Saturday, May 2, 2015

Knowledge Gained: CHECK

Name: Nicole Enochs
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Kimbolton, OH
Internship: Ohio Wildlife Center, Hospital Intern
Location: Columbus, OH

Hey everyone! 

Sorry about the post so recently after my last one, but I thought I'd share some of the most important information I learned at my Internship this past semester. Since I'm a Pre-Veterinary student, any of the veterinary-specific experience I can gain is invaluable. Veterinarians may have to handle difficult animals, prescribe medication, and recommend a euthanasia for an animal. In this blog, I will give you examples where my involvement at the Ohio Wildlife Center has allowed me to experience the previously mentioned veterinary jobs.

First, animal handling happens every day for veterinarians. For some vets, the animals are docile pets. But what if that animal has a habit of biting? It may not be practical or safe for the animal to administer anesthetic for slight amounts of handling. So new handling methods may need to be used for individual animals. For example, there is a woodchuck at the hospital who has been nicknamed "Chompers" because of his unfortunate high frequency of biting. And so, we attempt to minimize direct handling by scooting him out of his enclosure with a tote lid and into a waiting tote covering the front of the enclosure. This is generally done so his enclosure can be cleaned, but in the event he needed to be seen by a veterinarian, the design and smaller size of the tote would make the woodchuck more accessible. Sometimes animal handling isn't about directly handling the animal, but finding new ways to gain access to the animal without physically handling it.

Further, prescribing medications is a vital part of being a veterinarian, and so knowing which medications to prescribe and why is necessary expertise. While at the hospital, I frequently saw the medications Baytril, Metacam, and Capstar administered to the animals. Baytril, or enrofloxacin, is an antibiotic used to treat difficult infections in animals. Part of the reason it has such a high administer rate is because it's non-steroidal. Steroids can have terrible effects on captive wildlife and they're avoided at all costs. A non-steroidal antibiotic is valuable. It can also be used in many different types of animals, from raptors to mammals to reptiles. Another medication that can be administered to all of the above animals is Metacam, or Meloxicam. It is a non-steroidal, NSAID pain reliever and anti-inflammatory drug. Since Metacam and Baytril often complement each other, they are generally given together. To illustrate, young squirrels will sometimes nurse on the genitalia of their male enclosure-mates. This leads to their genitalia becoming swollen and painful. In these instances, the squirrels are given Baytril and sometimes Metacam. Finally, Capstar is a flea medicine that can be given to the mammals. It is frequently given because the pill can simply be crushed and mixed with water to produce a solution and a few drops can be given to the animal orally. The ease and fast working time of this medicine is important especially for young animals. Fleas can be deadly by consuming blood, blood the young animals don't really have to spare. Ultimately, the medicines I choose to use in a veterinary clinic will have their positives and negatives, and it is important to understand those before I prescribe any medication.

Finally, a third veterinary experience, and one of the worst, is recommending euthanasia for an animal. Though those decisions can be more complicated in a vets office with owners for the animals weighing in, the decision is still hard at the OWC Hospital. While watching the veterinary technicians working through a euthanasia choice, I almost always ask about their logic so I can understand their choice. Sometimes the choice is made by Federal and Ohio law; sometimes the choice is obvious; sometimes the choice is completely ambiguous. Some choices required by Federal and/or Ohio Laws are those related to invasive species (ex: Mute Swans) and species that cannot be rehabilitated. If a Mute Swan is brought into the hospital, it must be euthanized according to law because it is invasive. Further, species such as the Whitetail Deer and Coyote cannot be rehabilitated and must be euthanized by law. Times when euthanasia is expected include when the animal is seriously injured without possibility of recovery or diseased animals. For example, bone breaks at a joint cannot be healed and it's in the animal's best interest to be put out of its pain. As for diseases, raccoons admitted with Canine Distemper cannot be treated in any way and have to be euthanized. Ambiguous times can be when animals come in with neurological injury signs. Sometimes they can be brought out of the lesser stereotypical signs, but only sometimes. So the animal must be assessed for survival rate. 

Though many veterinary experiences will be gained in any veterinary office, the places to learn the most about the crazier and sometimes more heart wrenching parts of the job are in trauma centers like the Ohio Wildlife Center. The animals brought to us are generally already sick or injured, so we're fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. In comparison with volunteering I have accomplished in a domestic pet veterinary office, the higher sheer volume of animal knowledge came from the OWC hospital for other reasons too. In a privately owned veterinary office, volunteers will get put on duties that the regular staff don't have time for, like cleaning. But every hand is needed at the OWC hospital: if you're qualified to do it, you're going to be doing it, no questions asked. And so ultimately, this internship has been one of the most valuable experiences to date in my life. If you're considering working as a veterinarian or with wildlife in almost any capacity, I would greatly recommend considering this location for an internship. 

Have a great day ya'll!

A Day In The Life

Name:  Nicole Enochs
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Kimbolton, OH
Internship: Ohio Wildlife Center, Hospital Intern
Location: Columbus, OH

I'm a Junior Zoo and Conservation Major at Otterbein University and I had the great pleasure to spend this past semester working as an Intern at the Ohio Wildlife Center Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Since I'm also a Pre-Veterinary student, these blogs are typically going to focus more on that aspect of any experiences I have. And since this happens to be my first blog, I've decided to take you through a typical day in the life of an Intern at the hospital. To start, your veterinary technician supervisors are great people that are willing to help you understand anything. So know that any question will be answered, and possibly with a visual if possible. And so, I've chosen a day to describe where that willingness to help was put very much in the forefront. 

Since this day is during warmer weather, we have many young mammal babies consisting of rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, and opossums. I began by feeding the cottontail rabbits because we were already behind because of the sheer volume of admissions we'd had over the past few days. Because I had previous experience, I was told to teach the newer volunteers how to tube feed rabbits. But one of the volunteers got a little too confident in their abilities to tube and didn't wait for confirmation from me that she had fed the tube correctly before she began depressing the formula. Unfortunately, the volunteer had sent the tube down the trachea and punctured a lung, so when she depressed the milk, it filled the rabbit's chest cavity with formula. This almost immediately ended the rabbit's life. Though very sad, this type of event can happen frequently when working with animals as small and fragile as cottontail rabbit young. To prevent the event from being all bad, we necropsied the rabbit to view the formula in the chest cavity and also what it looks like on the inside when we have placed the tube correctly versus incorrectly. We could feel what the tube should feel like when it is placed correctly in the rabbit's stomach and use that knowledge for future rabbits. Kristi Krumlauf was excellent about allowing us to ask many questions and also feel the rabbit while we tried to figure out its anatomy. I was also able to ask about finding the rabbit's bladder. After I located it on the deceased rabbit, I was much more comfortable finding it on the healthy rabbits and could more accurately judge when their bladders were full. The picture below shows a comparable-sized rabbit to the one described above.
                                                             Picture from:

After we completed the necropsy, I finished feeding the rabbits and then moved on to helping with squirrels. Because we have a few older squirrels, we also have to keep their enclosures stocked with food so I did a lot of cleaning and feeding. There was one squirrel that had her bushy tail and was sitting similar to an adult squirrel while eating: in other words, she was making the transition from baby to adult squirrel and it’s really rewarding to see. The pictures below show the difference between what she looks like, a miniature adult squirrel, and a baby squirrel. Notice especially the tail and fur differences.

                              Picture from:    Picture from: 

The final project before I needed to leave was the flight room, the room where song birds go once they have become well and are one step closer to release. For cleaning, the room has sheets on the floor that need removed and switched out for new ones. Feeding is a bit more difficult: because of the difference in species of birds in the flight room, it needs to be stocked with multiple types of seed and different sizes of fruit.

Because of the many different types of animals that come into the Ohio Wildlife Center, no day is ever the same. And there's always positive experiences and negative experiences. For example, in the day I just described to you, we lost a baby rabbit but also got to witness the growth of a squirrel at the hospital. It would be easy to lose sight of the positive, but part of working in any hospital is accepting the bad and clinging to the positive to get you through the day.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Tale of Two Eagles

Name: Rachel Dalton
Class Year: 2016
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Internship: Wildlife Hospital Intern, Ohio Wildlife Center
Location: Columbus, OH

Hello again! Now that spring is upon us, life has gotten much busier at the wildlife hospital. Baby bunny (eastern cottontail rabbit) season is now in full swing. It is not uncommon to get 10+ in a day. We have also been getting in a lot of baby squirrels, a few baby birds, and baby opossums (my personal favorite!). Baby waterfowl season is beginning as well; our first mallard ducklings came in this week.

A baby Virginia opossum. Image courtesy of
Orphaned baby wildlife is a big contributor to the spike in admissions we see in the spring. If you happen to find neonatal wildlife in your yard, we always strongly recommend that you evaluate whether it is actually orphaned. We have great wildlife hotline volunteers who can help you with this! We do our absolute best for the little ones that come through our door, but allowing wildlife moms to do their job whenever possible is the most ideal. FOX28 Good Day Columbus recently came to visit Ohio Wildlife Center to learn about this very subject. Here is a link to a clip from their visit featuring our Director of Educational Programming, Barbara Ray, demonstrating how to reunite baby birds with parents:

Baby bird reuniting clip!

If you have any questions about baby wildlife you have encountered and what you should do about it, you can check out Ohio Wildlife Center’s FAQ page and/or call our wildlife hotline at 614-793-9453. You can also learn more about orphaned wildlife in this article from Ohio Division of Wildlife.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been involved in a few different wildlife rescue missions. OWC does not generally have the resources/manpower available to go retrieve animals in distress (our fabulous hotline volunteers are great at walking people through how to handle and bring in animals safely!). However, a few unique situations came up recently that I was sent to go help with. These instances have involved two literal wild goose chases, and a Cooper's hawk that flew into a window. I really enjoy being able to use what I have learned about wildlife biology and handling not only at OWC, but also in the “real world”! Here is a picture of the Cooper’s hawk nestled in the box I brought him back to the hospital in:

He appeared to be stunned from his collision with the window when I first retrieved him, but I’m happy to say he was successfully rehabilitated and released!

Another recent success story was this redhead duck:

Redhead duck and I!
He came into the hospital back in February with an injury that made it difficult for him to walk. As he recovered part of his treatment plan involved physical therapy in the form of daily walks around the hospital. This is what I was in the process of doing with him when this picture was taken. I had not seen this species in person before, and they are very neat birds. I highly recommend looking up redhead duck vocalizations, as they sound somewhat like a kazoo!

Two bald eagles have been admitted to the hospital over the last few weeks. I have always considered them majestic birds, but I did not fully appreciate how incredible they are until having the opportunity to see them up close and work with them. When mentioning the eagles to friends I am often asked how we handle them, and my response is always very carefully! They are designed to hunt and be able to tear flesh, which is something we have to be mindful of when handling them and our other birds of prey. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to work with these eagles and help them get back on their feet.

Image courtesy of Don Burkett via Flickr Creative Commons.

One of our eagle patients is a particularly neat fellow, and was featured in a Facebook post by Ohio Division of Wildlife: 
"An injured bald eagle was recently reported in Knox County. What makes this incidence a little different was that the eagle was banded, and the initial observation noted the bands were well worn. Knowing the division hasn't banded eagles for a number of years, we were very curious about this bird. As it turns out, the eagle was banded in 1996 at the Ft. Seneca nest in Seneca County making it 19 years old! The bird had surgery to repair the injury and is currently doing well at the Ohio Wildlife Center."
Here is a picture of this eagle that Ohio  Division of Wildlife shared:

Image courtesy of Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In honor of our bald eagle patients, I will close with a few facts about this species!

*Just a few decades ago, the bald eagle was endangered as a result of excessive hunting and the unrestricted usage of DDT. This pesticide ran off into waterways and accumulated in fish-- a primary food source of bald eagles. As a result of consuming the contaminated fish, bald eagle egg shells were significantly weakened to the point where few eagles were surviving to adulthood. In 1972 DDT usage was restricted, and bald eagle populations have been recovering successfully. They are no longer considered endangered, and have been reclassified as threatened.

*Bald eagles do not acquire their signature white heads until they are between 3 and 5 years old. One of the bald eagles in the OWC hospital currently is just beginning to develop some white feathers on its head.

*Bald eagles construct very large nests out of sticks; according to National Geographic, the largest on record was 9.5ft in diameter and 20ft tall!

PS: Here is a link to a bald eagle nest cam. Shout-out to Friday morning volunteer Deb for sharing this with me!