Here is a post from my first guest blogger, Cindy Kamler of Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care:
Heading into Bishop, CA, on a warm August morning, Cathy Kelty glanced at the field on the side of Highway 6 just north of Laws, where she often enjoyed spotting raptors. What she saw there caused her shock and dismay.
A Common Raven was hanging upside down from a fence stake, body swinging as the bird strove to free its trapped foot. Cathy has been an Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care volunteer for nine years – feeding baby birds at the center, conditioning adults in her flight cage at home, working with ESWC’s Fundraising Team. Cathy stopped and approached the frightened bird. She could see that the back toe had caught in a gap between the wire holding the fencing to the stake, and the stake itself. A closer inspection revealed that the toe was bleeding profusely, and was nearly amputated.
The exhausted raven was cooperative. After several attempts to free the toe, she realized that she would have to cut through the remaining shreds of tissue, as the bone had already been severed. Using a pocketknife, she cut the skin and soon had the bird in her arms. She called her husband, Bob, to bring her a box; and soon they were on their way to Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care’s hospital in Keough’s Hot Springs.
At the center, Director Cindy Kamler and an assistant readied a critical care cage and made preparations for treating an amputated toe. When Cathy arrived, she joined the medical team, and the wounded toe was cleaned and a pressure bandage applied to stop the bleeding. The raven was given fluids, treated for shock, and started on antibiotics. Fortunately, the amputation had removed a little less than half the back toe, leaving enough —hopefully—to allow the bird to stand, walk and perch fairly normally. He was young, born that spring, as shown by his pink mouth and tongue (in both ravens and crows, the inside of the mouth turns black as the bird matures.)
The amputation site slowly healed. After three weeks the raven was put into a long flight, as it was critical that the skin was strong and healthy enough to prevent the wound opening again during his normal activities of hopping, flying, landing, bathing and perching. Ten days later his toe had no problems, and we felt that, happily, he was ready for release.
Our policy for rehabilitated birds and mammals is to return them to the location where they were found whenever possible. This ensures that they will be familiar with the location, know where to find food, water, and roosting/denning sites, and may be able to reunite with parents, siblings or mates.
It was a beautiful, cool fall morning when Cathy and a few others from ESWC gathered at a spot on the northeast corner of the same field where the raven was found—away from the highway, and where there were several cottonwoods in which the bird could land. Facing the carrier toward the trees, Cathy opened it and stepped back. Eagerly, the young raven hopped out and flew up into one of the cottonwoods and perched on a dead limb. He was soon pulling off pieces of bark and snapping up insects that must have been hidden beneath. After about 15 minutes, he flew to one adjacent tree after another. He called, but there were no other ravens to be seen.
Suddenly he took flight across the field on a diagonal. We were all pleased to see that his flight was strong as he began to climb higher and higher until his black form rose above the mountaintops, sharp against the deep blue sky. As we were watching his course through binoculars, a second raven entered from the right! The two figures came together, then unexpectedly began to spiral around one another, wingtips nearly touching, dropping dramatically toward the ground below. We had no doubt that we had just witnessed our young raven reuniting with a parent or sibling, for, even at that distance, an overwhelming feeling of joy reached us as we watched until the ecstatic birds disappeared from view.
Please check out ESWC’s great website and contact Cindy at:
Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care
Bishop, CA 93515-0368
First photo by Tom Post; second by Cindy Kamler; third by Jim Burns.