A female bald eagle at the Sallisaw Veterinary Clinic
waits for a flight cage to continue its rehab.
A red-tailed hawk is able to practice flying in the
one flight cage at the Sallisaw Veterinary Clinic.
The female eagle, rescued in January by an Oklahoma game warden, was left with Dr. Gary Cox, a certified wildlife rehabilitator, to recover. Dr. Cox’s rehab team includes Tiffany Murray and Crystal Wilson who are also certified.
Murray explained, “She is doing well. She may have suffered during this mating season. She laid an egg, but unfortunately broke it. This may be her first year as a mature bird. The game warden said she would fly about 30 yards, and then just stop and fall over. But she has eaten well and has been doing well.”
The eagle was moved just this week from her small intense rehab cage to a larger area at Dr. Cox’s veterinary clinic since she has progressed to a state where she needs to spread her wings and practice flight. But the clinic doesn’t have enough flight cages.
In Oklahoma, wildlife rehabilitators pay for all the attention the recovering wildlife needs, including food, shelter and medical attention. At the clinic, a building that at one time featured horse stalls and dog kennels is being rehabbed itself into flight cages for the birds that need to exercise. But right now, the clinic has three red-tailed hawks in addition to the bald eagle. And one of the hawks has dibs on the one flight cage available.
Donations are needed to complete another flight cage, Murray said, so the bald eagle can spread her wings and practice flight before she is released into the wild. She said about $300 is needed to complete a second flight cage.
“We can’t put them together in the same flight cage,” Murray said, “because they attack one another.”
The purpose of the wildlife rehabilitators is, of course, to release the animals back into the wild, both Murray and Wilson said.
“Even though we know there is a chance the animal may be killed, it is fun to go from being hurt to release,” Murray said. “It is a satisfying feeling.”
And each rehabilitator has their own favorite. Murray said she prefers raccoons, which are surprisingly intelligent.
“They can figure out anything,” Murray said of the orphaned baby raccoons she raised. And when it was time to release those raccoons, Murray said, “Oh I cried because I got attached and didn’t want to let them go. I cried for days.”
Murray added that rehabilitators try not to get attached, but it is hard not to when raising orphaned babies.
Wilson prefers skunks. She said, “We had 14 last year. They are my favorite. They instinctively know how to use a litter box. I had to release some babies last year. The first time I tried to release them they wouldn’t go and climbed up my leg. I had to keep them for a while longer then release them twice. They are fun.”
Dr. Cox, the ladies said, prefers squirrels, but he rehabs everything from snakes to deer and more.
Murray said spring approaches and the rehabilitators expect they will be seeing more wildlife as eggs hatch and babies are born.
“It seems like people are paying more attention,” she said. But she doesn’t mind.
“It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work, and rewarding at the same time. It’s good to know we gave that animal a second chance.”
For information on helping build more flight cages contact the clinic at 918-775-6182.
If an ill or injured wild animal is found, contact the clinic for information or the local game warden.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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