This is a really incredible video that one of our former interns named Christine Dwyer made about the Center while she worked here. It’s especially amazing because she didn’t get any help from us, she did it on her own and then showed us afterwards. Quite a talent!
Recently we had a cedar waxwing come to us with no particularly terrible condition other than the fact that he was cold. Many cedar waxwings migrate south for the winter, although like most species of songbirds there is always a small percent that choose to stay behind. They are specialized fruit eating birds, and even during the winter they can find sugary food primarily in the form of juniper berries. Despite the fact that winter is survivable for these birds, it is still not particularly pleasant. The cold is just as unfortunate for a bird as it is for us
Unlike most of the other cedar waxwings that try to stay warm in their nests, this little bird had a plan. A local woman woke up one morning to find that he had taken up residence inside of her car. It was enclosed, warmer than the outside, and sheltered from wind. She tried to get him to leave, but when he refused she fed him and gave him water instead. It seemed impractical to have the bird live out the winter in her car however, so she brought him to us, where he will be able to stay even warmer until we release him for the early spring.
Here he gets free food and a warm bed, so I guess he outsmarted the ones who decided to fly all the way down South!
Baby season is coming, and we are getting prepared here at NEWC! Last season Vicki Croke from WBUR did a piece on our Center and the beginning of the wildlife baby boom, here is the video if you’re interested in hearing more about this time of year from a wildlife veterinarian’s perspective.
Today New England Wildlife Center staff worked with our volunteer audio engineers and webmaster to create an animated version of “A guide Dog: NEWC’s manual to creating a successful online presence for dog shelters”. It is our goal to share with dog shelters and other small nonprofits our steps and miss steps in developing a successful virtual presence. The audio slide presentation of “The Guide Dog” will be available online at the Center’s website, newildlife.org at the end of March. For more information, or for a hard copy of the manual, please contact Katrina at 781-682-4878 x 122.
The image in this post is of a bearded dragon’s feces sample that is being examined under a microscope. The objects that are in focus are not normal. They are crystals that are formed when salt and sugar are precipitated out of the feces sample due to a lack of water, and are an indicator of dehydration.
A second noticeable issue that arises from dehydration is the occurrence of stones in the urine. Urine is the body’s way of getting rid of harmful nitrogenous waste that is a normal byproduct of the body’s everyday functions. Normally, it has quite a lot of water in it, as that dissolves the nitrogenous material and safely carries it out of the body. Reptiles that are dehydrated, however, can’t spare the extra water to produce normal urine. The body keeps as much water as possible, and as a result solid material precipitates out of the urine and forms small stones.
Sometimes, in severe cases, the stones can become large enough to actually block the opening of the cloaca, which is the point at which all waste leaves the bodies of reptiles. This can lead to many other problems.
Reptile hydration is extremely important, and can often be neglected by well-meaning pet owners. It is a good idea to soak your reptiles in warm water baths regularly to help them remain healthy.
This is a snowy owl that was recently admitted to our center. She came in with one of the more difficult conditions to handle, which is a simple general weakness, lack of appetite, and poor engagement with her surroundings. While none of these symptoms are immediately life-threatening, they are difficult due to the massive number of problems that cause them. An animal that has general weakness and loss of appetite could be suffering anything from an equivalent of the common cold for their species to a brain tumor.
Fortunately, our veterinary team has a host of diagnostic tools at their disposal for cases just like this. After a basic round of X-rays and bloodwork, it became clear that the owl was almost certainly in the grips of an infection. She was proscribed fluids, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, plenty of rest, and a force-fed diet of mice. After a few days of this, she was visibly improved. She has begun to eat on her own, and has more energy.
We are going to continue the current treatment until she improves to an acceptable level for release. Her subsequent reintroduction to the wild will be mediated with the assistance of experts in owl care that we are currently in contact with. For now, we’re just glad that she’s looking better than when she first arrived.
Kayla Spitz is an amazing young women who recently helped out us incredibly. She just had her Bat Mitzvah, and instead of enjoying all of the presents that are traditionally gifted during the celebration she decided to do something charitable instead. Kayla let everyone know that instead of gifts for her, she wanted them to bring gifts that could be donated to NEWC. After the Bat Mitzvah ended, she brought over all these presents she received and gave them right to us. This is going to be amazing for all of the wildlife that we keep over the winter. We now have to worry much less about supplies for feeding and cleaning them. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Kayla, may you always be such a wonderful person!
The first thing that happens when an animal comes into our hospital is a diagnosis. You can’t treat something without a basic idea of what’s wrong with it, in fact many treatments can do more harm than good if given in the wrong situation. Even if the diagnosis isn’t complete at first, the veterinarian tries to identify what about the animal is normal and what is not in order to get a starting point for a care plan.
When trying to find out what is wrong with an animal, the first thing to do is observe how they act before they are picked up and handled. Seeing how an animal acts when it is still inside whatever case or cage it was brought in can be very enlightening. For example, whether an animal is lying down, crouching, leaning abnormally on some part of its body, or standing straight without difficulty are all important signs to note. Once an animal has been grabbed and is being handled, the stress can cause signs like labored breathing and difficulty walking even in animals that normally wouldn’t exhibit these problems.
When performing a physical exam on an animal, it is important to have a ritual. That means that the exam is performed the same way every time, although allowances are of course made for different species having different shapes and body parts. This helps make sure that no area is missed, as jumping around from body part to body part without a defined pattern can lead to small areas being missed or forgotten. Physical exams can tell quite a lot about an animal, and many of our diagnoses are made at this point and only need confirmation later on. For example, a bird that can’t fly and has difficulty balancing with visible swelling around the head likely suffered a concussion from an in-flight collision. More work would be needed to confirm this diagnosis, but it is generally readily visible and a treatment plan can be started immediately.
The two most common means of following up on a physical exam in our hospital are X-rays and bloodwork. X-rays mostly show us the bone structure of an animal, and can be used to diagnose small fractures or find foreign materials such as small bullets that have lodged in the animal or objects that were eaten and can’t pass through the digestive system. Bloodwork is a general term for a large array of techniques used to analyze an animals blood. This can tell us if the animal is dehydrated, if they have an active infection, or if they have significant inflammation. Some other follow-up techniques that require an outside laboratory are feces analysis and blood toxicology. Feces analysis mostly finds parasites, while blood toxicology is just more in-depth blood work that can identify specific bacteria or viruses that have infected the animal, toxins like lead that the animal has come in contact with, and various other specific pieces of information.
These are generally the tools we use to diagnose animals and prepare them for a comprehensive, efficient, and effective treatment plan.
This is a good week for swans! The mute swan that came to us with a fishing hook in his beak has, happily, been released. He made a complete recovery after just a few days and was put back to where he was originally found this weekend. Another mute swan we have right now came in weak with malnutrition, and he has been doing excellently. We plan to release him this Wednesday, a few days after the end of his treatment course so that we can make sure he is really eating fine on his own and is firmly back in good condition.
Malnutrition is a common affliction among the wildlife that comes to us at the Center. It is so ubiquitous because it is a generic symptom for many different problems. An animal will suffer from malnutrition if it is not absorbing the essential nutrients that it needs to survive. These nutrients are normally derived from the animal’s diet, and so predictable the main reason that animals are malnourished is that they are not eating a sufficient amount of food. This is commonly due to a bacterial or viral infection weakening them to the point that they are unable to find food, due to toxicity from some kind of poison or heavy metal, or due to an injury that limits their mobility.
An animal can be eating immense amounts of food and still be malnourished however. This is less common, but usually a result of parasites or intestinal damage. Parasites can infest an animal and leech away the nutrients from the food that it eats, so that no matter how hungry it is and how much the animal consumes it will still slowly starve. Intestinal damage has similar affects, and results most commonly from toxicity or infection. For example, when an animal has lead poisoning its villi can be permanently damaged. Villi are the small structures on the surface of the intestinal walls that actually absorb nutrients from the food animals consume. When they are damaged, no matter how much food passes through the animal cannot extract the nutrients it needs.
Fortunately, our mute swan did not have any permanent damage. After having his diet supplemented with specially formulated food for nutritionally deficient patients and receiving supplemental vitamin injections for a few weeks, he is eating normally and back to good body condition. His release on Wednesday will be an exciting event for us all.
Recently we had a Red-tailed Hawk come to us dehydrated, with a pronounced right wingdroop, and likely with a concussion. After doing wildlife medicine for awhile, there are some things you start to look for in certain types of cases. When we get a bird with the symptoms of a concussion or some other not easily visible injury preventing them from flying, it is very likely that they struck something while in flight. Often this can lead to easily treatable bruising and inflammation, although it does sometimes leave the bird with fractures or internal bleeding.
In order to get a better idea of what we were dealing with, the next step was to use more advanced diagnostic tools than a physical exam. First on the list was an X-ray, in order to search for a cause behind the wingdroop. The hawk’s X-rays all came back normal, with no signs of any broken bones or other issues. This couldn’t rule out a potential infection however, and so we still needed to draw blood and analyse it. This test, however, also came back normal, and so Dr. Adamski proscribed anti-inflammatory medicine for the concussion and likely inflammation of the wing, and had the wing wrapped to the hawk’s body in a tight bandage to prevent it from moving around too much.
After two weeks of treatment, his neurologic symptoms had subsided and his wingdroop was gone. As he showed no other signs of illness or injury and had been eating normally, we took him outside of the Center for a basic flight test. It is important when releasing birds to make sure that they are able to achieve both vertical and horizontal lift, meaning they can fly both horizontally and vertically in relation to the ground. When one of our interns released him from the towel he had been wrapped in, he shot off into the air and flew immediately to a perch on a nearby tree. Having thus proven his ability to gain altitude and sustain flight, we left him to fly off into the distance. Here is a video of his initial release and flight test.
This is a common snapping turtle that came to us with fractured lower and upper jaws after being hit by a car. Surgery on a snapping turtle can be difficult, because our preferred method of anesthesia, Isoflurane, requires the animal to breath it in to be effective. Snapping turtles, living underwater, can hold their breath for almost an hour at a time, and when we are holding a mask to his face trying to get him to breath the strangely smelling anesthesia solution he doesn’t particularly want to take a breath. Fortunately, we were able to intubate him. This means that we inserted a flexible plastic tube into his trachea, and then we pumped the Isoflurane directly into his lungs.
Dr. Adamski was able to successfully set his jaw using metal wires, surgical glue, and Play-doh. The Play-doh, while slightly unorthodox, works incredibly well to hold the wires in place around the jaw while the glue is drying. Reptile bones generally take between 4 and 6 months to heal, so we are hopeful that by the end of the winter he will be well on his way to recovery.
The next obvious problem was that to heal, he needed plenty of food, and to get food, he needed to hunt and eat fish. That was going to be difficult for him with a fractured and surgically splinted jaw, so we came up with a different approach. Dr. Adamski cut open the turtle’s neck and cut into his esophagus. He then inserted a red rubber tube, similar to the one used to intubate the turtle, into his esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach, allowing food to travel down after being swallowed. By putting a tube directly into the esophagus, we managed to skip the mouth phase of eating, and move the food directly into his stomach. He is fed blended fish, and when the tube is not in use it is secured to his back to it is not moving around and is out of his way.
Today it is our pleasure to bring you something a little different, which was thought up by one of our interns, Makoto Yamamoto. Makoto is from Kyoto, Japan and is studying biology and drama at Tufts University. We welcomed him as an intern at the beginning of May. Makoto really enjoys his time at the center, describing it as “I am extremely proud to say that my first exposure to the field of veterinary medicine was through NEWC, and I recommend this internship without any hesitation”
Makoto attends a miming club at Tufts and has been practicing his skills for some time now. Once he shared this talent with us and came up with the idea to mime a “Raccoon Feeding” we knew we had something good. This light hearted video perfectly depicts the process an intern goes through during such feedings. We hope you enjoy it.
View the YouTube video Here!
Hi Friends, Our hospital is full for baby mammals and baby birds. We can’t take anymore babies until some of these guys get a little older. We are open for injured wildlife.
We will post here as soon as we can accept more babies.
Every animal deserves humane medical care. It is painful when we can’t accept an admission of an animal in need of help – especially when we are the only wildlife hospital in metro-Boston. Unfortunately, in order to provide the best care to the wild animals in the hospital and in order to comply with Massachusetts law, we have to close to admissions when we reach “bed” capacity.
There is a list of rehabbers on this site. These rehabbers fill up quickly too. There are millions of wildlife in need of care each year and no state or federal agency to care for them. New England Wildlife Center is a nonprofit started by your neighbors. Less than 1% of all donations to run the Center come from the individuals, agencies or municipalities that bring us wild animals in need of help, and by law, we aren’t allowed to charge.
The hospital is run by a veterinarian and a few technicians. We rely mostly on volunteers to operate. So, please be patient with us when we cannot accept an animal. It pains us as much as you. Together, we need to find a solution. Right now, there just isn’t enough help for our wild friends and it’s just not right.
Pictured is a baby Barred Owl. He came in this week and we were able to work with our friends at Trail Side Museum. They “re-homed” this baby and he is now in a nest with a foster mother and other chicks.
Next Tuesday the 21st from 6-9 the Center will debut the Museum of Bad Art’s latest exhibit “Mother Nature Abhors a Vacuum – and All Other Housework”. Pictured above is a work entitled “Birdbrain” which is just a sample of what’s to come. The exhibit is open to the public and will feature realistic and imaginary depictions of wildlife. Please Join us for free food, entertainment, and some of the best bad art you’ve ever seen! Hope to see you there!
This week an Osprey was admitted to our hospital after he suffered a gunshot wound to his right scapulo-humeral joint. He was found in Hanson, MA unable to fly and was brought into our facility by a concerned member of the public. He has been treated for trauma, is on antibiotics and is being given fluids. His progress has been slow but steady, and he continue to receive intensive care for his injuries. Thank you for your concern and support and we will keep you updated with his progress.
This a picture of Dr. Rob and the Interns caring for a Mute Swan that was admitted to our hospital after being recovered in Worcester. The Swan was doused in a hydrophobic substance, believed to be vegetable oil and was suffering from lead poisoning. Our best guess is that it came from a restaurant or food establishment in the area and was somehow discharged into a public waterway. This type of exposure is dangerous for aqutic birds because the oil breaks the natural water proofing of their feathers, and will cause them to become hypothermic this time of year. Additionally, when they preen themselves to try and get rid of the oil they end up ingesting a lot of it, which can be harmful. The lead poisoning is a separate issue and is common in many freshwater birds, but can be very serious if not treated right away.
Our staff repeatedly washed him with grease cutting soap and warm water to remove the oils and he was then given nutritional support and cage rest. He is also receiving chelation treatment to neutralize and remove the lead in his system. Today we are happy to report that he is doing well, and we will keep you updated on his progress.
Students from the South Shore Christian Academy in Weymouth explored the New England Wildlife Center today with Center science educator and legendary rock & roller, Safari Steve Martin. Here kids are handling natural objects in the nature center after learning from Steve that populations of horseshoe crabs are dwindling and the impact that may have on humans. Come on over to the Center….it’s fun here! :)
This Red-throated Loon made his way from Braintree to New England Wildlife Center this afternoon. A kind neighbor in Braintree found him by the side of the road, unable to fly. Dr. Rob says he looks OK. He found minor lacerations and abrasions on the Loon’s feet. Dr. Rob thinks that he most likely just lost his way and crash landed due to the storm. Once he hit the road, he was stuck. Loon’s need 20-30 feet of water surface runway to take-off. They aren’t designed to walk on land. You don’t see many of them around because they live off the coast. Our animal care team is treating the Loon with SQ fluids and providing nutritional support. Dr. Rob hopes that he will be released as soon as the storm is over. The Red-throated Loon is different from the Common Loon. We are so glad this guy is indoors and safe tonight!
We are in desperate need of paper towels to clean and disinfect our hospital. It takes several rolls each week to meet our cleaning, patient care, and bedding needs. All donations can be dropped off at the front desk with either Ian or Maryanne. Thank you for your support!
So as I’m sure you’ve noticed it’s getting pretty cold out there. Trees have dropped their leaves, the air has gone from crisp to bitter, grandmothers all over New England are furiously knitting warm sweaters, and of course, the birds have started their annual trip south for the winter. Well, the smart ones did anyways. So what of the many species of birds that don’t make the long trip, how do these foolhardy fowl deal with the winter cold?
In reality there are over a hundred species of birds that spend the winter in New England and thanks to a number of biological accommodations they fair just fine. As long as there is a food source, these guys can handle the harshest winter conditions without so much as a scarf.
The first thing that our feathered friends have going for them is their internal thermometer. Birds tend to have a very high normothermia, meaning that their average body temperature is much higher than us humans, in some species it’s been recorded as being as warm as 110 F. This gives them a bit of a buffer against the cold being as they are that much further from the hypothermic tipping point. Interestingly, this process is why it is so important to fill your bird feeders with suit and seeds during the winter. Maintaining such a high internal temperature is very energy-intensive and because birds have such a high metabolic rate they burn through their energy stores very quickly and need to constantly eat to maintain themselves.
Their second line of winter defense comes in their ability to trap heat in their feathers. As anyone who has ever put on a down jacket knows feathers have a way of keeping you nice and toasty. Many species will actually go through a late autumn molt and grow a set of even denser winter feathers that give them a little extra heat capacity. The way that their feathers are structured allows them to trap small pockets of heat directly against the their body and when it’s really cold they will even hunker down and tuck their heads and feet in for maximum heat retention.
Thirdly, Bird feet. Have you ever looked closely at a bird from the legs down? It’s like staring at a dinosaur, but these scaly trotters play an important role in keeping birds warm. Birds don’t have the benefit of wearing wool socks so they are left to perch all winter on icy snow covered surfaces in their bare feet, but thankfully they have a few adaptations to keep them comfortable. Unlike humans, their feet release very little of their internal heat to the outside world. Their lack of sweat glands means that they secrete no moisture, which means no evaporative cooling. Additionally, their legs are very simple in structure; there are not a lot of mussels, nerves, and arteries present, it is mostly bone and ligaments, which don’t release a lot of heat. Some birds, such as ducks, actually have a heat return mechanism built right into their legs. It’s known as a counter-current heat exchange, and essentially it means that the arteries that are present in the legs are right next to each other. This allows the cold blood returning from the feet to be warmed by the hot blood exiting the torso, which cuts down on energy that would be expended to re-heat the incoming blood flow.
So, these birds that wait out the winter here aren’t in as bad a shape as one might think. Evolution has provided them with a number biological defenses against the cold and they have a few behavioral tricks up their sleeves as well. Many birds will huddle together for warmth or find unfrozen bodies of water to swim in, guaranteeing them an environment above the freezing mark. Whatever individual techniques they employ the hundreds of birds that wait out the winter survive just fine and are left to scoff at all the fair weather species that fly the coop every time it gets cold.