Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mr. Audubon, The Turkey Vulture Capture

There are times when just a tiny bit of faith is all you have to hold onto.

It is a part of the beauty and meaning hidden in the tiny details of life.

If you forget to savor every second of life, and you get bogged down in the turmoil that mysteriously finds you even when you are just trying to keep busying staying afloat, then the days fly by and the years slip away. Seems when you need a few more minutes in the day you cannot find them, or they are stolen by the unexpected mishaps, like your car breaks down, your clients are especially needy, (and sometimes nasty), or you find that you have a turkey vulture in your barn that you thought was just loitering, but turns out has a broken wing and can't leave.
Yesterday was the day of a broken down car. “OK, honey I will pick you up at your co-workers tonight.”  (Minus the cost of one new fuel pump from the budget, yippee!).

And, “Why do I have to pay for a urinalysis? No one told me I had to pay for it!” The client phone conversation I had yesterday after her diabetic cat came in for lethargy. ‘Really? Did you think I was going to pay for your cat’s urinalysis?’ Was what I wanted to reply to her nasty yelling tantrum call (I didn’t, well only to you guys, not to her).

I informed my husband that we had a wild bird in need of help two days ago. He initially seemed flattered to be asked to help me save something, but when he questioned me on exactly "What kind of wild bird needed help?" and I had to confess that it was a "turkey vulture." He replied, "Oh, it’s just a buzzard, leave it alone, they stink."

"Honey, it has a broken wing, it is starving, and since when do you get to decide which species are worth saving, and which are not?"

He should know me well enough by now to know that I am going to help something regardless of whether he assists me or not. I’m not going to beg or argue with him. I’ll do it myself, get hurt, remind him it is his fault, and then coerce him into helping me. (So much faster to just say ‘OK’).

He gave up, and realized I was going to catch that big, bald, ugly bird with or without his help.

And so the plan was set;

· Get up early.

· Catch big, ugly, bald, bird. Safely.

· Send bird to be dropped off at BF Jane's practice, (with her consent and permission).

· Feel good about doing the right thing, and hope Jane doesn't ask me to take him back home for rehab care (because he is really ugly and stinky).

And so the day started with a slow wake up. There's no rush outside to capture a turkey vulture in an old uneven-footing, rusty nailed obstacle course. You need to wait for the sun to rise, so you can rodeo-capture a big stinky hissing bird.

As with every veterinary venture my husband and I partake in it is 75% preparation, 25% arguing, and 99% "he does it his way" regardless. It seems I am not an expert at anything he assists with. I promise you he has never caught a bird in his life, but ask to help you and he is Mr. Audubon.

The broken winged bird was corralled easily once I got my husband to slow his sheet-yielding terrorizing advance to a slow crawl.

In almost all cases of animal capture it is important to understand that animals have a 'flight distance'. This is the radius that as you approach they start to walk away. If you approach too fast and get too close they will run in the opposite direction. The objective of animal capture is always to be calm, careful, and not to hurt yourself or the animal you are after. This can often be dangerous as some animals will try to kill themselves in an effort to escape.

Often the biggest mistakes people make in attempting to capture an animal is that they go too fast and move too erratically.

For the turkey vulture we had to create a wide low barely detectable screen with sheets and approach slowly enough to be able to place the sheet over him without scaring him into trying to fly away, and/or further injuring himself.

We approached very slowly, (after multiple rapid approaches from self-proclaimed avian expert, who was hissed and squawked at) and eventually that vulture was at my feet and sitting still enough for me to drop the sheet on him.

The sheet was slowly and gently draped over his wings, being careful to hold the wings to their body and then wrapped around him to bundle him into a safely portable package. Into a laundry bag he went and it was loosely and firmly tied shut. Animals feel safer and will not injure themselves if they are in a dark quiet containment area.

A bird will try to fly and beat its wings against any object to try to free itself. Be gentle, be careful, and keep the wings safely tucked into their body and shield the talons and beak from any objects they can reach for, your body included.

For transport we placed the laundry sack in a cat carrier and secured it closed.

I then sent my husband to my dear friends’ clinic as she is very experienced in avian care.

I did remind him to "not open that carrier no matter what noise that bird made."

I got a call last night to update me on my birds condition. It seems he is a young (6-8 months old) and most likely he broke his wing up by the shoulder months ago. Apparently those young birds aren’t very proficient flyers so often they crash and brake bones. Because the brake is so old and has already healed it will be left alone and he will be sent to a rescue rehabilitation center. If he can’t be taught to fly and be released he will stay at the rehab facility to help educate students and the public.

I am very grateful to the highly skilled and dedicated staff at Fallston Vet in Fallston MD. And I am grateful he will be in a safe place that can take care of him and my husband for helping trap and transport our vulture.

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