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THE RIVER - FEBRUARY 26, 2016
CROW Case Of The Week:
Turkey Vultures Are Grossly
by Patricia Molloy
Vultures get a bad rap. While some people believe that
vultures are gross, others would argue that they are
Vultures may not be the cutest and most cuddly of creatures,
but their presence is essential to a healthy ecosystem. By feeding
on carrion, they help prevent the spread of diseases. And despite
the fact there are some pretty gruesome items in their diets, vul-
tures are surprisingly sanitary. For example, the lack of feathers
on their heads allows them to remain cleaner and relatively free
of the potentially dangerous bacteria that is often found in their
While it is quite rare for any wild animal to be calm and relaxed during its stay at
CROW, as a species, vultures tend to be particularly high-stress patients. To complicate
matters for the hospital's staff, when approached for medical treatments, vultures often
deploy their signature method of scaring off predators: regurgitation."This is how they
scare people away, and this is why people say they don't like vultures," explained Dr.
Allison Daugherty. But after one gets over the initial yuck factor, one begins to appre-
ciate the pure genius of this unique defensive move. "We think it's awesome! It's really
a fascinating defence mechanism."
On February 9, a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) was admitted to CROW after
being found down. With little in the way of history, the examining veterinarian sur-
mised that the juvenile male, patient #16-360, was likely hit by a car. Fortunately, no
broken bones were detected in the bird's wings, however, several fracture sites were
palpated in its right leg.
"He has a broken tibiotarsus," explained Melissa Fox, veterinary assistant. "In birds,
the tibiotarsus, it's kind of like their ankle, and it is his tibiotarsal joint that is broken.
Dr. Heather put pins in there to stabilize the break and two external fixators, meaning
that there is a bar on each side of the leg. Technically, after surgery, he should be able
to stand on his broken leg because it's stabilized by the two rods on the outside. He
also has a fractured tarsometatarsus (lower leg above the toes) and that was stabilized
with a splint."
Nearly two weeks after surgery, the vulture's condition was steadily improving. "It
looks really good. Between the bruising
and the swelling, it looks a lot better," said
Dr. Allison. "Luckily, vultures don't need to
grasp their prey like a hawk, so it's less vital
that it (tibiotarsus) be perfect, but he still has
to be able to perch and to be comfortable."
CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation
of Wildlife, Inc.) is a non-profit wildlife hospital providing veterinary care for
native and migratory wildlife from our local area. The hospital accepts patients
seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mail donations to PO Box 150, Sanibel,
FL 33957. Call 472-3644 or visit: www.crowclinic.org.
A radiograph image shows the four metal
pins and two external rods that were surgi-
cally inserted to stabilize its fractured leg
Black vultures have grayish heads while
turkey vultures have red heads. The patient
had to be anesthetized for radiographs and
received oxygen through a tube
Nature Walk At Galt Preserve
ALee County Conservation 20/20 volunteer naturalist will lead a free guided
nature walk on Wednesday, March 2 at 9 a.m. at Galt Preserve, 3661
Stringfellow Road, St. James City. The preserve is one of Lee County
20/20's newest sites.
The 90-minute, 1.5 mile walk covers portions of mangrove swamps and flatwoods.
The preserve is home to an active eagle nest and other wildlife including bobcats and
Visitors are advised to wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes that can get wet or boots.
Long pants and long sleeves, hats, sunscreen, bug spray, cameras, binoculars and
water are recommended.. There are restrooms and a picnic shelter on site. Dogs are
not permitted on this walk.
A complete schedule of this year's guided walks can be found at http://www.con-
servation2020.org. No reservations are required. For additional information or ques-
tions, call 822-7942.
Galt Preserve on Pine Island is home to an active eagle nest.
1101 Periwinkle Way #105
ENGEL & VÖLKERS
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