Behind the Scenes with a Critical Case by Rachel Lambert
As a second year interning as a wildlife rehabilitator, I became more comfortable working independently diagnosing and treating all the different kinds of animals that found their way into the sanctuary. My first summer interning, I spent a lot of my time learning how to recognize the different diseases, illnesses, and injuries common for many species. As a second year intern, I really expanded on how to approach and treat each unique situation. During critical cases, being able to quickly come to a conclusion and treat an animal may make all the difference. I spent my summer memorizing the protocols for diseases and formulas for different medications so I could quickly provide a treatment.
Expanding my knowledge with medications and treatments really helped when a critical great horned owl was brought in after it was clipped by a semi. When the owl was brought in, it was so weak it could not stand or open its eyes. She was lucky enough to have no broken bones, however, we found a large amount of blood in her mouth and noticed she was having a difficult time breathing. With help from a co-worker the first thing I treated was her difficulty breathing. I immediately started cleaning the blood out of her nostrils and away from her trachea.The next step was to sub-Q and tube her some electrolytes and critical care to help her gain some strength back. Lastly, we administered an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory. The rest of the day she was left to rest in a low stress environment. These procedures were then repeated twice a day or more as needed.
After a few days the great horned owl started standing and opened one of her eyes. Since only one eye was opening, we closely examined her other eye. Her other eye had significant damage, so we started treating that as well. After a few short weeks, she was able to open both eyes, stand for long periods of time and confidently eat on her own. She was eventually moved to an outdoor cage providing her with more room. Everyday she practices flying and slowly regains her muscles.
This great horned owl is getting closer and closer to release everyday! With a lot of hard work, knowledge, care and patience from the summer staff, she made a miraculous recovery. She still has a long way to go, but soon she will be released back into the wild where she belongs.