Estonia: The Doctor’s Blog, How To Treat Medically Wildlife

The “Wildlife Medicine” course

Wow, seems I haven’t written something for long time but I have been so busy in between and it seems not to end soon… Well there has been lots of happenings but today I want to share one accomplishment what am I really happy and proud of. 

For quite some time I have wanted that Estonian vets could learn basic wildlife medicine skills already in the university so I have been pushing that rock for some time. After long period of planning and getting all the needed paperwork filled and approved, last week, Wednesday, 13th Oct, I held the first lecture in wildlife medicine ( at the veterinary institute. Its a elective course for 5th and 6th year vet students, but the university want’s to get it through open university available to practicing veterinarians too.

 The faculty members have said that I made a record with the course as the 20 opened spots where registered with one day! That shows high interest in the topic so now I have to fill high expectations from the students, but so far the lectures and practical works, what we have done with the students at the course have just been great! And I kind of hope, maybe I can light deeper interest in somebody who will want even more to do with wildlife in the future (and maybe I could have a relaxing vocation in the summertime as normal people do :D).

White-tailed eagle 12-0034

On the evening of 13 August I cot a call about an eagle near Aegna island. The Rescue board members noticed two big objects in water, and when they got closer they saw two White tailed sea-eagles next to each other. One of them could get out of the water by it’s own strength but the other needed assistance. First, they managed to help the eagle swim to a rock where the bird started to sit but the local pair was attacking the intruder so it fell multiple times back into water. After some convincing and instructing a brave rescuer agreed to capture the eagle and put him to a crate, away from the other aggressive eagles. The eagle was too weak for release so I went to get the eagle and transport it to the clinic and do some diagnostics to be sure that hes healthy and gas not suffered too much damage while fighting and swimming.
On the early morning (6AM) of 14 august I started to drive towards Aegna, to catch a boat of the rescue board, what would take us to the island. The first examination on the island i did not find any physical injuries but the bird was lethargic, only staying on hes sternum and all the feathers where still soaked. I got to the with the eagle around 8PM and started to work with the eagle. The eagle weight 3,25 kg, what is bit light for the size of his. The radiographs and ophthalmic examination under general anesthesia did not reveal any significant findings but running the blood test, there was significant anemia and strongly raised white blood cell count. For today’s 16’th august, the general appearance has improved – standing and trying to fight back. I will be performing the next blood test on the beginning of next week and hope that it is getting better and I can start creancing the bird. But first i need to build eagle size equipment for creancing him.

I want to thank the members of Estonian Rescue Board and the Voluntary Rescue Squad on Aegna, who where great partners in the rescue of the eagle.
On 31 august So far we have improved well… If we look the general appearance of eagle, he seems totally normal. I have been training him for 11 days and he is flying really well, so if I look only that side of the coin he could have been released already this week. But the blood takes a bit more time to bounce back than the general appearance of the eagle, so I decided this Wednesday after doing a blood-work that he should be one more week with me and also get some more weight on the bones. He was weighing 3,95 kg on Wednesdays weighing. So I plan to do some blood-work again on the first half of the week, and if everything is going well, there is a hope for a eagle release upcoming week 😀
To be continued…

Black stork 12-0019

0n 2. July, Urmas Sellis (the head of the Eagleclub, eagle and black stork biologist) contacted me (as he has done before when there has been an wild animal in need of medical help) that one of the storklets in web camera has something wrong with the beak. After assessing the pictures I was sure that it may be a serious problem and we need to see the bird in person. I hoped that in the best case scenario we can fix it in forest and leave the bird to hes nest but seeing the fracture  on site I decided that it needs surgical repairing. So we packed the valuable package and carried out of the forest and drove back to our good partner The Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences of the Estonian University of Life Sciences, where we will take care of him. We arrived in Tartu at midnight and did brief examination, cleaned the fracture site, made a stabilizing bandage on the lower beak, gave the birds some medicament’s and food.  We started him on subcutaneous fluids, pain medicament’s (as it’s a bone fracture and its painful) and antibacterial drugs (as the wound is open and has been in contact with dirt and food). He also had some creepy crawlies as friends (read lice) and some trematodes (Cathemasia hians – I’ve seen bunch of black storks in Estonia and so far everybody has had them, what’s not a good thing) in the upper alimentary tract. We have treated the storklet for lice and removed so far all the trematodes what we saw. We will treat for the trematodes and possibly other intestinal parasites when we will have fecal sample result in.

On the morning of 3rd July I fed the bird, took a blood sample and gave gave him his medications and will be doing some planning for the afternoon, when I hope to surgically repair the fracture. The surgery will be performed under general gas anesthesia so we can manipulate with the beak easily and the patient will not be stressed out, because severe stress can cause death.
Coming back to the blood, I can say that he has elevated white blood cells with eosinophilia. One reason for having eosinophils more as usual are parasites. But in generally he is in good condition.
The biggest concern is that he will try to be destructive on anything what we add to the beak for repairing so it needs to be stork-proof. Best scenario would be if he will tolerate the fixator and we can only immobilize the distal part (where the fracture is) of the lower beak and the worst case would be if we need to immobilize also the upper beak and insert a feeding tube into the esophagus. So the outcome often with wildlife is not decided on our medical skills but on the animals wish to co-operate with us.
As Estonian Fund for Nature is a non-governmental organization and our work with wildlife greatly is based on donation, we need support from the public. There is multiple ways. You can find the suitable from for you from our webpage also its possible to donate towards equipment (please contact me)

As there where lot of discussion in the forum how the injury occurred and there was talk about something metallic I did some radiographs to be on the safe side that there is nothing metallic in the bird. On the radiographs there was nothing significant to see – that’s good. Looking at the injure site it looks bit unusual. It seems more like cutting than blunt trauma.
Other thing what I’m questioned that if we look at the storks pictures and the fracture we see the proximal part from the fracture is not aligned with the upper beak but the distal, fractured tip runs to the tip of upper beak – logically taken it should be the other way around proximal part aligned normally with the upper beak and distal, the fractured tip bent to one side and if I look the upper beak with a liner, it’s not perfectly straight. Just some remarks…

A bit about the trematode also… they are whit indirect development; they need to have 2 hosts before they can develop to adult trematodes. Usually the first hosts are snails and second host is fishes, so stork will get infected eating the infected fishes. Nestlings should get the adult trematodes from their parents when they regurgitate food to nestlings. Another interesting thing is that its described that that trematode can do hes developmental cycle through in warm climates, where the storks winter. so that is what we know about that parasite. The effect of that parasite to black stork population is not well known.
Yesterday evening (3rd July) everything went pretty much according how we planned. One thing what we noticed was that the other side is also nicked (something like if you bend plastic it will leave a line) and kept together by soft tissue and still soft keratin what covers the bone in the beak. That’s why the fractured tip of the beak is so bendy.  Anyways today morning he got fish for food (today morning I went to the market and got him some small herring), he’s meds and fluids.
On 10th July: I have been busy as a bee not only with storklet but also whit other new patients and problems. Yes the bad thing is that I’m pretty alone working with wildlife so I do have to work 7d a week and right now is pretty much a high season (eg. there were two eagles found on ground not flying away but when they had to be picked up, to bring to me, they were not found). But i hope to start a Wildlife medicine course for veterinary medicine student’s end of this year (I hope that will bring more people in to this subject). As well we have finally got some land and a house to start planning a specialized wildlife hospital (that will take time but we have put a lot of efforts in it, but there is so much more to do)
But back to storklet. Currently there hasn’t been big news, just feeding, medicating and letting the time show if our plans will be glorious or will we be doomed. The “bad” news is that he is pretty feisty that means he feels well enough to be not so cooperative. As the beak is pretty soft (the beak bone (cartilage) is almost the same as your ears cartilage) so on feeding there is some movement what we would not have on a adult birds beak what is calcified. Also the outer surface of the beak is not keratinized so its soft. So its pretty interesting and challenging to get that beak working 100% again.
On 19th July: It has been now a bit over 2 weeks since receiving the storklet and i’m able to give you some decisions.
First, the cutting fracture has not healed well. I cant point my finger at a exact cause but it seems that the cut has been too deep into the soft tissue around the broken bone (cartilage) so it may has damaged some important vessels and the remained blood-vessels don’t provide sufficient perfusion to the injured distal part of the fractured beak and also the beak is soft and bendy (not like an adult beak) the stability has been a issue.
The second thing is that his siblings are getting ready to fly so we have talked about it and we are sure that under these circumstances its not possible to put the storklet back to the nest. So our current plan is to proceed with the treatments of the bird and give some peaceful time to the beak to heal.
The prognosis for release is guarded as even if the beak has healed he needs to learn and go trough some nature survival skill tests, eg. needs to catch live fish from artificial pond (all my patients go through some species specific survival skill testing before releasing them back to wild)
Well… that’s the news for now, not the greatest but he feels great and is pretty feisty to handle for treatments.
The stork has been in treatment for 6 weeks. We have had some success but also run into some unexpected problems. The good part is that the lower beak is aligned with the upper beak and is stable. My biggest worries where that the fixation would not work and the stork will have a nonfunctional scissored beak. The unexpected problem is that the lower jaw bone started to grow bit downwards so with time it developed a small gap. The importance of this problem is that the storklet has not started to eat by it self. I have been trying to get him to eat now for over a three weeks. Have done different type of tricks and used different types of food but no success. So the current result is a not functioning animal who cant be released and it needs hand feeding multiple times a day. The hand-feeding is also getting day by day more wrestling, what is stressful for the bird and I’m afraid of the injuries that he might get. As we don’t have currently facility’s and resources (manpower and financial) for that kind of high maintenance patient, I have run into time that I need to take a decision. Couple of years ago I saw an attempt to overwinter a black stork what ended with the birds death, so I’m aware that its not a simple task and needs some good facilities with workers and finances. As I’m working mostly alone and with limited resources and other patients, my mission is to help primary those who can be released. To keep an wild animal in captivity it needs good cause. I don’t support keeping wild animals into cages for somebody’s benefit, wildlife and nature has to gain a benefit that overpowers the stress caused by captivity and other potential issues for the bird.
So I will be euthanizing the storklet, but it will not be a easy task. Even doh the end result of our work is bit sad, I think we did good, as he would have died if we haven’t had taken him from the nest. I feel that one of the important things is that we learned a lot. Beak fractures on young animals is not common and we don’t see them often but they are totally different than adult beaks and their fractures.
I want to thank all the supporters and hope that your baby’s don’t need my help in future but I hope that you’ll keep us supporting as we are getting more and more patients who need help! Like white tailed sea-eagle 12-0034

Your donation will help support our work with patients like this Black stork… and with all of the other wild animals in need.

Survival of the fittest

4 weeks ago I was contacted by raptor biologists and by some web cam audience, wo all where worried about breathing sounds of a lesser spotted eaglet in the webcam. At that point it was decided not to intervene, so we could observe what is happen naturally. That is one of the main cause why the cameras are installed in the first place. For sure some chicks in nests will not survive up to fledgling. Biologists have found sometimes dead ones in nests.

My personal interest is to get to the causes of morbidity and mortality of wildlife in Estonia, as biological (read diseases) and chemical hazards are poorly studied in our wildlife population and therefore we don’t know how they influence our wildlife and environments health.

Coming back to the cause of the breathing abnormalities, it is pretty hard to speculate what was causing that. Lot of diseases may have influence to the respiratory system and to actually get to the truth we need to do some diagnostics to prove or rule out diseases and that costs alot (as you may know for your own visit’s to a doctor).

As the decision was not o interfere, that eaglet did well and with few weeks the symptoms relived and everything seemed good, but nature had something more planned for that bird. The eaglet started to fancy a neighboring goshawk and not in a loving but more as a nice meal. The goshawk tried multiple times until he succeeded of pushing the eaglet from the nest.

After the incident raptor biologist went to check if he could get the eaglet back to the nest but on arrival to the nest site he saw that the eaglet had been killed and also some parts had been consumed. The remaining corpse he brought to me for examination.

I performed a necropsy with the intention to find pathological changes and sample it to get a reason for the breathing abnormalities. The head and some muscles from left leg where missing as-well there where talon injuries all around the body reaching to the coelomic cavity and organs. The bad part was that the organism had already started to rot so it’s hard to get informative samples for laboratory tests, but I took some samples from abnormal organs for specific testing.

The moral of the story: We have experienced a lot of new knowledge what’s going on in the nature and we still have a lot to learn. As long as we learn new or old things and use them in future, we have won already!

Your donation will help support our work with patients like this Lesser spotted eagle… and with all of the other wild animals in need.

Short-eared owl 12-0020

The patient was found in Tartu at 13.07 afternoon. The owl was unfortunate and got hit by a car so the person contacted and brought it the universities animal clinic where I started to work with the patient. At first look I did get surprised as it was a Short-eared owl what is pretty rare over here (II cat protected species) but at the first quick peek (observation) I noticed that he had a pretty severe wing-droop, so I was bit afraid of a fracture in the joint or something else severe  and not fixable, like cut nerves or ligaments (bird fractures tend to be really sharp and can damage easily the surrounding soft tissue when the bird is trying to fly). Plus as he got hit by a car I was terrified that the patient has some severe trauma to hes eyes (as the bird eyes are enormously large compared to mammals and have some anatomical adaptions what make them very vulnerable to traumas).

Some more info about the patient, she or he is a juvenile bird – a young, first year individual.


So I did the clinical examinations with diagnostic x-ray, ophthalmic examination and bloodwork. The results where not so bad, he had multiple fractures on the left wing – Radius, ulna and metacarpus minor. The fractures of ulna and radius where significant but the good news was that they where diaphyseal fractures what are good candidates for surgical repairing. Eyes and blood where without significant finding so the decision to stabilize the patient for surgical repairing of the fracture was to be planned. A important part of the treatment is immobilizing and stabilizing the injured wing, and therefore I use a figure-8 bandage combined with a body-wrap, as-well he gets medicaments to prevent pain, bacterial infections and fluids. He also will be getting some gourmet food (read: he will be served some delicious mice)

I planned to perform the surgery on Tuesday, 17. July. Most of  invasive procedures are performed under general anesthesia, so was this surgery performed. The fractured bones where aligned and connected with intramedullary rods to make the wing stable and keep the fractured bone edges next to each-other so there would be a good healing process. The radiograph next to here was made just after the inserting the rods to confirm the correct placement of the IM rods. After that I just had to sutured the fracture-site wound (often the suturing of birds skin may be challenging) and make new bandages for the wing. So at the end of the surgery we can say it as successful – bird tolerated anesthesia and our procedure was performed as planned.

The next thing is to give time and peace to the wing, give medicaments, food and perform physical therapy on a weekly basis under general anesthesia, so we would not have secondary problems like constriction of the patagial ligament ect.

On 3 august we had another session of physiotherapy under general anesthesia. The bones seem to be stable and I hope that I can pull the pins on the end of the upcoming week. Then the bird still needs to relax in a wing-bandage for a week and if everything goes really well, I hope to start flight training him 3 weeks from now.

To be continued…

Your donation will help support our work with patients like this Short-eared owl … and with all of the other wild animals in need.

About narhvalur

Environmentalist, Animal Lover, Birder,Equastrian
This entry was posted in Animal Abuse and Captivity, Animal Behaviour, Animal Diseases, Animal Welfare, Birds, Conservation, Debate, Eco -Friendly Living, Eco News, Ecology, Environment, Estonia, Foxes, Heartwarming Stories, Hunting, Make a Difference!, Marine Mammals, Oceans, Oil Spill, Petitions, Philosophy, Photography, Poaching and Wildlife Trafficking, Politics, Pollution and Toxics, Radiation, Red Squirrel, Rehabilitation, Reptiles, Roe Deers, Sealing, Take Action, Technology, Travel, Turtles, Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife, Wildlife -Man Conflict and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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