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Medical technology takes wing as Carbon doctors treat injured birds

Loops of fishing line cut off the circulation in this barn owl's wing. Laser treatment is bringing about improvements.
The laser treatment improves circulation in the wounded wing.

Sun Advocate reporter

The 2012 orphan or nestling season is coming to an end as species in Castle Country begin to prepare for colder weather. For Debbie Pappas of the Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, a long, strange season has meant that more than 70 raptors alone have needed assistance already this year. While the center specializes in raptor rehabilitation, Pappas and her crew treat a wide variety of wildlife and pride themselves on providing whatever treatment is needed.

For a pair of angry birds, revolutionary cold laser therapy seems to be just what the doctor ordered.

With the help of Carbon chiropractors John and Kenneth Thayne, the center is currently treating a Barn and Great Horned Owl up to three times a week with highly specialized lasers.

"Right now we are using a K-Laser along a highly specialized frequency," said John Thayne while treating the large Great Horned Owl. "While there is a warm sensation from the treatment, the animal is not hurt by the laser, which along this frequency is helping to promote blood flow to damaged tissue."

The Great Horned Owl Pappas is currently caring for came her way after it was discovered entangled in a barbed wire fence by a farmer.

"Rather than cut the fence, the farmer decided to cut the bird off the wire. I don't really understand that," said Pappas.

The owl was then picked up by the Division of Wildlife Resources and brought to Carbon County.

"This bird has quite a bit of tissue damage, but there were no broken bones so we are hopeful for a release," explained Pappas.

According to John Thayne, both he and his father have been using laser techniques for more than 30 years, on their human patients that is.

"We have used this technology, depending on the frequency, to treat everything from shingles to a sore throat," said Thayne. "It is truly an amazing tool."

As Thayne started his treatment on the Barn Owl in Pappas' charge, the bird let out a long and harrowing screech. An explanation of the animal's experiences explains the bird's fury.

"The barn owl was found hanging from a tree in Salt Lake County. The bird's right wing had been wrapped with fishing line over 25 times," explained Pappas. "What we are most worried about is the loss of blood flow."

Despite the massive wound, Thayne's treatment, along with constant care from the center, has allowed a large amount of healing to take place.

"The laser will penetrate around 5 inches deep," said Thayne as he slowly worked the device over the animal's wound. "Therefore I can perform the treatment without removing bandages and further aggravating the animal. But I have to say I am amazed at the results we are seeing."

Both Kenneth and John are donating their services to provide each bird with the recommended six treatments needed. A service which Pappas explains in vital to continued wildlife rehabilitation.

"The public is often of the belief that the DWR takes care of wildlife rehabilitation and that is simply not true," said Pappas. "They don't fund it, pay for it or participate in it. They will deliver the wildlife if possible but that is the end of their involvement."

The cost of the center is substantial, as feeding bills can top $1,000 a week. A number made larger by the fact that most animals require a lengthy stay. With a bit of luck, both owls with see the freedom of release back into the wild. An ending due largely to the Thayne's donation.

"If an animal needs help, we will take them in," concluded Pappas. "If you need our help remember, it is only your donations that keep us her. If people keep donating, we will continue to be here to help."

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