CROW Case of the Week: Partnerships and Friendships

A partnership between wildlife centers is an important and vital relationship when it comes to the caring of injured animals. Critters and birds – like humans – can become depressed or anxious when they are alone during the course of medical care. A support system can make quite the difference, especially for a juvenile animal. 

At CROW, medical officials reach out to neighboring clinics when a “client” needs a friend. 

“Having a friend can completely change the outcome of an infant’s care,” said Breanna Frankel, CROW’s rehabilitation manager. “Sometimes, they can become depressed in care without a buddy, which is the reason we will bring transfers in from other clinics to help. We also use stuffed animals with beating hearts when a transfer is not available. Animals that are alone, depressed, or anxious do not eat or thrive as well as those with friends.” Frankel stated that this partnership happens “at least once a month, sometimes as much as two to three times a month.” The alliance is a t wo-way street. 

“We work with other clinics in the area to take in or send out animals for continued care. We have a very good working relationship with nearby clinics and are able to use that to our patients’ benefit,” she said. 

Frankel listed other examples that CROW would use when reaching out to wildlife centers... and vice versa. “Sometimes, other centers are completely swamped with patients and don’t have enough manpower, so they transfer some patients to CROW and likewise if we ever get overwhelmed. Some species require very delicate care and certain centers might have a volunteer or staff member that has more experience with that specific species,” she said. “Another example is when we have babies that have been raised by people and are habituated – the best thing we can do is unite them with a foster mom/dad of the same species to teach them that they are not humans and how to be successful animals.” 

On June 28, CROW admitted a nestling black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) from Matlacha after the bird was reported to have fallen from its nest. After the initial exam yielded no medical complications, veterinarians later discovered the bird was favoring its right leg. A closer examination showed that the heron had a small laceration and a luxated (dislocated) stifle joint, comparable to the knee.

Dr. Lela Larned, CROW veterinary intern, explained the medical care the patient received: “The first step was to visualize and diagnose the dislocation using radiographs. While still under anesthesia, the veterinary team was able to replace the joint using enough force to manipulate the joint into a functional position without creating more damage, similar to replacing a dislocated hip or shoulder in a human,” she said. “In another anesthesia session, we performed a surgery to address the deep laceration the heron had near the same area. The heron was also treated with antibiotics and vitamin injections for infection and anemia, respectively, which were likely a result of the laceration.” Once the injury had healed, veterinarians cleared it to have a friend.

Officials at Peace River Wildlife Center were able to transfer a yellow-crowned night heron chick that was a similar age and weight to the CROW patient. “Without these partnerships, we would not be as successful with certain cases,” said Frankel. “There are many different reasons we transfer patients in or out and, if we did not have such good working relationships with fellow clinics, our patients would not get the best care that they deserve. We strive to offer everything a patient could ever need, but sometimes that is not possible without the help of other wildlife rehabilitation centers.”

The young night herons will be raised together until they are old enough to be released. “Both heron babies will stay at CROW until they have proved they can survive in the wild. They both must be able to hunt live fish, find enough food to survive and show appropriate flight abilities. They will go through live prey testing and flight testing over the course of the next month to develop these skills,” said Frankel. “Once they are ready for release, they will be released together in a suitable habitat that commonly sees both yellow-crowned and black-crowned night herons.”


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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