When Western Grebes started coming in to Humboldt Wildlife Care Center in the middle of January, we were not sure what was causing their injuries. Large puncture wounds, crushed legs and wings… we surmised then and still have no better theory than conflicts with Sea lions when foraging. Over the course of the next few months, we admitted for care nearly 30 of these elegant and ferocious fish-eating birds.
Of these birds, however, only 2 were able to be fully rehabilitated and released. Most had injuries too severe to ever be able to heal well enough that they could thrive in the wild. This is without question one of the hardest parts of wildlife rehabilitation; – the repeated exposure to devastating injury.
Because aquatic birds need to be on water while in care this can make treating wounds below their waterline difficult. Only recent advances in aquatic bird wound management have allowed for more of these birds to survive their injuries and be returned to their lives. In the past it was assumed that the weeks required for deep, penetrating wounds to heal meant that birds who need to be on water were not good candidates for rehabilitation. Many birds with such wounds were euthanized for humane reasons.
With time and trial and error, rehabilitators have learned techniques that mitigate some of the negative outcomes of being kept off water as well as ways to successfully treat these wounds while the bird is housed on water. This requires skilled staff and purpose-built infrastructure.
So, while the number is low, two of the birds we treated recovered from their deep wounds and were recently released back to their free and wild lives. Thanks to your support we were able to provide the extensive, specialized care these birds require.