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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois
3225 Vet. Med. Basic Sciences Bldg.
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, IL 61802
March 28, 2012

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Contact: Chris Beuoy

Snowy Owl Treated at Wildlife Medical Clinic to Fly to Alaska for Chance at Release

URBANA - Qigiq, the snowy owl that has been treated at the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic since he was brought in with a broken wing on January 3, will soon be winging his way to Alaska--on a plane.

The bird has made a remarkable recovery, according to the clinic's medical director, Dr. Julia Whittington. She spoke with a number of raptor centers seeking the best "next step" in the owl's care: the kind of wildlife rehabilitation that prepares animals to re-enter the wild once their medical problems have been resolved. She was pleased to learn that the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka has had previous successes in rehabbing and releasing snowy owls.

"In Alaska, he will enter 'basic training' for return to the wild," said Dr. Whittington. "They are getting their eagle flight cage ready for him."

Dr. Whittington said she was not hopeful initially that the owl would be releasable because of the critical condition he was in when he arrived--very emaciated and weak--and because of the location of the fracture at a place that could easily involve nerve damage. Two surgeries were required to repair the break.

Against all odds, this snowy has recovered to the point where he can begin rehabilitation in preparation to be released to the wild, she said, noting her tremendous pride in the work of clinic volunteers.

Dr. Whittington especially credits the intensive care the bird received in his first days at the Wildlife Medical Clinic, when veterinary student and ward co-manager Anne Rivas worked diligently to improve his overall condition before the fracture could even be addressed.

Later Kim Knap, rehabilitation therapist at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, was instrumental in restoring critical wing extension that was lost due to the owl's extensive injuries.

He grumbled about his physical therapy treatments just like anyone undergoing physical therapy, said Dr. Whittington, but this was an important component of his care because of the extent of the damage to his muscles and tendons.

Knap, whose patients more frequently are dogs and cats, administered both cold laser therapy, to promote bone healing, and ultrasound therapy, to improve elasticity of the tendons, for the owl.

The public can view the complete medical history detailing the owl's care online: The cost of his care to date is more than $3,700; the Wildlife Medical Clinic is a non-profit organization run on donations, so support is greatly appreciated.

A new program allows people to Sponsor a Day of activity at the clinic for as little as $200. Many people are choosing to donate to the clinic and sponsor a day to honor a birthday or anniversary in lieu of a gift.

To learn more about the clinic and supporting it, go to