Case study: the use of falconry techniques in raptor rehabilitation

Kristin Madden  1,2 and Matthew Mitchell1

1U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region, Migratory Birds Program, Albuquerque, NM, USA.

2Wildlife Rescue Inc. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

ABSTRACT

We predicted that certain falconry techniques would decrease stress and the time required to pre-condition raptors for release. Between 2008 and 2014, we alternated use of traditional rehabilitation procedures with falconry techniques on 45 raptors. Twenty-seven birds were alternately restrained using either a towel or a falconry hood. Results from t-tests showed significant decreases in stress with the use of falconry hoods vs. towels. Twenty-six accipiters and falcons were either held in pet carriers or hooded and perched on falconry blocks. All 14 tethered birds retained excellent feather and cere condition. Of the 12 birds kept in pet carriers, none were in excellent condition and eight showed more than one category of damage. Twentyeight birds were either provided with the traditional cage flight conditioning, flown on a creance, or conditioned through specialized strength building exercises called “Jump-Ups.” An additional three birds were conditioned using a combination of Jump-Ups and creance flight. Cage flight alone required considerably, though not statistically significant, more conditioning time before release in most cases. Creance flight and Jump-Ups were similar in time required for conditioning when used alone. However, a combination of creance and Jump-Ups for three birds required far more time than either method alone.

KEYWORDS: conditioning, creance, falconry, raptors, rehabilitation, wildlife rehabilitation

Call for Comments and Suggestions

Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) and the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) are starting the process of revising the fourth edition of Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation (MSWR). Both organizations wish to get input from as many people as possible—rehabilitators, veterinarians, governing agencies, and others directly involved in the rehabilitation of wildlife.

The primary goal of MSWR is to improve the welfare of wildlife in rehabilitation. We aim to continue to add to and improve upon the information in the book for the benefit of all rehabilitators and the wildlife in their care.

In order to understand the current use of MSWR and then to improve the document as much as we can, we would like your input! You can do this by filling out the Survey Monkey form (specifically, question #4, but please complete the entire survey!) found at:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BRNB92P

Please submit any and all changes or additions you feel should be addressed. All suggestions are reviewed thoroughly and considered seriously. Input can include suggested edits to the current edition, additions or deletions to existing material, or new text suggestions that would add to the foundation of knowledge in this book.

So that we may organize everyone’s input, please follow the format listed below.

For each comment or suggestion, please give:

  • Chapter number and title, and the edition to which you are referring (if applicable)
  • Your input; be as descriptive and complete as possible
  • If applicable, list data, resources, references, and reasons supporting your input

Suggestions and thoughts are welcomed through November 30, 2018, after which time the editors are at work evaluating every comment received and working on the fifth edition.

Thank you for your comments. Your commitment to wildlife in need and to furthering the science and standards of wildlife rehabilitation are greatly appreciated!

Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge: Avian botulism outbreak

Bird Ally X is managing an Avian Botulism outbreak on site at the Tulelake National Wildlife Refuge in Northern California and has an immediate need for volunteers to help care for impacted wildlife. Avian botulism is a strain of botulism that affects wild bird populations, most notably waterfowl and is not contagious. This is an opportunity to learn the foundational skills of wildlife rehabilitation and help care for local wildlife by providing supportive care.

Volunteers duties will include rescue transport, handling patients for exam, preparing food, cleaning & preparing enclosures, washing dishes, laundry, and cage construction.

Volunteer requirements:

• Be sensitive to reducing captive wildlife stress

• Be 18 years of age or older • Be in good health.  People who are immune compromised should not work  directly with animals but are welcome to help with transport. 

• Be able to lift 50 lbs.  

• Must wear closed-toe shoes

• Ability to work as part of a team, be positive, fun & have good work ethic


The working conditions are outside and may involve hard physical labor.  Please bring a water bottle and wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty.

If you’re interested in helping some amazing birds. please email John Fitzroy, USF&W Klamath Basin NWRC Visitor Services Manager, john_fitzroy@fws.gov or January Bill, Wildlife Rehabilitator, Bird Ally X @ jb@birdallyx.net

Intent Not Result—Drives US Migratory Bird Treaty Act Interpretation

Part I (March 2018)

On December 22, 2017, the US Department of the Interior released a new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which does not prohibit incidental take. In addition, the US House of Representatives introduced a bill in November (HR 4239) which similarly removes protections from animals affected by the energy industry (oil spills, turbine issues, etc).

Read more about both initiatives courtesy of the American Bird Conservancy and learn about actions you can take.

Listen to Bye, Bye, Birdies? a 35 min podcast where several experts discuss the MBTA and the changes.

Part II (May 2018)

US rehabilitators may recall the recent reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) that we reported on this Winter. It is no longer the result of an activity, but instead its intent that matters in regards to the MBTA. Stated plainly if birds, eggs, or nests are destroyed by an activity, but the purpose of that activity was not to destroy the birds, eggs, or nests, then the MBTA does not apply.

Wildlife rehabilitators in the US should be aware of this change when speaking to the public about legal interactions with wildlife. Unfortunately, the presence of a nesting bird no longer means it is against the law to take down a building. We can still counsel the public on best practices, and encourage them to act in the animal's interest, but we cannot say the action is illegal if the purpose is not to kill the bird(s). To help wildlife professionals navigate this new interpretation the USFWS has kindly issued a 7-page memorandum.

Additional communications are expected this summer regarding wildlife rehabilitation specific guidance.

In the meantime, IWRC is interested in hearing how this interpretation is affecting the day to day work of US rehabilitators.

Tidbits from board member – Brooke Durham

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.  

I grew up in Eastern Kentucky. When I was about 10 years old my grandfather found a pair of (almost) fledgling Eastern Screech Owl chicks at the family lake house in the spring, when he arrived to get things in order for the upcoming summer. He brought them to me and instructed me to feed them for a few days until they were strong enough to fly into in the forest that surrounded my childhood home. I’ll never forget the sound they made when I opened the box to peek in; that screech seemed to terrify everyone - except me. In a few days’ time, they were off on their own and I was hooked, or “taloned”?

 

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?  

Early in my wildlife rehab volunteer days I joined IWRC so that I could access the reduced fee on their online classes for Pain Management, Wound Management, Fluid Therapy as well as published materials and eventually the Basic Wildlife Rehab Course. IWRC has always exemplified the profession of wildlife rehabilitation to me, and I’m honored to help serve the membership as a board member so that they can access the same resources for the benefit of the animals we serve.

 

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC's mission.

There are certainly members of the board and membership that have more in-depth knowledge of the medical and biological aspects of wildlife rehab than I do. There was a time when I believed those would be my strongest assets in this field, but when the opportunity-task of setting up and administering my own organization presented itself, I set about learning all I could to ensure its success. That determination led me to pursue a comprehensive Nonprofit Management Certificate through the University of San Diego. I’ve learned so very much about the governance of a nonprofit through that program, and combined with my experience as a wildlife rehab volunteer and involvement with unrelated professional organizations as a committee member - I think I come with strong, broad foundation of knowledge to work from.

As for a particular passion; I have experienced so many periods in my wildlife rehab career where I felt isolated and alone, where I saw the obvious effects of inter-agency and even inter-personal failures to communicate and cooperate that left the wildlife patients on the losing end. This, in turn leads to a high rate of rehabber burn-out. I really feel it is my purpose to foster better communication, understanding and cooperation between all involved. It’s all about collaboration!

 

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

My background in art has come in handy when I’m explaining a new enclosure design to my husband. He works in construction so we make a good team.

 

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?  

A difficult choice between sweet, calm but utterly relentless Jane Goodall and charming, wild and equally determined Steve Irwin. Either way – it would be a “wildlife warrior”.

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

Flamingo – the strutting, dancing and the fabulous plumage make this an easy choice for me.

 

What is the thing for which you have waited in line the longest?

1987 University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Midnight Madness when I was about 11 years old. I was a gymnast/cheerleader at the time and while our moms held our place in line a group of my friends and I found a patch of grass to tumble and stunt to occupy the hours of time in line. While tumbling I (just slightly) dislocated my elbow, but when I felt it and grabbed my arm, I popped it right back into place. Nonetheless - we went to ER got an x-ray, ice pack and a sling and got back in line in time to enter and enjoy the night. A close 2nd would be standing 1st in line for Janet Jackson concert tickets.

 

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

Any wildlife “release day”, though it’s usually an even mix of anxiety and excitement.

 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

English Bulldog – Krystal

French Bulldog – Romeo

A blind French Bulldog/Boston Terrier (puppy mill rescue) – Poppy

2 Goats – Luke & Sombra + an assortment of chickens & domestic ducks

California Desert Tortoise – Jean-Louis Agassiz

About 50 Koi + 10 Red-eared Slider turtles

Umbrella Cockatoo who has refused all names we’ve offered except for “Cockatoo”

European Starling – Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)

Yellow-naped Amazon (parrot) – Slider

Lilac-crowned Amazon (parrot) – Hilo

Green-cheeked Amazon (parrot) – Cali

2 Red-masked Conure (parakeets) – Nene & Conner

2 Blind Green-cheeked Amazon (parrots) – Justice & Stevie (because: Justice is blind, and Stevie Wonder)

 

Also, our rehab facility is on my home property so at any given time there could be just about any kind of animal - in any kind of crate - in any room or area of the house. Neonate baby birds in portable brooders go on the nightstand beside my bed so that I can monitor them during the night and administer their first hydration in the early morning. I literally live in a zoo.

 

Tidbits from board member – Suzanne Pugh

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.  

As a child there were so many stories and story books my mom shared with me, Tarka the Otter, Watership Down, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, not to mention the bedtime stories my mother made up! However, there was a brilliant service hosted by the British Post Office, that cemented my love of animals. It was a weekly children's bedtime story read by Johnny Morris, a television and radio presenter for the BBC and a great story teller. Morris narrated many animal related stories including Tales of the Riverbank – about an assorted collection of animal friends and each week a different animal story could only be heard by telephone. I loved sitting with my mom, dad and sister each Sunday night waiting for the time to dial “150” and listening to these exciting tales.

 

Suzanne and Darren at Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii, 2017.

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?  

Back in 2004 I was volunteering on a committee to investigate the potential for a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Kelowna, BC. I became aware of IWRC through this network and subsequently attended a Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation course. Since then I have remained an IWRC member since that time and in the following years attended conferences and completed additional training workshops through IWRC.  I went on to lead the BC SPCA Kelowna animal shelter for 5 years, where wildlife intake rose year on year and aware of the limited resources available for wildlife, I was driven to join the board of directors to further the cause.

 

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC's mission.

Avian – So few resources are available for the care, rehabilitation and release of wild birds and public education and awareness is key particularly to support the issues faced during baby bird season. More skilled professionals are required who are proficient in identifying species to provide triage and treatment to injured birds, who are candidates for rehab and release.

 

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

During my time as Branch Manager, BC SPCA Kelowna, I was responsible for the health and welfare of almost 8000 animals – farm, domestic and wildlife. I remain immensely proud of this work.

 

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?  

So many –Sir David Attenborough leaps to mind but if I had to choose just one it would be The Dalai Lama. He once said something that rings true for me for all sentient beings - “Our prime purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

 

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?   

Without a doubt it would be animal related. I enjoy working closely with people and animals and would like to help bridge gaps to improve welfare for working animals around the globe, particularly donkeys, to support efforts to help communities who rely on these animals as a mode of transport and to provide resources to raise donkey welfare standards, in turn supporting the owner’s livelihood. Alternatively, I would like to support communities who rely on livestock within wildlife habitats, to collaborate on solutions to reducing wildlife conflict and finding ways to co-exist.

 

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

An Orangutan

 

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

Daisy and Ted

My husband and I are guardians to 2 Labrador dogs. Both are adopted and are both on their 3rd and permanent home with us. Daisy, a black lab, is now 15+ years and Ted our chocolate lab is 10yrs, going on 2! Daisy has been with us since she was 18 months and has hiked, biked and camped across North America. She has always amazed us, whenever we reached the top of a mountain during a hike she would appear to sit at the top and gaze intently out across the vista. Daisy is now relaxing in her senior years. However, for Ted, every day he wakes - life is one big party! He brings lots of fun to our household, we have many “Ted-ventures” and we wouldn’t change either of them for the world.

2018 Board Changes

IWRC's annual board and officer elections are complete. Breakdown of the results:

 

Member Election Results

Lloyd Brown (reelected)

Brooke Durham *new board member

Laurin Huse (reelected)

Board Appointed Individuals

Shathi Govender *new board member

Adam Grogan (reelected)

Suzanne Pugh *new board member

Officer Positions

Mandy Kamps is our newly elected vice-president.

Adam Grogan has moved from his previous post as vice-president to president-elect.

Our other officer positions remain the same as 2017 with Sue Wylie - president, Kristen Heitman - secretary, Dani Nicholson - treasurer.

 

Meet all our 2018 full board of directors

Feathers, Native Culture, and Rehabilitation

 

By Katie McInnis DVM

As wildlife rehabilitators we all know the value of feathers to birds. Thermoregulation, communication, and mobility are just a few ways birds utilize their feathers. But what about when a bird no longer needs those feathers? What purpose can they serve? For some, imping is an excellent use of feathers, as is utilizing them for research or educational purposes. While these options have great merit, most feathers that end up being saved are eagle feathers, in the US the majority of which end up at the National Eagle Repository.

Variegated eagle feather

The National Eagle Repository is a government sanctioned collection site for both bald and golden eagle carcasses and feathers. With the inception of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other wildlife protection laws, US Native Americans lost the right to possess and utilize feathers that they required for important cultural and religious purposes. For decades USFWS tried to come up with solutions, but even with the establishment of the National Eagle Repository the process of just getting a single feather was slow and laborious. In 1990 the Pueblo of Zuni made a bold but sensible proposition. Wildlife rehabilitators were often faced with the challenge of what to do with non-releasable eagles. The Zuni proposed the creation of a long term care facility where the birds could live out their lives, well cared for, while providing molted feathers to native people. With the institution of the Native American Eagle Aviary Permit, native communities were able to benefit not only from molted feathers, but from the pride and satisfaction of caring for eagles that still have a good quality of life despite having disabilities that make them unreleasable.

In Perkins, Oklahoma Megan Judkins spends many hours working with eagles and their feathers. Megan works at the Grey Snow Eagle House, a rehabilitation and long term care facility for eagles that is run by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. While their primary focus is caring for their eagle population, they also rehabilitate eagles from Oklahoma, provide educational programs, and are working in collaboration with Oklahoma State on genomic research of bald and golden eagles. Although these things keep them busy, their main focus is the health and well being of the eagles. Eagles are screened carefully before being allowed to enter long term care, and once in the program they are given bi-annual veterinary exams, multiple forms of enrichment and are carefully monitored to ensure they have the best quality of life possible.

Megan says that while many people think Grey Snow Eagle House (GSEH) opened specifically to provide feathers for the Iowa Nation this is actually a misconception. “The GSEH opened because while eagles play pivotal roles in all Native cultures, for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma the eagle is viewed as the only living creature that has seen the face of the creator. The eagle also assists the tribal members by carrying their prayers to the creator. So, by rehabilitating injured eagles and releasing them back into the wild, the tribe believes that these birds will continue to help their tribal members by carrying their prayers. In addition, by providing high quality homes to the eagles that cannot be released back to the wild, the tribe is saying thank you to the species for helping the tribe through the generations. Finally, by participating in research collaborations, we are ensuring bald and golden eagles persist through future generations.”

To learn more about the Grey Snow Eagle House you can visit their website here: http://eagles.iowanation.org/ But why visit online when you can visit in person! Grey Snow Eagle House will be hosting the IWRC Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation Class December 1-2, 2017. There are still a few spots available so sign up today!

Tidbits from board member Brenda Harms

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.  

My mother always tried to save the birds our cat caught (this was back in the stone age).  She’d feed them white bread soaked in milk and keep them in a shoebox (well, at least she got the shoebox right!).  Not a single one ever survived and she cried every time one would die.  I learned from her that humans are responsible for the creatures in our midst, and we need to try our hardest to do right by them.  My mother would have become a wildlife rehabber if the opportunity had been available and then, perhaps, some of those birds would have survived.   

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?  

I’ve always been involved with the nonprofits in the town I live in.  Once my children got older, I became interested in learning more about nonprofit governance and fundraising and even took some fundraising classes.  When my teenage daughter saw a Dawn commercial that featured Tri State Bird Rescue, I found myself traveling to Delaware with her to take Tri State’s oiled bird course.  It was there that I first met people who were wildlife rehabbers.  An internet search led me to IWRC’s Virginia Beach Symposium in 2009.  At a symposium roundtable, I shared my desire to combine my law degree and interests in nonprofits with my love for wildlife, and before I could say “Jack Rabbit,” I was on the board.  I became Secretary of the board the following year.  My seven years on the board have been immensely fulfilling.

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

Volunteering at our local rehabilitation hospital, I’ve discovered that very few people know how to defrost a refrigerator/freezer quickly and thoroughly.

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?  

I’d love to be mentored by Dr. Jane Goodall for the sole purpose of learning how to be so brave.   Her leap from vision to execution and on to perseverance fills me with awe.  

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?   

I’m the only board member who isn’t a wildlife rehabber (I’m a lawyer), so I hope that one day I’ll actually become one.  

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

Oh, I’d have to be an Osprey.  Watching them and wanting to protect them was the reason I became involved with wildlife preservation in the first place. I’d summer in New England and winter in Rio!

Tidbits from board member Adam Grogan

Please share an early/childhood experience that was pivotal to your personal relationship to wildlife.

I remember we used to find hedgehogs in the garden at our south London home, as well as one particular experience of finding a baby bird on the pavement when coming home from school. I must have been about 7 years old and not knowing any better took it home. Unfortunately, it died the next day.

How did you initially become involved with IWRC and why did you choose to become involved on a board level?

 

I attended a conference in 2001 in Florida and became hooked. I couldn’t attend the IWRC meeting every year but came whenever I could. I got involved with the Board because I was interested in training and working towards having agreed standards in wildlife rehabilitation across the globe.

Describe a specific area of interest or a particular passion within the scope of IWRC's mission.

The training is the area I am most interested in. I have seen so many examples of bad welfare in rehabilitation, and I think that having agreed-upon standards and trainings are the best ways to address these issues.

Describe a skill that you have that has been surprisingly useful to your work as a wildlife rehabilitator? (or as an IWRC board member?)

I have participated in many projects involving the radio tracking of mammals and this is a skill that is not often used by the rehabilitation community. Again, it is one of my passions to have more rehabilitators work towards a better understanding of the animals they rehabilitate by monitoring them after release, and radio tracking is one way of doing that.

Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

Achieving my current position as Head of Wildlife at the RSPCA would definitely rank highly here.

If you could choose, who would you have as a mentor?

I was lucky to have Dr. David Macdonald as a mentor when I was working with his research unit in Oxford. If I was to choose another, then I would choose Dr. Jane Goodall.

If you were to do something else professionally, what would it be?

I would still like to work outside, but if not wildlife orientated, perhaps a ranger or something similar?

If you could be a wild animal, which would you be?

Otter

What is the thing for which you have waited the longest in line for?

I honestly can’t remember!

What excites you so much that it keeps you awake the night before?

Traveling, especially flying!

Describe any companion animals that you share your home and life with.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any companion animals with me at home, but I do get my dog fix in the office. Our office has a dog friendly policy, and there are a number of dogs that I see regularly, including a beautiful Irish setter called Bridie. She was rescued from awful conditions by the RSPCA and has now been re-homed by one of my colleagues. She is very photogenic and has a wonderful temperament!