NANFA-- OT: West Nile affecting raptors in Ohio
Sat, 24 Aug 2002 07:32:47 EDT

from an Indiana bird list.

Subject: Back To The Wild update on wildlife crisis . . .
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 00:56:46 -0700

Dear Friends:

I wanted to make you all aware of what is happening at Back To The
Wild. This is an update on a wildlife crisis in Ohio that has hit
rehabilitation centers and zoos hard! It is statewide. In just two
weeks, almost every center in Ohio has experienced unheard of admissions
of Great Horned Owls daily from the wild; [plus] Red-tails, Coopers and
other raptor species. Most are Great Horneds - and most all have head
tremors and some with paralysis of the legs. Many are dying quickly,
within 48
hours, though a few seem to be recovering. Most are found standing or
laying on the ground, unaware of their surroundings and allow you to
just pick them up. Today, I received eight more affected Great Horned
two Red-tails and yet another call just now about another Great
Horned! It is unbelievable. How many birds are down out there that
aren't being found? There are 18 sick birds here and I have begun
euthanizing several. A few are recovering and then will be immune for
the rest of their life to West Nile.

Worse yet, most centers have lost Education Birds that have been at our
centers for 10 or more years. They die overnight, without
warning. Rehabbers are devastated. I have lost four caged birds here,
and fear for the Bald Eagles and other raptors at our center. Sue has
lost her program Snowy Owl and Merlin and most centers have lost
Barreds, Great Horneds, Red-tails and Kestrels. I have heard several
have lost Gyrfalcons. We cannot protect our birds, as we don't have
results back yet, and we can't move them to safer quarters, because
doing so would cause major stress and weaken their immune systems. We
are all
suspecting West Nile. Bringing them into our centers means that
mosquitoes feeding on them can fly about the program cages and infect
those birds. This is a great health risk and even euthanizing any
incoming birds doesn't protect our Education Birds, because they are
coming from every county in Ohio and if it is West Nile, that means the
mosquitoes are out there anyway. We know we can't save all these
incoming birds and shouldn't, but we do have to protect our permanent
at our centers. Next year, the weaker ones should be eliminated from
environment and those that survived will be a perfect example of
nature's efficient system of "natural selection".

My veterinarian was here until 11:30 p.m. collecting blood and tissue
samples and we packaged entire birds on ice to be sent to the Ohio Dept.
of Health and the National Health Animal Diagnostic Lab in Madison,

One center sent in two Great Horned Owls and one Red-tail and all
three tested positive for West Nile.

The advice from Federal and State
agencies is to put mosquito netting over all our cages! Absolutely
impossible! Some of the cages are over 60 to 100 feet long and 16 feet
high. How can you mosquito proof that?! Humans will not get the West
Nile virus from contact with an infected bird in their area, but must be
bitten by a mosquito who has bitten an infected bird. However, lab
technicians have contracted West Nile from the blood of infected birds,
that came in contact with cuts on their hands. News Channel 13 called
and some newspapers who will create a public panic if they don't handle
this right. Very few humans get sick from exposure to West Nile -
flu-like symptoms and then it is over. Individuals with weakened immune
systems, however, are at risk.

Well, I really wanted to let some of you who would have interest in this
and are involved with Back To The Wild, to know what's going on before
you read about it in the paper, etc. We are running on nerves and
rest and a great support system networking with our fellow rehabbers and
veterinarians. Marianne Socha, DVM in Huron, once again has donated her
time and energy to help us through this. We are truly indebted to

Take care.

Bill and Mona Rutger
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