After 17 years of caring for injured animals at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, Dr. Helene Van Doninck hasn’t had any repeat patients.
Until an eagle checked in for a second stay.
“He was banded so I got the number and looked through my records, and I remembered him right away,” said Van Doninck. “It was quite a surprise to get him back. Since he was released in the summer, he found lead and got into an oily substance.”
The eagle’s first visit to the centre was in March 2017, after he was found in distress on someone’s lawn in Cape Breton. He was unable to stand for several days and blood in his mouth suggested internal injuries, but X-rays showed no breaks. Although there was lead in his system, levels weren’t high. After four months at the centre he was doing well and was returned to Cape Breton for release.
In December he was discovered at the Guysborough landfill, thin, unable to fly and coated in rancid oil. He tested positive for lead again, but levels were low. He was X-rayed while awake because his body condition made it too risky to use anesthetic and, again, there were no breaks.
“If they’re in poor condition we use a syringe and give them pureed food at first,” said Van Doninck. “They usually fight it but after the first feeding, he was opening his mouth for food. He remembered it from his first visit.”
He is currently in an eagle box in the heated nursery. Because oiled birds cannot thermo-regulate he would die of hypothermia if left outside in his current state, and he cannot be washed until he is stronger. He does have a very good appetite, which should help him recover quickly.
The CWRC recently purchased a $600 set of lead tests to monitor eagles with lead poisoning, so the bird will be tested again to make sure his levels are dropping.
Once he is stronger and the oil has been removed the bird will be able to join other eagles in the flyway until he’s ready for release.
“Unfortunately, some people are still using lead ammunition and we get a lot of eagles with lead poisoning right after the big game hunting season,” said Van Doninck. “We have eight eagles now but a couple, who are mature, will be able to be released early in the new year.”
Other residents at the CWRC include owls, a snapping turtle hit by a car, a merlin, gull, songbirds, ducks and mourning doves. There is also a purple gallinule, a bird of southern and tropical wetlands, which appeared in the area after the hurricane activity in the south.
More than 400 animals received care at the centre during 2017.
Helping the cause
Caring for injured, ill and orphaned wildlife requires medication, repairs to enclosures, and a lot of food so fundraising is necessary. The CWRC currently has an online fundraiser, with stories about some of the patients, at https://fundrazr.com/81HM6f?ref=ab_b6sg3f_ab_6TNAxrcRpQn6TNAxrcRpQn .
Although the $10,000 goal has been met, every extra dollar helps the centre care for more animals. The centre is a registered charity and tax receipts are issued.
Calendars, featuring beautiful photos of animals who received care at the CWRC, are also for sale. They can be purchased at local animal hospitals, the Clay Café and at the centre.