Watch the Critter Cam Livestream

Nov 2, 2019 / General News

Now Livestreaming: Great Horned Owl

The University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Clinic—a non-profit organization that provides care and treatment to sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals—will feature a different patient each week on the Critter Cam.

Caption and video don’t match? Well, situations can change pretty fast in the Wildlife Medical Clinic, so we can’t always keep our Critter Cam page information accurate up to the minute. If we say the camera is on something furry, and you see feathers, give us a day to catch up!

Want to help provide food, medicine, and equipment for nearly 2,000 wildlife patients every year? You can make a gift online.

This owl was found with one of its talons stuck in its gnathotheca (bottom portion of the beak) and brought to the Illinois Raptor Center by a good Samaritan. The talon was pulled out, and now this owl had a hole all the way through the bottom of its beak into its mouth, so he was transferred to the Wildlife Medical Clinic for treatment. He was given pain medications and fluids. We quickly noticed that the toe that was stuck in his beak was very stiff and he seemed unable to open his foot. This caused him to be unable to perch, and he was essentially standing on a balled fist on his left foot. [Foot of great horned owl with amputated toe]Unfortunately, since the talons are so sharp, this was also causing wounds on the bottom of his foot. The toe was very contracted and could not be forced to stay open. Owls have four toes with talons; they are used to catch prey and perch. They primarily use their first digit (pointing towards the back, like a thumb) and their third digit (pointing forward, like a middle finger) to catch prey. The digit that is affected in this owl is his fourth digit (pointing outward, like a ring finger or pinky), therefore not the most important digit for grasping prey and branches. We were confident that he could easily compensate without this digit, so it was amputated. He is currently healing comfortably until he will be sent to a rehabber for prey testing. Check out this link to learn a few owl facts!

—Cassie Vespa, third-year veterinary student


Previously Featured

Opossum Orphans

[two baby Virginia opossums]We are featuring two* little baby Virginia opossums on Critter Cam. These two are not siblings and came into the clinic with different litters. Their siblings were healthy and have been transferred to a licensed rehabilitator for feedings until they are old enough to release into the wild.

The first little opossum is the larger of the two. She came in with her sibling when their mother was killed by a dog, and unfortunately, she had also been grabbed by the dog. She sustained a fracture of her left humerus bone and a puncture wound on her right shoulder. We did radiographs to assess the fracture, then placed a tiny splint. She is being treated with pain medications and an antibiotic, since bite wounds carry a lot of bacteria from the animal’s mouth.

The smaller opossum was brought in with his siblings after being found scattered around 2 yards without a mother in sight. They were all pretty thin and dehydrated, but quickly turned around after some TLC with fluids and formula. The one injured sibling had a puncture wound of his right eye. He is being treated with a systemic anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic eye drop called ofloxacin.

Both of these two are currently healing very well and still being fed formula three times a day. They are also eating some solid foods, so you might catch them munching on the camera! They enjoy snuggling together in fabric pouches. When they are healed, they will be transferred to rehabilitator to join their siblings! For more information on how you can help these two babies and our other patients, visit our giving page at https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/giving/

* Note: If you see more than two babies on camera, it’s because whenever we get new orphan opossums into the clinic of similar sizes we house them together! You may see more than two at times then see it back to only two, this is because we transfer the healthy babies to rehabbers while we keep any that still need medical treatment in the clinic.

—Cassie Vespa, third-year veterinary student


Juvenile Bald Eagle

Update: After a few days of free food, this eagle had gotten up to a normal weight and body condition. He was then sent to Illinois Raptor Center for flight conditioning and live prey testing.

This juvenile bald eagle was found on the side of a road in Champaign appearing to be injured or sick. On presentation to the Wildlife Medical Clinic, it was very weak, dull, and not very responsive to being handled. We found that he was extremely thin and dehydrated, but no injuries or fractures could be found. Bald eagles are very sensitive to lead poisoning, which they are often exposed to by being shot with lead bullets or eating other animals with lead bullets or lead fishing sinkers. This eagle was tested negative for lead in his blood. We found that he was a bit anemic (low red blood cells), which can be a side effect of starvation since the body no longer has enough nutrients to make more red blood cells. We even took radiographs to be sure there were no underlying injuries present that we could not feel, but those as well showed nothing. It is very common for young raptors to have difficulty hunting on their own after their parents have stopped feeding them. This young eagle was found starving probably just because it’s having difficulty feeding itself. After just one afternoon of fluid therapy and oral electrolytes, he perked up significantly and began eating the (free) food we gave him on his own. We will continue to provide supportive care until this eagle is healthy once again. Then he will be sent to the Illinois Raptor Center for flight conditioning and live prey testing.

If you’re wondering why he doesn’t look quite like a typical image of a brown and white bald eagle, it’s because juvenile bald eagles look different from adults like many bird species. Juveniles have dark beaks and entirely brown heads and bodies, with white and brown mottled wings and tails. As they get older, they start getting more white on their heads and tails, and their beaks become yellow. Juveniles look very similar to golden eagles, minus the characteristic golden patch of feathers on the nape of the necks!

—Cassie Vespa, third-year veterinary student

Great Blue Heron

Update: After weeks of physical therapy with this heron, we removed the pins holding his fracture in place. This was the moment of truth as it would tell us if the bone was still viable during surgery, or if the time it spent exposed to the air after the break had killed the tissue beyond repair. Unfortunately, when the pins were removed the fracture had not healed, which means the bone tissue had been outside of the skin for too long. Removing all of the dead bone and letting the healthy bone heal together is not an option in a bird because then the wing would be too short for the bird to be able to fly. Sadly, we cannot release a bird than cannot fly as it would not be able to search for food or protect itself from predators, so we had to humanely euthanize this heron.

This great blue heron was found on a bike path with an injured wing, and the finder was able to bring it to us on his bike! Great blue herons can often be found in marshes and use their long necks to quickly strike at small fish or small mammals, or when threatened, at rehabilitators’ faces, so it’s important that we always wear safety goggles or masks. Upon physical exam, it was found that the bird’s right wing was twisted around 360 degrees and was fractured in two places. The wing was put back into the correct orientation and wrapped up so it wouldn’t move. On June 6, this handsome heron underwent surgery and pins were placed to fix the fractures in its wing. As stressful and as painful as his injuries are, this great blue heron is a fantastic eater, and loves getting his smelt and the occasional live goldfish. While his injuries are severe, we hope that he will be able to recover and be released back to the wild.

—Erica Bender, second-year veterinary student


Raccoons

[young raccoon]Update: Our little monsters are continuing to gain weight and have started to eat on their own! Once they are fully self-feeding, they will be transferred to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator with an outdoor enclosure where they can climb and learn to be wild raccoons.

These orphan raccoons are healthy babies that were found in person’s attic and brought to us. These mischievous raccoons are currently being tube fed milk replacer so that they can gain weight and hopefully be transferred to a licensed rehabber before they can be released to the wild. These little rascals can be a handful, and mom always does a much better job of taking care of them than we do, so if you see a group of raccoon babies, please give mom a chance to come back. She might just be out getting food! For more information about whether or not to help these animals, please visit: https://vetmed.illinois.edu/wildlife/wildlife-help-and-resources/raccoons/

—Erica Bender, second-year veterinary student

Belted Kingfisher

[female kingfisher]Update: The kingfisher’s fracture healed, and she was transferred to Illinois Raptor Center, where she will have more space to stretch out her wings and build up her muscles for flight before she is hopefully released back to the wild!

Our new featured patient is a female belted kingfisher. We can tell she is a female because she has a brown “belt” of feathers across her belly, unlike the males which have all white bellies. Kingfishers are stocky birds with large heads topped with a crest of feathers, and a thick sharp bill used for catching fish. This belted kingfisher was brought to us after being found grounded and unable to fly. We felt a fracture in her right radius (forearm bone), which was confirmed on radiographs (x-rays). Her wing was wrapped so that her bone could heal without her moving it, and she was kept comfortable with pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. Kingfishers can be challenging patients because they are very easily stressed and do not like to eat in captivity. She was resistant to eating at first, but thankfully warmed up to catching her own fish from a bowl of water! Her fracture healed well, and she is currently receiving physical therapy to help her regain function of the wing and ability to fly.

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student

Red Fox Pup

[fox pup]Update: Our pup has healed her external wounds and finished her antibiotics. She was transferred to a rehabber to finish the healing of her skull and growing before she can be released. The environment with the rehabber is less stressful and more natural for these critters, and she will be able to grow up with a few other fox pups!

This red fox pup was found wandering on the porch of a house, apparently lost. The finders could not locate a mother fox nearby. The pup also had a rather large gash on her head above her right eye, so they brought her to the Wildlife Medical Clinic for evaluation and treatment. Her wound was quite deep and full of blood and debris. It was shaved and cleaned, and she was given a pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. We suspect the wound may be a bite from a larger animal. A large number of bacteria are present in the mouths of any animal (including humans!), and bite wounds can often become severely infected, so she was also started on an antibiotic medication. Due to the depth of the wound, we were also worried she may have a skull fracture in that location. Radiographs (X-rays) were taken and they did indeed show a small fracture of her frontal bone. This fracture does not seem to be causing her any issues, and with some pain management and supportive care she will hopefully heal quickly and be on her way to a rehabber before being released into the wild! Just like a dog, she has to wear an E-collar (plastic cone) to prevent her from scratching the wound and making it worse. She is quite shy, but can be seen enjoying some play time and enrichment with a Kong toy filled with goodies!

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student

Great Horned Owl

[great horned owl]Update: This great horned owl initially could not move its toes after the blood supply was cut off. After some pain management, anti-inflammatories, active range of motion therapy, cold laser treatment, and pentoxifylline to increase blood flow to her foot, she regained function and was sent to the Illinois Raptor Center for flight conditioning and prey testing!

This great horned owl came in after getting its leg stuck in netting over a chicken coop. During its physical exam, this patient was found to have some swelling on one its wings and some swelling and wounds on the foot that was in the netting. Because of the wounds on its foot, this feisty owl was unable to fully close his foot around a perch. We initially bandaged its foot and started it on some medications and this bird has been gradually improving. We’ve now placed this owl in a run so it will have more room and a variety of perches to stand on for us to better assess how it is using its foot. Hopefully the foot will continue to improve and this great horned owl can get back out to hunting in the wild (hopefully not more chickens).

—Erica Bender, first-year veterinary student

Canada Goose

[canada goose]2nd Update: One of our Canada geese was released this past weekend! After being shot and having a broken ulna and pubis bones, its injuries healed nicely and we were able to get back its range of motion in its wings with physical therapy so that it could be released back into the wild. Our other goose friend is still with us, continuing with its physical therapy to get its range of motion back in its wings, but now has a new goose to share its run with.

1st Update: Yes, there are now two geese. Both unfortunately had been shot. Several bullets were found on the radiographs (X-rays) of the new arrival, causing fractures of the right ulna and right pubis bone of the pelvis. Geese do pretty well being housed together, so these two are sharing the swimming pool now that their wounds have healed and they can get in the water again. They are both currently undergoing physical therapy to bring back the range of motion in their wings after the wounds and fractures have healed. 

This patient was found by an animal control officer in Macon County. It came in with an open wound on its right elbow, several broken feathers, wounds on its right leg, and a gnarly deep wound on its back near the rump. The more severe wounds were bandaged with Manuka honey and the right wing was stabilized in a wrap in case of a fracture. This goose was given pain medications, an anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic, and fluids. Radiographs (X-rays) showed 5 small bullet-like objects. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that any of the objects have penetrated into the body cavity or any joints. This goose also did not suffer any bone fractures from the apparent gunshot wounds. One bullet was removed from the elbow area since it was so close to the elbow that it may have caused a problem with the goose flapping its wings. The other four bullets were left in place because they were not causing any additional issues and geese do remarkably well at healing around them. Even if these bullets contained lead, the goose will not suffer lead poisoning unless the bullets are in the gastrointestinal system or a joint capsule, where they will begin to be broken down and absorbed by the body. This goose was tested for lead, but did not have any in his system. Many geese out in the wild are likely carrying around a few bullets or pellets of their own! We are changing this goose’s bandages frequently and monitoring the healing progress of its wounds. Once its wounds have healed and flight feathers have grown back, this goose will be ready to return to the wild!

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student

Great Horned Owl

[great horned owl]Update: Unfortunately, the wound near this owl’s carpus (wrist) was too extensive to heal properly. The range of motion in its carpus was greatly diminished, which is really important for these guys to be able to fly well and hunt. There was not enough healthy tissue to cover the area, and when the wrist moved bone was exposed. This owl would not be releasable to the wild as it would not be able to fly and hunt and would also be at risk for severe infection with exposed bone. So sadly the decision was made to humanely euthanize this owl that would not be able to survive on its own.

We are now featuring a beautiful great horned owl on the critter cam. After being cut from barbed wire, this owl was brought to the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur, then transported to us for further medical care. This sassy bird had some pretty extensive wounds along the right wing and was pretty down and out. We were able to suture the wounds and give subcutaneous fluids to perk this bird up. For the time being, we are monitoring the wounds closely and giving a round of antibiotics and some pain medications. At the moment, this beautiful owl is in the holiday spirit, sporting a Valentine’s Day-inspired bandage. Hopefully the wounds will heal up well after some TLC, and this great horned owl will be back out in the wild before we know it.

—Kara Hiebert, third-year veterinary student


Eastern Box Turtle

[Eastern Box Turtle}Update: The Eastern box turtle is still doing well! We are just waiting for the weather to warm up so we can release her back to her home in the wild.

This Eastern Box Turtle came to us from Mattoon, Ill. There are three main characteristics we can look at in box turtles to determine if they are male or female: tail length, eye color, and plastron (lower shell) shape. Because this turtle has a short tail, brown eyes, and a flat plastron she is assumed to be a female. When she came to us, she had a fairly large wound on her right hind limb and body, which was causing her limb to be extremely swollen. She was treated with a systemic anti-inflammatory, to reduce the swelling, and an antibiotic to prevent infection. The wound was regularly cleaned and bandaged until healed. The swelling was so significant that this patient was also treated to regular spa days with salt baths! The idea is the high osmolality of the salt water will cause water to leave the patient’s swollen area to balance out the solutes in the salt water, thus reducing the swelling. This patient also had three missing toes on her front right foot, but they were completely healed and assumed to be an old injury presenting no issues to the patient.

Luckily, she healed well and has no complications that prevents her from being released back into the wild. It is very important to return box turtles to the exact location where they were found. If box turtles are removed from their home area, they will spend the rest of their life wandering trying to return to this location, and they are more likely to spread disease to or contract disease from other populations of box turtles. Thankfully, we know exactly where she came from so she will be able to be returned to her home area. However, these turtles undergo a type of hibernation during the winter called brumation. At this point in the season, it is too cold to put her back outside as she would not have time to find a suitable area to brumate before the freezing weather. So this means this patient will be hanging out with us in the clinic until spring. She has a nice large enclosure with plenty of foliage, heat, food, and water. She is a voracious eater! Catch her at feeding time Monday, Wednesday, and Friday around 7:30 to 8 am, or you may notice her soaking in her water bath.

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student


Red-Tailed Hawk

[red-tailed hawk]This new patient is a dark morph red-tailed hawk. He has more chocolate brown coloring than the typical pattern of a red-tailed hawk. He was brought to the Wildlife Medical Clinic after colliding with some power lines—ouch! Our exam showed no evidence of electrocution; however, he does have a fractured right humerus (the long arm bone). Immediately, he was started on an opioid and anti-inflammatory medication to control his pain associated with the fracture. Radiographs were taken to assess the extent of his injuries. The fracture was found to be proximal, or close, to the shoulder joint. The closer the break is to a joint, the more difficult it is to place a pin to secure the break. His fracture was also very well aligned already, so surgical intervention was not necessary to replace the fragments in the correct position for healing!

The treatment for this patient is to keep his right wing wrapped up with a figure 8 pattern around his wing and an additional wrap holding his wing to his body, so he cannot move his wing at all. The purpose is to keep his fracture as stable as possible so it will stay aligned properly and heal in the correct position. He is a bit resistant to eating while in the clinic so far, but our student volunteers are working with him every day to ensure that his wing stays in place and he gets his medications and proper nutrition. The next step is to take recheck radiographs at 1, 2, and 3 weeks to observe how the bone is healing and check that it has remained aligned; if it moves out of position, surgical intervention may be needed. Hopefully in a few weeks he will be ready for flight conditioning at the Illinois Raptor Center!

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student


Bald Eagle

[critter cam-bald eagle]Update: Our bald eagle has finished  vitamin K and chelation courses. Blood work showed its clotting time and lead level are now normal! Radiograph assessment of the injured wrist indicated that the bones are normal, and this was likely a soft tissue injury causing mild inflammation and pain that just needed some time to recover. With the normal blood work and recovered wing, this eagle has been transferred to the Illinois Raptor Center for flight conditioning and will be released back into the wild shortly! 

The Critter Cam is featuring one of the most charismatic species we treat, an adult bald eagle! This eagle was brought in last week after being found unable to fly. On initial examination we found that the right carpus and metacarpals (the “wrist” and “hand” bones) felt abnormal. Blood tests revealed that this eagle had some lead exposure and a blood-clotting abnormality. While there are many possibilities for why this guy had some trouble clotting, one option that can be seen in raptor species is anticoagulant rodenticide ingestion. Even though we can’t say for sure that’s the cause of the clotting issues, we are giving supplemental vitamin K to support this eagle’s clotting ability. We also treated with chelation therapy for the lead that we found, and after 5 days, the levels have decreased to a safer level. Our next step will be radiographs (or X-rays) to figure out what might be going on in that injured right wing. In the meantime, this patient has steadily become more energetic and has been eating lots of fish! Hopefully we will be able to patch this eagle up and get it back out to the wild where it belongs.

—Kara Hiebert, third-year veterinary student


Osprey

[critter cam - osprey]Update: The osprey’s leg healed well, and she has been transferred to Illinois Raptor Center to regain strength in a larger flight cage.

Since our little turtle has been released, we are now featuring a somewhat uncommon species for us in the clinic: an osprey. This osprey was brought in on August 24 by a good Samaritan after she was found tangled in fishing line in a lake. Upon initial examination, we found that she was not as feisty as a healthy osprey should be and that she had a three-pronged hook embedded in her left leg. We sedated her and carefully removed the hook from her leg. There was quite a bit of granulation tissue (healing tissue) surrounding the hook, which makes us think that the hook had been there for at least a few days. We also found that she was dehydrated and her blood protein levels were a little low, so she probably hadn’t had a good meal in a while. With some pain medication, antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids, and nutritional support, she has perked up quite a bit during her stay in the clinic. We also took full body radiographs because we thought this patient may have had a fracture of her coracoid (one of the bones in the shoulder) and to make sure she didn’t have any hooks or sinkers in her gastrointestinal tract, which can be a common finding in animals that eat fish. Fortunately, no fracture was found, and once this osprey’s wounds heal she will, we hope, be on her way back to the wild.

—Kara Hiebert, third-year veterinary student


Newly Hatched Red-eared Slider

[newly hatched red-eared slider]Update: The baby red-eared slider previously featured on the Critter Cam was able to swim and eat well, so it has been released! Baby turtles are independent once they are hatched, so this little guy didn’t need to stay long before it was ready to take on the real world. Check out our Facebook page for a video of the release!

It was an exciting weekend at the Wildlife Medical Clinic! We have a special little patient with us that we have been waiting for. A red-eared slider egg that we had been incubating in the clinic since June 8 finally started to hatch! This egg was saved from a mother red-eared slider that was hit by a car and had injuries too severe to survive. Unfortunately, the trauma to her shell also caused trauma to most of the eggs, and they were not viable, but luckily we were able to save this one. It was a bit slow going, but this little guy came out of its shell on Sunday night! (The photo showing the hatchling being held by a gloved hand is greatly enlarged.) Amazingly, turtles are equipped to live on their own as soon as they hatch, so our little friend will be able to be released into the wild very soon. See only an empty shell? Our baby has burrowed itself into the pebbles. Notice a yellow blob underneath? This is the remainder of the yolk which is attached by an umbilical to its abdomen. The turtle needs to finish absorbing this before it can be released!

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student


Barred Owl

barred owlThis barred owl was brought to us for an obvious fracture of its right wing. She had an open fracture of her right humerus, meaning part of the broken bone was pierced through the skin. We immediately started her on an antibiotic, in addition to strong pain medication and an anti-inflammatory, since open fractures are at a high risk of serious infection that could potentially be fatal. The humerus bones in birds are pneumatic, which means they are hollow and filled with air. This allows them to be lighter in weight to make flying easier, and they are actually a part of the avian respiratory system which puts them at an even higher risk of developing a bad respiratory infection.

This patient was taken to surgery as soon as possible. Similar to our last featured patient, we stabilized the fracture with pins and an external acrylic bar, but this patient’s fracture was much longer and more oblique than the red-tailed hawk’s. Additional stabilization was placed in the form of cerclage wire that was wrapped around the fractured bone. Even right after surgery, this little barred owl was immediately very feisty! She is continuing to do really well in the clinic and gets physical therapy on her wing every other day. Soon, we will take recheck radiographs to assess the healing of her fracture.

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student


Red-Tailed Hawk

Update: We’ve taken recheck radiographs of this patient’s femur fracture and it appears to have healed really well. We removed the pins from his femur and the fracture was stable. We are continuing to give him an anti-inflammatory medication and monitoring how he is using the leg. Soon he will be sent to the Illinois Raptor Center for flight conditioning before being released back into the wild! 

You might recognize this red-tailed hawk from our Facebook page. This hawk came to us on June 29 and was our second patient of the summer that had become lodged in a truck grill. (As of July 13, there have been three!) This hawk is from Clay County and was removed from the grill by Clay County Animal Rescue, who then brought the hawk to us. On initial exam we found a pretty severe femur fracture and took radiographs (x-rays) right away. Luckily, we were able to surgically repair the fracture by placing pins into the bone with an acrylic external fixator attached. Just one day after surgery, this hawk was already starting to put weight on the repaired leg. What a champ! It has now been about one and a half weeks since surgery, and he is walking around on his leg like nothing ever happened. In fact, he often fluffs up his feathers so much that we can’t see the external fixator attached to his leg. In another week and a half, we will take another set of radiographs to make sure that the bone has healed enough for us to remove the pins that we put in. Hopefully, soon after that, this hawk will be on his way to flying free again (this time steering clear of cars).

—Kara Hiebert, second-year veterinary student


Coyote Pup

Update: The coyote pup continues to heal and is as feisty as ever — so feisty, in fact, we can’t keep the Critter Cam in her cage without her messing with it. She is still timid around people, though, which is good because we don’t want her getting too comfortable with humans. She is a wild animal, after all! We are planning to take radiographs this week to make sure her fracture has healed and will hopefully transfer her to a local licensed rehabilitator where she can grow up with other coyotes.

This female coyote pup was brought to us late at night on June 25. She was found wandering around on a road alone in the daylight, which is abnormal for these animals. When she got to us, she was dehydrated, very tired, and seemed to be painful on her left front leg. We also found that she had fleas and a large number of gastrointestinal tapeworms. After giving her some fluid therapy, parasite treatment, and rest, we took her to get radiographs. We discovered she has a fracture in her olecranon, which is the bony protuberance of the ulna (forearm bone) that creates the point of the elbow, on her left forelimb. The fracture is aligned pretty well and is now splinted. We are controlling her pain and inflammation with medication while the bone heals, and, of course, providing her with plenty of food! She has been eating very well and is much more active. You may see some enrichment objects in her enclosure, one in the form of a plastic bottle with holes cut in the sides and filled with cat food kibble. She has to push the bottle around to get the food. These items give her some entertainment while she is here healing with us!

—Cassie Vespa, second-year veterinary student


 

View more past patients in our Critter Cam archive.