Sometimes tackling environmental problems is not as simple as rounding up volunteers and getting to work. Obstacles get in the way. In one big city, bird lovers face heavy traffic while getting injured birds to the vet. So, they’re bringing the vet a little closer to them. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has the story:
Sometimes tackling environmental problems is not as simple as rounding up volunteers
and getting to work. Obstacles get in the way. In one big city, bird lovers face heavy
traffic while getting injured birds to the vet, so they’re bringing the vet a little closer to
them. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has the story:
It’s early morning and Annette Prince is scouring bushes beneath high rise office towers. She’s dodged downtown traffic for several hours now, hunting for birds; specifically,
ones that have flown into windows. Prince pulls her latest find out of a paper sack.
“This is a woodcock.”
“What do you see with the head trauma there?”
“He’s bleeding from his mouth. This bird impacted a building when we were
watching it a few minutes ago. He flew right into the glass and he died
There are survivors, though. Prince stowed some in her green mini van.
Paper sacks hold another woodcock and a tiny, grey-feathered bird called a junco.
“Both were found after they hit a building this morning. They’re resting in the bags
and they’re going to rehab where they’ll receive an evaluation by a wildlife
rehabilitator to decide what kind of treatment they need and what they’re potential
is to be released.”
Injuries such as skull fractures need quick treatment, but when Prince and others find injured birds, their options are limited. The nearest wildlife rehab center is twenty-five miles away from downtown Chicago. In heavy traffic, the drive takes a while.
“People have indicated a great desire to step up and help whenever they can. Up
until now, we’ve had to tell them there wasn’t any place they could take the birds
they found, short of having to drive for more than an hour. And many city residents
can’t. They either don’t have cars or that’s too far a distance.”
But if you can’t get birds to the vets at the rehab center maybe you can bring the vets
closer to the birds. A new bird hospital’s opening near downtown, where people can
reach it by bus or a short cab ride.
Dawn Keller runs a rehab center in a Chicago suburb, and soon she’ll oversee the new
downtown hospital. She says when she’s finished the city will have its own miniature avian ER for immediate
“We’ll be moving in things such as scales, so we can weigh the birds when they come
in, so we can properly dose the medicine. We’ll be bringing in cages, refrigerator,
food supplies, all of the things that we’ll need to properly care for the birds.”
Keller says, birds with the most serious injuries will recover out in her suburban rehab
center. The bird urgent care center isn’t just good for birds, it’s good for volunteers. Keller says area bird watchers bring in about nine hundred birds a year, and sometimes
the volunteers are overwhelmed especially during peak migration times.
“Our peak day, I think was about 127 in one day. We put in a lot of hours on those
days; those are pretty much sleepless nights.”
Keller says, the sleepless nights and long drives through traffic out to the rehab center
add up to volunteer fatigue.
She hopes the convenience of a closer hospital will keep more volunteers on board. Wildlife rehab experts say the Chicago hospital’s part of a trend; professionals are getting
help closer to the problem and making it easier on volunteers. Elaine Thrune directs the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. She says most wildlife care centers are small and heavily rely on volunteers.
“Even at a center you have some staff, but the actual hands-on care of feeding the
birds or assisting the veterinarian is done by volunteers.”
Thrune says rehab centers face a location conundrum. Volunteers rescue wildlife in cities or suburbs, but rehab centers and professional staff
are often in far away, rural areas. That’s because injured animals recover best when they’re away from noise and people,
but Thrune says rehab centers are experimenting. They’re opening intake centers in popular spots, like shopping malls.
“It’s a convenient place for people to bring things and to drop them off. And it’s a
good place for a veterinarian or a trained rehabilitator to examine them
immediately and then do what’s necessary.”
Thrune says the drop-off centers are like hospital triages; staff patch up the easy cases
quickly. Then, animals with more serious injuries recover out in the country. The
Chicago bird watchers and wildlife rehabbers are betting on this strategy. They say they’ll need to if they’re to keep the current stable of helpers, and they hope
with the convenience of the nearby downtown center more people will scour near
downtown Chicago for injured birds.
For the GLRC, I’m Shawn Allee.