CROW Case of the Week: Burrowing Owl (22-4145)

The burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, land-loving owl that can be found in grasslands, ranges, deserts and agricultural areas in both North America and South America. These brown, wellcamouflaged birds have become rare in many areas due to loss of habitat.
At CROW, an adult burrowing owl was admitted from Cape Coral after being stuck in a glue trap. Veterinarians noted the owl’s primary and secondary wing feathers were covered in glue residue, and the owl was missing some rectrices, which are tail feathers used in flight for steering.
“This burrowing owl was lucky! It is common to see large wounds or even broken bones associated with being stuck in a glue trap but, in this case, x-rays were totally normal and aside from feather damage, there were no large wounds,” said Dr. Melanie Pearson, CROW veterinary medicine intern.
The glue was removed using the oils from chinchilla dust, a dish soap/water mixture, unused mascara wands and natural peanut butter.
“Our fabulous vet staff actually reached out to the glue trap manufacturers, and peanut butter was one of their recommendations for glue removal. The oil in the peanut butter helps to remove the glue,” said Dr. Pearson. “You can work the chinchilla dust into the feathers for a similar effect. The chinchilla dust is also great for getting the feathers off of the glue trap itself, because it coats the trap so the feathers don’t get re-stuck. Finally, a Dawn (dish soap) bath is used at the end to get all the oil and dust off.
“There are many methods to help get all of the glue off, and yes, creativity is definitely key. Patience is also a big component as the de-gluing takes a while. It is usually performed under general anesthesia to decrease patient stress.” The patient’s tail wings are expected to grow back.
“We estimated the owl was missing five of 10 retrices. They can start to regrow by three to four weeks, but they take at least two months to grow back completely.”
After the glue was removed, the owl was moved to CROW’s outdoor burrowing owl enclosure to continue rehabilitation and begin flight conditioning.
“The patient will be assessed for release on a weekly basis. Burrowing owls need to be able to fly low to the ground, swoop quickly and catch fast-moving rodent prey,” said Dr. Pearson. “Once we are confident the patient has this full flight capability, we will schedule a release date.”
Glue traps are considered a cruel method of trapping, especially for animals or birds that wander into them.
“Glue traps are common because they do their job of catching animals very well. They are extremely effective, however, users do not often realize how the traps work,” said Dr. Pearson. “At CROW, we consider them to be inhumane methods of pest control. They trap the animal in place, which causes significant emotional distress as well as destruction of delicate body parts. Feathers and fur can become torn and tattered, and these small animals can be struggling to get out and break bones or get large wounds.
“Additionally, they trap anything that comes across them, not just so-called ‘pests,’ so animals that are not intended frequently become trapped. There are far more humane methods of pest control that can be utilized without causing the degree of destruction that is risked with a glue trap.” 

CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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