Rehabilitation Stories

Our first toad was admitted this year, slit with surgical precision from ankle to mid-thigh and the little foot was dislocated. All the muscle and bone was exposed, the little thing looked much like a dissection project for Biology Class. (We suspect the injury was caused by a cat or perhaps a weed-whip.) The injury was so drastic that we didn't have much hope that we'd be able to fix the leg, but decided that we should at least try. With the help of Dr. John Shuler at Horizon Animal Hospital, we were able to get the foot back in place. Then, using surgical tissue glue, Dr. Shuler carefully fastened the skin edges back together and the toad was given antibiotics to combat infection. Back in the clinic, the toad refused to eat anything we offered him. We decided that even though the leg was very swollen, we would release him and hope for the best. So, we took him back to the perennial garden where he lived and released him. Imagine our pleasure and surprise when we got a call a month later to say that the property owner had seen the toad, his leg was functioning and he was fine! She'd been checking every toad she saw, looking for one with a big scar on its leg and finally hit the jackpot!

We had two admissions due to leghold trap injuries. A fellow was out fishing and a little 3 month old red fox came thrashing through the weeds with a leghold trap stuck on its front leg, right at the "wrist". He took off the trap and brought the poor beast to us. The trap had broken the bones so badly that the foot was nearly severed, swollen 4 times its normal size and obviously dead. This little guy had been through so much and had so much heart and will to live that we opted to amputate the foot instead of euthanizing. The surgery went well and, although saddened by the fact that he would be crippled, we were optimisitic about his chances. However, due to the trauma and stress, his immune system was compromised. He developed distemper and there was nothing more we could do for him. One of those heartbreaking things that happen too often.....

The second trap admission had a happier ending. One of our volunteers got a call about a gray squirrel with a trap on it who was stuck in a tree. She went out to find an adult squirrel with a leghold trap on its back foot. The trap had a chain on it (the whole contraption weighed nearly as much as the squirrel!) and when the squirrel went up the tree the chain became entangled in the branches. Our intrepid volunteer got a ladder and managed to untangle the squirrel and get him and herself down from the tree safely. Luckily for this guy he was found soon after he got caught in the trap and it had only grabbed him by a couple of toes. We treated him for shock, swelling and minor abrasions and he was released within the week.

Neither of these animals should have gone through what they did. Both traps were illegal in that they were not fastened securely in place and neither on of them had a name tag on it as required by law.

I am surprised each year by the fact that we continue to get in species that we have never dealt with before. This year we got in two nests of baby birds (3 in one and 2 in another) on 2 successive days. Both nests had come from dense bushes that were cut down. Normally, when a nest falls we have the people replace it but in these cases there was nowhere to put the nest! (Unfortunately, this kind of habitat loss is a leading cause for admissions at wildlife rehabilitation centers.) We weren't at all sure what kind of little birds we were dealing with, they still had no feathers and the general look of them and their voices were unfamiliar.

As they grew we realized that they were Catbird babies! We joined them into one group while they were in their "nest" in the clinic, feeding them a special diet do they would grow up healthy. When they began to try their wings we moved them outdoors into the songbird aviary. Once they were flying they divided themselves back into the two original families again! Even though they had been raised together they seemed to realize that they weren't "family"! Upon release all hung around the area for about 3 weeks, coming back and forth from the woods and bushes for feedings while they learned to forage for themselves and be independent. When last seen they were all thriving. They were beautiful little things and everyone here enjoyed the opportunity to work with them!

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