much larger than males.  The largest female eagle we have ever had in care was 14 pounds.

We were fortunate in that the eagle was in good condition before his injury.  A bird that is underweight, has a heavy parasite load, or other condition is fighting trauma at a real disadvantage.

He drank water, so we brought him small live minnows and he ate them slowly, and carefully, as he was having trouble breathing.  We thought perhaps fresh cubed salmon or meat would be easier for him, and he did eagerly take some of what we offered him by hand, but would not eat the meat or fish that we left in with him.

It was only a few days before we could see Fontana was healing from the trauma, but he still wasn't 'right;' he didn't react to stimuli like a healthy bird would, and he was more comfortable lying on his belly than perching upright.

When the blood tests came back, they showed that he was suffering from a very high level of lead poisoning:  22 parts per million (ppm) where an 'acceptable' level for an eagle is .3 or less.  This made sense, as the eagle had acute lead poisoning (meaning he hadn't been suffering with lead poisoning for very long.  If he had, he would have been underweight, even emaciated.)

We started chelation treatment immediately once the results came back.  Chelation is the use of a drug that is injected into the body, then taken up into the blood.  As the drug circulates in the blood, it binds to heavy metals like lead, and the bird excretes the toxin when it defecates.  Lead is hard on kidneys, and so is treatment, so we had to balance our protocol to keep this in mind.

Once the chelation therapy started, Fontana started eating hungrily--first small minnows, then medium chubs, finally eating whole trout at a time!

The eagle had several series of shots of chelating agent; each time Jess would gently pick him up using a blanket--and he accepted this indignity without protest as he was so sick.  Days of shots were followed by days of rest, and after the last series of shots, he let us know we were not going to pick him up so easily again.

It was time to move outside!

Before we moved Fontana to our large eagle flight, which is 108 feet long, 20 feet wide and 20 feet high--we took blood again so that we would know if we needed to bring him back inside for treatment.

It was several days before Fontana could move about normally in the large space, but in less than a week he was flying!  Clumsily, with lots of flapping--yes, but he was starting to regain the muscle and strength he lost when he was in critical care.

6 weeks and 2 days after he came to us, we took him home to Fontana, where he wasted no time leaving the kennel cab and flying to a high perch overlooking the lake.

'Big' birds like Fontana often get more attention than a songbird or duck or squirrel, but that's ok, as it gives us the chance to advocate for all the wild ones who need our care.

Thank you for being a part of the work that helps eagles and sparrows, beaver and mice, and all inbetween.

Admit
Admit
Exam
Exam
Hurting from the trauma
Hurting from the trauma
In preflight
In preflight
Ready for release
Ready for release
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Cedar Waxwings
Cedar Waxwings

Summer 2020 continues to surprise, and surprisingly delight in unexpected ways.

While we learn new ways to interact with the people who need our help, and how to help from a distance, we have also become more proficient at distance education and providing information in innovative ways.

Challenge really can result in opportunity once one accepts that there is only one direction--forward.

We weren't sure what to expect with the many stay-at-home orders and changes in work and school.  In the very beginning, the wild ones were less impacted by human activity and they thrived in the absence of fewer vehicles on the roads, and activity at work sites.

Once people returned to a semblance of normal, so did our work at the hospital increase.  More people were out working in the yard at home instead of on vacation, and were more likely to encounter wildlife and see behaviors they didn't understand, but which were perfectly normal--like a baby fawn lying quietly next to their porch, or a nest of baby bunnies tucked into a corner of their garden.

While we provide direct services for injured and orphaned wildlife, we return up to 100 calls a day to help an animal finder assess a situation and understand wild behavior.  Most of the education and information we provide allows young wild creatures to stay with their parents.

In the past few years, we have been concerned about a trend that sees fewer of some important bird species, like the American kestrel, or Chimney swift.  Birds that eat insects or rodents are very important to balance in the environment.  This year has been a good one for raptors and songbirds; and while that means our bird nursery and sensitive species, and indoor flights are full to bursting because the more birds out in the environment the more likely they are to be found when they need help--we couldn't be happier for the extra work.

500 animals are currently in care at the hospital.  We release nearly every day, and admit new animals just as quickly.  This evening two great horned owl returned home after recovering from fractured wings.  Yesterday the first 10 swallows were released after growing up in our care.

The birds admitted into care change as the weeks pass, and we have just admitted our first Cedar Waxwings, one of the last bird species to nest in our region.  Summer is really flying by.

THANK YOU to all who are part of Team Hope--your monthly gifts provide for the many wild ones brought to us by people who can't donate.

And thank you to all who donate when you can--your gifts are often the answer to a specific need.

Best wishes to all of you as we continue the adventure.

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Immature red-tailed hawk
Immature red-tailed hawk

Dear friends and recurring monthly donors, and other supporters--I hope this finds you safe and well.

I am writing to let you know how much we appreciate all you have made possible in the past.

To our recurring donors--you are appreciated so very much, especially now.

We understand that everyone is anxious and unsure of what the future holds--we understand things are hard right now and you might not be able to donate as before.  Our hope is to continue to help as needed.

We currently have over 200 animals at the hospital--many will soon be released, but more come in nearly every day.

Wildlife rehabilitation is designated an 'essential service' by Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston Cole, and Governor Evers, and Fellow Mortals continues to be available by appointment 7 days a week by appointment.

We are being safe, and keeping the people who bring us animals safe.  There is no face-to-face contact between staff and the caring public, yet we can still receive animals into care.

The process:  A person bringing an animal for care enters directly from outside into a negative pressure isolation room where the animal contained in a box will be kept warm and safe until the staff enters to take it out of the box.  The triage room is on the other side of a door with a window that looks into isolation, so we are able to wave 'hi' to the animal finder, and watch as the person leaves the isolation area.  After they leave, we enter to retrieve the animal and lock the outside door.  We use gloves when handling containers and we have a disinfection protocol to protect the everyone using the shared space, which involves wiping down door handles and other contact surfaces between admissions, as well as using an ozonator to kill viruses in the air. 

While we all adapt to doing our part to protect each other in the weeks and months to come--the wild ones remind us that there is a constant even in this time of uncertainty, and that Life & Hope still exist in the world.

Thank you, again, for all you do for the wild ones.  We will keep in touch.

Yvonne, co-founder, Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital

"In healing, we are healed." tm

 

 

It started with the cranes—I heard the chuckling of their voices before I saw a squadron of six fly over the field. In the hours and days to come, the red-winged blackbirds’ chorus filled the air as suddenly as the sight of the males’ epaulets flashed in the weeds along the road. A single vulture wheeled lazily overhead and a mature bald eagle soared high—but not so high that his white head and tail could not be seen.

As humans retreated into their safe spaces and became less active and more crepuscular, the wild ones ventured further afield at times they would normally be the ones sheltering in place. The turkeys flocked and stopped to stare as a single car came down a rural road. A squirrel buried a nut in a pothole that would be accessible in a way not possible in a time when traffic never stopped. Crows gathered to converse in mid-day, their voices carrying and echoing across the silence.

Spring is here! The dull brown of sodden winter is perforated with shots of snowdrops and the first green shoots of grass—and for the first time in many of the wild ones’ lives—it is they who go forth without fear. Geese drift on endless water in open lakes and deer graze in open fields under the sun.

It’s a strange world in the spring of 2020. Humans are experiencing boundaries never imagined even a few weeks before—real boundaries necessitated by real threats that have caused us to change our behaviors accordingly. For the first time in most of our lives, we are experiencing a reality that the wild creatures have had to accept since humans entered their world.

The wild ones are free in a way they haven’t experienced before. This will be a special season for them.

Absurdly perhaps, my heart lifts at the hope that perhaps we humans will learn some important and lasting lessons from changing places with the wild ones of our world. As the waters clear and the cacophony of engines and talking and activity pause and allow the natural world to emerge and speak to our hearts—will we see that we have overstepped our place and resolve to allow the earth to heal by changing our ways?

Yvonne Wallace Blane

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Feeling better
Feeling better

In August of 2018, we received a call about a young beaver that had fallen 25 feet from a concrete wall into a dry reservoir of a dam.  The drop had miraculously not killed the three-month old, 10-pound animal, but he was hurting, and easily captured by the maintenance workers at the dam, with the help of Jolene, a wildlife rehabilitator friend in the area.

Beaver do not leave their home lodge until they are at least two years old and 50-60 pounds--so we knew tragedy had struck this little beaver's family to leave him separated in such a dangerous place.  The maintenance workers at the dam had first seen a little beaver a month prior, so he had been struggling even before he was injured.  We were so glad to get him into care that evening.

The little beaver was very frightened and cowered in the corner of his transport carrier.  He would not allow himself to be handled and he was also suffering from shock and stress, but we needed to do some kind of exam.  Anesthesia is dangerous for animals like this little one, so we palpated for fractures and other injuries as best as we could.  It was obvious that his left hind leg was injured, possibly fractured as he was not walking on it--but if a fracture existed it was too high for a surgical pin, and would have to heal on its own.  We let the little beaver out of his carrier and he moved clumsily past us to the farthest corner of his new habitat.

Beaver that come to Fellow Mortals are housed in pool habitats.  They are quite large, with heated concrete for comfort and a place to pile logs for a lodge, and they have deep pools for swimming, diving, and defecating.  Beaver only go to the bathroom in water.

As weeks and then months went by, the little beaver grew and gradually was putting weight on the hind leg and foot, then walking normally, and then swimming well by paddling with both feet and legs.  And his first winter passed.   

In June of 2019, a days-old beaver was rescued from out of the Wisconsin River--again surviving against all odds after being torn from her family far too early.  Young beaver are not waterproof for several months after birth and the parents and protective older siblings would never have let this young one out of their care.  Yet again a beaver family had been destroyed, probably through the destruction of their lodge, something that is far too common across the United States, where humans have still to appreciate that wild species each have a unique purpose, and beaver in particular both create and sustain habitat for other wild species and humans.  

The good part of the new baby coming to Fellow Mortals was that we would hopefully have a companion for our first beaver, who we identifed as 'Prairie,' after where he was found.  Since the new baby came in June, she was identified as 'Juniper.'  We don't 'name' the wild patients in our care, but we do have to identify them, and we find that a descriptive works as a short-hand and is much more efficient in identifying animals than a number system such as B184 and J195 for example.

Beaver have internal genitalia, so there is no way of knowing the sex of a beaver for sure without x-ray, but there are some physiological indicators that seem to be quite accurate, such as the shape of the tail, and the personality.  Male beaver are much less industrious in our experience, while female beaver are always very busy.  While we had not been able to x-ray 'Prairie' at admit, we were able to  x-ray the days-old baby and knew she was female, so we were hopeful the two beaver could be put together and released together when they were both old enough.

All was going well, and then we noticed that 'Prairie' was not eating hard food, even though he was gnawing wood for his lodge.  After a period of observation and careful examination, we saw that his upper incisors had overgrown and his teeth were maloccluded.  He would need to see a dentist.  Luckily, we have a dentist with beaver experience!

Beaver are the largest rodent in North America.  They average 60 pounds as adults and the record for the largest beaver is for one in Wisconsin that weighed 110 pounds!  Rodents teeth grow throughout their lifetime, so if they are injured and the bite is affected, they can die from the teeth growing into their skull.

Our human dentist is a great sport, and Dr. Ann had teamed with our veterinarian Dr. Chris in the past, when they worked on another young beaver that had malocclusion as a result of injuries.  They coordinated schedules and soon the beaver had a visit booked from the Beaver Team.

This time--anesthesia was absolutely necessary--and the beaver was sedated for the procedure, which went quickly, with Dr. Ann trimming nearly an inch from each upper incisor. 

Since we had the opportunity, we were also able to take x-rays, and we were astonished at the extent of the healed fracture of the hind leg, which Dr. Chris determined was entirely functional and not painful.  Seeing the fracture site made us even more aware of what this little animal had gone through in his first months of life.  We were also able to determine without a doubt that 'Prairie' was indeed a male.  We could see the bony organ called an 'ospenis' clearly on the x-ray.

As soon as he began to wake, we returned 'Prairie' to his habitat next door to 'Juniper,' where he rested in a cuddly blanket until waking up to clean off all the human germs, and to take a bath.

Strawberries, blueberries, apples, yams, spinach and rodent chow are all being devoured eagerly this winter, and 'Prairie' and 'Juniper' continue to grow toward release.

Anesthesia
Anesthesia
Teeth trimming
Teeth trimming
Beaver tooth enamel is orange from iron
Beaver tooth enamel is orange from iron
X-ray of healed leg fracture
X-ray of healed leg fracture
Our Beaver Team
Our Beaver Team

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Organization Information

Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital

Location: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @FellowMortals1
Project Leader:
Yvonne Wallace Blane
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin United States
$86,456 raised of $100,000 goal
 
1,891 donations
$13,544 to go
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