Canada Goose Release!

On February 6th, the Illinois Raptor Center transferred a Canada goose to us that was found in Decatur, IL unable to fly with a wound on one elbow. Injuries near a joint must be specifically evaluated to ensure the joint itself is unharmed; if there is damage, the patient will likely develop painful and debilitating arthritis, making it unreleasable. Radiographs were taken and luckily no damage was appreciated to the joint and no fractures were found.

A total of 5 metal pellets, presumably BBs, surprised the team on radiographs!

However, the goose did surprise us with a total of 5 metal pellets, presumed to be BBs, scattered throughout its body! With several radiographic views, the team was able to determine that none of the pellets were likely to cause damage or leech lead into the GI tract, so they were not removed.

Two sizable soft tissue wounds, one on the patients back and another at the right ‘elbow’ joint needed extensive debridement and bandaging, and both healed beautifully during its time with us. Along with medical management, the team performed passive range of motion therapy (similar to physical therapy in people) and laser therapy every other day to ensure the patient’s flight muscles stayed strong despite bandaging and hospitalization.

In early March, the team, unfortunately, realized that many of the goose’s primary flight feathers on its left wing had been severely damaged. These feathers are essential for flight and needed to be addressed before the patient could be released, so the decision was made to perform a feather transplant procedure known as ‘imping’. The procedure involves clipping the damaged feathers, taking primary feathers from a donor bird, (in this case, a cadaver from another goose recently euthanized due to a severe fracture and head trauma), and using a strong adhesive to attach the donor feathers into the shaft of the clipped damaged feathers. No nerves or blood vessels are present near the clipped area, so this is a non-painful and non-invasive procedure, but it is still performed under anesthesia to reduce stress. The procedure successfully restored flight and greatly reduced the amount of time this patient needed to be hospitalized since we did not need to wait until its next molt to release it!

Before: Primary feathers are broken, uneven and would not sustain flight

After: Donor feathers were successfully implanted and will remain until the patient’s next molt

A beautiful ‘after’ photo of both wings- now ready for flight!

Early Saturday morning in between two midterm examinations, team members drove an hour to Lake Decatur to release the goose near where it was found. After over 2 months in our care, it was wonderful to watch it use its new feathers and take off. Happy travels, goose!

-Emma Whitmore, 2nd Year veterinary student