The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center caring for bald eagle, hoping for return to the wild

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On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Ramona based The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center Director Ali Crumpacker came into her office with a voicemail from a man saying he had rescued a bald eagle the night before while hiking. Her first reaction was, “We’ll see,” as the Fund for Animals receive many calls and it winds up being a hawk or other raptor. But when the hiker brought the animal in, sure enough, it was a bald eagle.

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Ramona based The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center Director Ali Crumpacker came into her office with a voicemail from a man saying he had rescued a bald eagle the night before while hiking. Her first reaction was, “We’ll see,” as the Fund for Animals receive many calls and it winds up being a hawk or other raptor. But when the hiker brought the animal in, sure enough, it was a bald eagle.

Crumpacker said there are about 10 to 14 bald eagles spotted in San Diego County annually, so to find one on the ground lethargic enough to be wrapped in a coat by a good Samaritan is a pretty awesome story for that individual.

“I’m so glad they knew about us and didn’t delay in contacting us. The eagle came in as early as it could at that point,” she said.

Upon arrival, the eagle was still lethargic, but had no obvious wounds, or no obvious breaks. Fund for Animals did preliminary x-rays and exams onsite, but does not have a staff veterinarian.

“We didn’t want to stress the eagle out by doing full radiographs, which would mean stretching out its wings or drawing blood without anesthetics. What you can’t do without a vet,”

She said it became apparent that in this particular case taking the eagle down to its friends in La Mesa rather than have a vet scheduled to come out here. We do have other vets, but Dr. Cecil is a wildlife bird expert.

Dr. Todd R. Cecil is an Avian + Exotic Medicine specialist at Pet Emergency & Specialty Center, La Mesa. He did full x-rays, ran some blood work with results to be forwarded to Fund for Animals and released the eagle back to the rehabilitation center. It is still unknown what is exactly wrong with the eagle.

“We’ve been ruling things out. We’ve got one more test coming in for West Nile virus, that’s what we are thinking it most likely is,” said Crumpacker. “We ruled out lung infection, parasites, there’s no fractures, there’s no breaks. There is no reason for him to be on the ground. So he should be able to fly, but isn’t thinking about flying and hasn’t had much food. He is an adult breeding male and he’s never been tagged.”

You cannot cure West Nile virus but like with any other virus you treat the symptoms. What they are looking for is neurological impairment and depending on how long it has had the virus. “Really what we need to do is to just getting him eating on his own, gets his strength back and sticking him our flight cage and see what happens. Hopefully he remembers that he’s an eagle and supposed to fly, and he does it, and we’re good,” she said.

Crumpacker said if he starts out flying wonky he might need him to go through physical rehab, re-acclimate on how to use his wings, or he might just not have any interest in flying again. But she said they are optimistic because he did not come in starving, his wings are not ripped apart. The ends of his wings have been on the ground for a couple of days, but they are not shredded. If they were, they would have to wait for a whole molt, which could take about six months. He should be able to fly if his brain still tells him to, she said.

Even though based in Ramona the Fund serves San Diego, San Bernardino, Imperial and Riverside counties. It is one of the few rehabilitation centers that deal with predatory species. “While you can take an opossum to any rehab facility, bears, eagles, bobcats, they’re coming here to us,” she said. “We’ll take any wild animal in for triage, but we will eventually send it to another organization that expertise is with that species. We can’t rehab a rabbit and a fox together. That is the relationship we have with other rehabs. If you have the ability to rehab it, do it, and then get it to where it gets the best chance of rehabilitation.”

Fund for Animals releases all the animals within 10 miles of where they come from. This is the slow time of year for rehab center with only 30 animals in rehabilitation, in its peak months of May and June numbers jump up to around 150 animals at the facility. Crumpacker said in almost every case in is human conflict, whether direct or indirect. 

“Like getting attacked by a dog, that is still considered human conflict,” she said. “We have the occasional, like this, where it has virus, or is sick. But by in large wild animals hide themselves when they are not feeling good. So unless it was hit by a car, dog attack, electrocution, or tangled up in fishing line, we in particular want to find the ones that are having issues because of living here.”

She said fortunately, animals that cannot be rehabilitated are far and few, so it does not want to put an animal into jail, it wants to put it into education. This year Fund for Animals received two red tailed hawk chicks that came from a nest that had to be pulled off an electrical box. They were placed in with hawks their same age that came in for other reasons and perfectly healthy. But when a person walked into the aviary, the two chicks flew down, hopped and chirped to the person.

“They didn’t want to be a hawk. They want to be with people, so we can’t really release them. We found two programs that are educational related and they are becoming education ambassadors teaching people about protecting hawks. They are perfect because they act like they want human interaction,” she said.

Crumpacker said when in doubt, take a picture. If possible make the phone call right then while you are there.

“We have the same problem with people that are biking,” she said. “They’ll pull over and call us and we can’t locate it unless they stay with the animal while we arrange someone to pick it up. If you leave, and that animal moves 10 feet away, their instinct is to hide. Keep your eyes on it until another set of eyes gets there. Make that phone call and talk it through with us.”

Fund for Animals is looking for owners that live near open spaces because it is much easier to coordinate with citizens than the government. It is always looking for release sites since it has to release the animal within 10 miles of where it was found.

“When I get that animal in, I don’t have to go look for a release site for it. We don’t want to hold an animal from release just because we don’t have a place to open the crate,” she said.

Fund for Animals runs only through private donations. No tax dollars are utilized and it does not charge for its services. Contribution can be made online.

“We do not hold events on the property,” she said. “That negates everything we do. It’s a Catch 22 situation because everyone wants to see the animals but seeing the animals negatively impacts the animals. So it’s easier through media.”

Fund for Animals holds an annual event in Poway in January or February. The event is a hike around the lake with the Fund for Animals Wildlife team with wildlife trivia and quizzes along the way. Ticket sales, sponsors and activities at the event raise the needed money to keep the wildlife rehabilitation center running.

Operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The Humane Society of the United Stated, this center treats orphaned or injured wildlife and exotic animals rescued from the exotic pet trade or other acts of cruelty.

To find our more about the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, volunteer opportunities, its operations and needs, or how to donate visit www.humanesociety.org/animal_community/shelters/ffa_wildlife_center.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/. You can call the Center at (760) 789-2324. It is encouraged if you are an avid hiker/biker in the backcountry that you have this number in you phone database in case you run into an injured wild animal.

Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona can also be found on Facebook and Snapchat.

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