Mostly its birds. On this day a dozen or so doves, several kestrels, a couple of Canada geese and a golden eagle sat stoic in their enclosures. Suzy came over from the orphan care area and pointed to two large crates on the floor, the only space left. Under a protective spray of plastic plants in one crate was a heap of baby squirrels climbing over each other in anticipation.
“They’re hungry!” Suzy said.
She showed me how to make formula and I found the small syringes outfitted with tiny rubber nipples. Soon I was sitting on the floor by the crate, taking a squint-eyed baby ground squirrel into my hand. He squirmed and I was awkward, but finally we coordinated to get the milk into his mouth. When he finally latched on, his little paws came up to clutch the nipple like babies everywhere.
That’s where we were when Mike showed up. Mike’s especially gifted as an ICU volunteer because he’s taken the medical services training. MS volunteers provide treatment for the animals, from assessment and administering meds to wrapping breaks. Veterinarians come in for regular weekly visits and acute cases are sent out to specialists.
Mike grinned at me and pointed out the tag on the crate that clearly stated the squirrels were self feeding as of two days ago. I put a dish of formula in the crate and the other two squirrels came to lap it up. The one I’d fed was already napping.
Two kestrels were taken out to be released, loaded into a cardboard carrier and taken to their date with freedom. For the ones that remained Mike and I rinsed water bowls, distributed bird seed, lettuce, worms and small white mice, eviscerated and carefully weighed. In addition to the birds and squirrels, two tortoises and five baby bunnies rounded out our list of charges.
When Laura showed up things got even more interesting. Laura’s the medical services volunteer for our shift. She’s cheerful and casually competent. She checked on all the patients and administered meds while Mike tube fed doves.
Jan came in next and announced it was eagle feed time. “I just have to go skin the rabbit,” she said. (No patients are fed to other patients at Liberty Wildlife. Thousands of mice, chickens, rabbits, quail, and fish are purchased from commercial suppliers for animal diets.)
Mike pulled on hefty gloves that reached clear to his biceps. He knelt in front of the golden eagle’s cage. When the door swung open he simply reached one arm over the bird and grasped a thick yellow leg in each hand. Hugging the raptor’s back to his chest he brought the eagle out into the clinic area.
Using forceps, Laura fed the eagle the cut up bits of rabbit. He also received two rather large syringes of medication while I performed the important task of cleaning his cage. Think positive that the golden eagle recovers as this is a magnificent animal.
After that the more mundane tasks awaited, like sweeping, mopping and laundry. I can hardly wait til next week’s shift!