Northern River Otter Case Report

In the middle of April, an adult male North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic after being found unresponsive on the side of the road. A Good Samaritan brought the otter to a nearby veterinarian who completed a full work-up. Unfortunately, no abnormalities showed up on bloodwork or radiographs, so the veterinary clinic transferred the patient to the WMC.

river otter exam

On initial physical examination, the only abnormal findings were slight dehydration and poor, inappropriate mentation. The otter was given subcutaneous fluids to help combat the dehydration and students administered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to help alleviate any inflammation that could have been causing the neurologic signs. The volunteers’ top differentials for his condition were infectious disease, toxin exposure, and trauma. After only 24 hours in the clinic, the otter’s mentation greatly improved; he ate all the food offered to him in his cage and he swam in a pool. A few days after intake, the otter was put under general anesthesia to have radiographs performed. Fortunately for the otter, there were no abnormal findings on his radiographs either.

After only 10 days in our care, he made a full recovery: he swam and moved around appropriately, he acted like a typical otter should act, and he “hunted” for live prey placed in his swimming pool. He was released by student volunteers at Kickapoo State Park and seemed to enjoy his new environment shortly after release. Although the volunteers at the WMC are still not completely sure what was causing this patient to be so down and out, everyone was more than relieved to see that he was feeling better and back to acting like a normal otter should!

—Ainsley Boyle, WMC student manager, 3rd-year veterinary student

river otter in clinic pool

The Case of the Common Grackle

An example of a Common Grackle fledging

Guest post by second year veterinary student, Megan Stuart.

On a hot summer’s day in late May, a Common Grackle was found on a driveway in Springfield, Illinois and brought to the Wildlife Clinic as a healthy fledgling. Common Grackles are large blackbirds that have adapted well to city and surburban habitats, and are resourceful omnivores: in agricultural fields they’ll follow plows to pick out insects and mice, near marshes they will pick leeches off of turtles and wade into water to catch small fish, raid smaller birds’ nests to eat eggs and live birds, and can even use a special beak adaptation to saw into acorns and eat the insides! Adult Common Grackle males have brightly iridescent feathers of blue, purple, and bronze, but young Common Grackles do not show any sign of sexual dimorphism (distinct difference in size or appearance between the sexes of an animal in addition to difference between the sexual organs themselves), so volunteers are unsure of this fledgling’s sex.

The small fledgling received nestling care as often as possible for the first few days in the clinic to supports his growing body and nutritional needs – in some cases, volunteers will check on these young ones nearly 10 times per day! Once he had grown some more, he received little balls of food 5 times a day, and was promoted to mealworms once he showed signs of eating on his own. Since he was caged alone, the fledgling was given a mirror to encourage self-recognition, which he sat by all day and was even spotted playing with his reflection!

Towards the end of the Grackle’s stay, a fledgling American Robin came into the Wildlife Medical Clinic, and was placed in the cage so the grackle could have a feathered companion. Soon after, he was consistently eating mealworms on his own, and so the fledgling was transferred to a local, licensed wildlife rehabilitator to grow a little more before being released. All of the volunteers enjoyed working with adorable fledgling, who never turned down the opportunity to eat! He went from 48.8 grams to 89 grams while in the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University of Illinois.

Virginia Opossum To Be Released

By Erin Mortimer, VM17

A week ago a young male intact Virginia Opossum (DIVI) presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic for being attacked by a dog. This patient presented very bright, alert, responsive and very feisty! In order to safely and thoroughly perform a physical exam the Opossum was anesthetized. Upon physical exam a puncture wound was found on the right chest. The wound was flushed and during flushing it was noted the wound was deeper than what the naked eye could see. It was determined that a drain needed to be placed in order to decrease the risk of infection and abscess formation. A drain was placed and the patient was started on an antibiotics and pain medication. Bloodwork was obtained but unremarkable. Radiographs were obtained two days later and it was noted that the Opossum also had 3 broken ribs and bruised lungs (good thing we started those pain meds!).

Despite these injuries the patient remained feisty when awake and eating well! The drain was removed a few days later and appears to be healing well. The medications can be placed into the food and the patient can be minimally handled to reduce stress. Later next week, once the medications are finished, the drain site and bloodwork is rechecked this patient will be off to a wildlife rehabber to regrow the fur on his chest over the winter and then released back into the wild early this spring!