By Dr. Vic Dasaro
We certainly see a very interesting caseload of injured or ill wildlife. From snowy owls with dislocated wings, to giant snapping turtles with crushed shells, to mange-ridden fox kits, a wildlife veterinarian sees a little bit of everything.
This week, just when we were ready to think we had seen them all (or mostly), a common loon was brought to my hospital. He was weak, unable to stand (or so we thought) and had a disturbingly slow heartrate.
A long way from home
This bird was a beauty — black and white feathers, long beak but really ill. He also was far out of his habitat — by this time of year, he needed to be up near Canada. These birds live up to 30 years in the wild and have common ancestry with penguins!
The beak is the business end, and we were careful to control his head while examining him (or her; it’s difficult to determine the sex of these birds).
Blood tests, X-rays and an electrocardiogram indicated organophosphate poisoning. This can be from exposure to pesticides on farms. Sure enough, he had been found in an apple orchard. And one of his big problems was that this type of bird can’t get around on land very well — he needed to be in water, and soon.
‘Relay from the heart’
Medications to treat the toxic exposure and stacks of herring got him feeling chipper quickly. A “relay from the heart” was quickly arranged by rehabbers near and far. Each one did a two-hour stint up the Thruway, till our loony friend was over the Canadian border. The photos we were sent provided all the reward we ever hope for.
Dr. Vic Dasaro, who practices in Newburgh Veterinary Hospital, has a special interest in avian medicine and Labrador retrievers. He and Dr. Ellen Friedman have been married for 30 years and in veterinary practice together for 20.