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Front Page » March 8, 2007 » Local News » County wildlife rehabilitation center treats, releases go...
Published 3,134 days ago

County wildlife rehabilitation center treats, releases golden eagle

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Sun Advocate reporter

Connie Waddell of the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center releases a health golden eagle into the wild on March 3. Waddell is a volunteer who has worked with the shelter for over a year. The center, located on Carbonville Road in Price, is one of only six facilities in the state that is licensed to care for eagles.

On March 3, Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center director Debbie Pappas and volunteer Connie Waddell released a golden eagle back into the wild.

The eagle, dubbed "Cleo," came to the center on Sept. 4 suffering from West Nile virus. The bird was nursed back to health by Pappas and the center's volunteers.

The Carbon County facility is one of six wildlife rehabilitation sites in the state that is accredited to care for eagles.

Located on Carbonville Road, the center is licensed to care for all birds from hummingbirds to bald eagles.

"Even a magpie is federally protected these days," pointed out Pappas. "There is a careless attitude around here when it comes to animals and that is something I am trying to change."

"All life is important and we need to care for all the beautiful wildlife in our area," continued the wildlife rehabilitation center's director.

In one week, Pappas will travel to Illinois to attend the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association convention in Chicago.

The center's director will personally cover the expenses associated with the trip since working as a wildlife rehabilitator in the Castle Valley area is not a paying job.

"We are required to take continuing education credits and attend a lot of training yearly in order to stay accredited. And this job is not something you are ever going to get rich doing, it is something you do because you love wildlife," commented Pappas.

The rehabilitated golden eagle was released at a location near a small bluff in Kenilworth canyon.

The bird was a little shy at first, but caught a thermal and was flying high about 10 minutes after the eagle's release.

"We got really nervous for a moment," said Pappas.

"Cleo" the golden eagle was nursed back to health after acquiring West Nile virus by the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

According to the wildlife rehabilitation center director, a second golden eagle joined Cleo soon after the bird took to air. The initial nervousness sprung from the fact that golden eagles are very territorial and Cleo was worried that the second bird might attack Cleo because she was in her territory.

Pappas reported that, after the golden eagles "felt each other out" for a few minutes, the birds decided to get along and circled high above the hills riding the thermals.

"There is a sadness and simultaneous joy every time we put a bird back into the wild," continued Pappas. "We care for them like they are our own children."

West Nile virus is a disease that has affected a lot of birds in this area and can be very dangerous to humans as well.

West Nile was first detected on the east coast in 1999 and spread rapidly throughout the United States.

West Nile virus can cause encephalitis in humans, primarily among the young, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems.

According to wildlife biologist Miles Falck, 3,439 cases have been reported at locations across the nation and West Nile virus has caused 198 deaths.

The virus is spread when an infected mosquito bites a susceptible bird.

The West Nile virus circulates in an infected bird's blood for one to four days. The disease will infect other mosquitoes that subsequently feed on the bird's blood.

Hosts develop antibodies to the virus and acquire life-long immunities to WNV and are no longer affective hosts.

"We band every bird that comes through here," explained Pappas. "We do so with eagles hoping to help with research about the antibodies that these birds develop to West Nile virus."

According to the local wildlife rehabilitation center director, significant research is currently underway to determine whether the offspring of infected and rehabilitated birds are also immune to the disease.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, prevention is the best way to deal with West Nile virus.

Fighting mosquito bites reduces the risk of getting the disease.

The national disease control agency recommends that CarCounty residents follow several precautions to limit potential exposure to West Nile virus.

The steps recommended by the federal agency include:

•Avoiding insect bites and illness.

•Cleaning out the mosquitoes from the places where people work and play

•Helping the community control the disease

•Using insect repellent on exposed skin when going outdoors.

The disease control officials recommend that all individuals use an insect repellent registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Examples are insecticides containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Spending even a short time outdoors can be long enough to get a mosquito bite which can lead to West Nile.

•Wearing shirts with long sleeves, pants with long legs and socks when outdoors.

Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing so spraying repellent on the exterior of clothing will give extra protection needed to stop infection.

•Becoming aware of peak mosquito hours.

The hours from dusk to dawn are peak biting times for many species of mosquitoes.

People should make sure to use repellent or consider avoiding outdoor activities during the peak times.

•Draining standing water.

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water.

People should limit or eliminate the number of places around the home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of standing water.

Additionally, dead birds may be a sign that WNV is circulating between birds and mosquitoes in the area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 130 species of birds are known to have been infected with West Nile virus.

By reporting dead birds to state and local health departments, Carbon County residents can play an important role in monitoring WNV.

"The reporting of problems with wildlife by local citizens is something that is a great help to what we do here," said Pappas.

The Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is currently nursing a second golden eagle for release back into the wild.

The second bird was injured after being struck by a truck because of a very weakend mental state.

The golden eagle was diagnosed with lead poisoning and West Nile virus upon examination at the center.

"We think she could be with us for another six months," stated Pappas. "But we think we can get her back into the sky."

According to Pappas, the rehabilitation center is always looking the volunteers and people who want to do something for the wildlife in the Carbon County area.

Local residents interested in donating to the organization may contact the wildlife rehabilitation center director at the center on Carbonville Road or at 650-3441.

"There are a lot of challenges for eagles in our area. Trucks hit them, they get electrocuted, trapped and shot. And that is not to mention the natural problems they encounter with very feisty prey. They need our help and as long as I am around they will get it," concluded Pappas.

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