Friday, December 30, 2011

Dakota took another big step Tuesday - he moved from the small enclosure he has been in for the last 3 weeks to a much larger, completely indoor aviary! He has finally reached a weight that allowed his vet to give the "ok" for him to move. He still has some weight to gain before being at his normal weight, but he's getting closer. Also he was able to have his first fully furred whole prey meal which he finished in under 30 seconds...he loved it!

The indoor aviary Dakota was moved to is a new feature of our new building; it can hold temperatures independently of the rest of the building. This will allow us to very slowly decrease the temperature of the room to get Dakota to adjust to the outside winter temperature before actually moving him outside. This will be a slow process, but we are thrilled about the big steps Dakota continues to take forward!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What is a pellet?

For those of you who’ve been watching Dakota’s progress you probably noticed that once he started eating solid foods he also began casting pellets. What, you might ask however, is a pellet?

Owls and other raptors, as you may know, maintain a diet primarily, if not exclusively, of protein. In other words, they eat other animals. Raptors are unlike humans who can cut, cook, and otherwise prepare our food to eliminate the indigestible portions. They also differ from carnivores like wolves that can tear the meat away from indigestible things like bones. They often feed on small animals like rodents and smaller birds. Weeding out the digestible from the indigestible parts of small animals like these when you only have a beak and talons to do so with isn’t always easy. The solution that raptors have come up with is casting pellets.

As a raptor digests its meal, its body separates these indigestible parts such as bones and fur. This material binds together and is later expelled through an action that very much looks like the bird is vomiting. They are not vomiting however, and it is not the same thing as a cat expelling a hairball either. Many people at one point in their lifetimes, whether it was in science class or just for fun, have dissected owl pellets. If you haven’t had the pleasure, these pellets appear as small forms of bound up fur. Often you can see small bones if you look closely. For those with strong stomachs we’ve attached the proof that Dakota is eating well and progressing better than we could have hoped for.

Dakota’s veterinarian plans to do another thorough exam on Monday complete with further blood work. We hope for good news from analysis of the results and will be sure to pass it along as soon as we can.

Dakota began casting pellets (complete ones) only two days after beginning solid foods
(the first note looks like it says 2/15/11 but it actually is 12/15/11)

On Sunday, December 18th, Dakota cast his 4th pellet! This is holiday cheer for those who work with wildlife!

When examined closely, you can find bones from small animals bound up in the fur. This is Dakota's 3rd pellet, in which you can see small bones from the mice he began getting on Tuesday, December 13th

This display was made for WINC to use for display and educational purposes. It shows examples of some of the things you might find if you were to dissect a typical pellet

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dakota has had his first meal!

The results from Monday’s blood tests were mostly positive. While not all of his levels were improved, he was given the green light to begin introducing solid foods today. The levels that have not improved point to a continued need for caution however, the improvement is welcome news to all those hearts that have gone out to the ambassador bird over these past several weeks.

After his rescue last Wednesday, December 7th, Dakota was examined by Wildlife In Need Center staff who felt that he was dehydrated and very thin. Dakota had lost a total of 27% of his body weight, eliminating not only his fat reserves but moving on to deteriorate his muscle tissue as well. He was given a full physical exam by his veterinarian who also drew blood for testing and oversaw the administration of subcutaneous fluids. Results from these blood tests confirmed his fragile condition. His PCV (packed cell volume) levels were low enough to consider Dakota slightly anemic and his elevated kidney values also confirmed his dehydrated state. Additionally, on Thursday a fecal test was run. The negative results of this test ruled out the existence of any parasites that his already weakened system would have to fight off during recovery. The complete results from this examination made it clear that Dakota was at risk of suffering from refeeding syndrome. Because of this he was prescribed a treatment plan of fluids only.
On Saturday, December 10th, Dakota’s veterinarian completed another exam. She determined that his hydration levels were increasing enough to begin introducing a liquid diet. This liquid diet was given both Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with subcutaneous fluids.

Dakota gets another thorough examination with staff and his veterinarian Monday
Monday showed a slight improvement in Dakota’s behavior and attitude and cautiously positive results from blood tests were graciously accepted. While Dakota enjoyed his first few bites of solid food since his return, he’ll still be guarded closely for the next 24-48 hours to ensure that his debilitated system doesn’t react poorly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dakota's Home: An update to his supporters

Dakota definitely knew his rescuers. Thanks to the dedication of WINC staff and volunteers Dakota was finally rescued on Wednesday morning. Upon his return home, Dakota was examined first by staff and then by his veterinarian. It was determined that he was very thin, having lost more than 25% of his body weight, very dehydrated and weak.

Due to his state, Dakota is being kept on cage rest under staff supervision.

While Dakota has made it through the first 48 hours and has not shown any decline in his condition, he still has a guarded prognosis. We can never fully know what he has seen and done over the past few weeks, but are providing him with the best care possible now that he is home.

It's clear he's exhausted and still easily stressed. Because of this and his need for fluids and medical care several times daily, we are not allowing any visitors, media, or photography that could cause him further distress.

Thank you, once again, to everyone for their thoughts and wishes for Dakota. As of today he is still being monitored by staff, and still an a fluid diet. Based on the care his vet has prescribed we will not likely have any significant updates on his condition until Monday.

Until then, thanks for caring.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dakota Returns Home

Dakota has been rescued and is now safely back home. At 7:30AM this morning staff contained the beloved Great Horned Owl whose 3 week ordeal is now over.

At 6AM staff was contacted by the homeowner of a site that has been under surveillance for over a week. Dakota was seen on the rear deck and was still there when staff arrived at 6:30AM.

When approached, Dakota flew off to a tree, flying low to the ground the entire distance. After several more lower, short flights between homes, trees, and fences in the area, he landed on the railing of a nearby home. One of our staff members was able to slowly approach up the stairs and after an excruciatingly long few moments, was able to safely contain him. After successfully securing him for the ride back, Dakota was finally returned home.

He is resting and recuperating after being examined by his veterinarian earlier today. (we are extremely grateful for the hours volunteered by Dakota’s Veterinarian, Dr. Waliszewski and others who assist us with both resident and patient animals all year long) Dakota returned very dehydrated and thin, but has likely been able to find some food to survive. We are still waiting for results from blood tests to determine if he has other health problems that will need to be addressed.

Dakota will be monitored and cared for, including fluids, for the next week before another evaluation will be completed to see if his condition is improving. Obviously, his physical condition as well as his temperament will determine when he will be able to return to programs and resume his position as the Wildlife In Need Center’s ambassador. We are grateful to have Dakota back where he is safe and only he can determine when he will be ready to return to work.

Thank you to everyone for their support and concern over the past several weeks. Keep watching this blog for updates as Dakota's recuperation continues.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Increasing Dakota Awareness & Education

This has been a very busy week for us at WINC, due in large part to our efforts to continue to reach out to the community and increase awareness of Dakota’s situation. We know our efforts are working, because we have been contacted by so many new people who have reached out to us: people who have just started following our blog & our facebook page, people who have now seen our flyers and heard about our search locally, and people who are becoming aware of Dakota from news stories and the internet. It is an amazing thing to see, just how many people have been touched by Dakota’s plight, and the awesome distances his story has traveled. We have been getting calls from as far away as Canada, from people who want to share information with us & help us in any way they are able, and to contribute ideas to our efforts to see Dakota home once again. It cannot be overstated how heartened we are for the continued well wishes and positive support we receive. If there has been any upside to this sad situation, it has been the constant stream of caring we have been blessed with. We are humbled by the generosity of spirit the community has for Dakota, and overwhelmed by how he continues to educate, even during this current situation.

As a part of our education and outreach efforts, we would like to remind everyone that during this difficult time for WINC, one of the things that is of the utmost importance to us is that we return the respect we have received. We are ever mindful that we want our impact on the community to be a positive one, and ever mindful that the example we set in our search methods allows us to achieve maximum impact with a minimum “footprint”. We are striving to be very respectful of the people who live in the neighborhoods we are searching in, and are therefore keeping our search parties small and quiet in nature. We are so very grateful for the opportunities we have been given to search on private property with permission, and wish to publicly thank everyone who has so graciously allowed us to continue searching on their land. We are also grateful that everyone who has offered to help us search has continued to contact WINC before acting alone, and has allowed us to take the lead on any organized searches. This in turn has allowed us to conduct ongoing searches with minimal disturbance to the community, and maximum respect to it.  No search parties organized by WINC will ever venture onto private property wihout permission.

We are also mindful of the impact our searches have on the environment, and mindful that we continue to fulfill our core mission of helping wildlife in need, and not creating any in the process by disturbing the existing balance. We have been very careful not to create nuisances, both by being selective of where we place our feeding stations, and not disturbing the patterns of existing wildlife in any of the areas we are searching. Above all else, we would never want our efforts in our search for Dakota to bring any harm to the existing wildlife in the areas we are searching. We take extreme care not to harass any wildlife in those areas, and to be respectful of their habitats & not disturb them. Again, we want to thank everyone who has chosen to help us to watch out for Dakota for the care they have also taken and continue to take, to always be respectful of the wildlife that lives in those areas. Though we have stated it in our poster, it bears repeating: if you spot a Great Horned Owl that you believe to be Dakota, please, please, PLEASE do not approach him or call to him.  Please watch him closely while being extremely quiet, and contact the Wildlife In Need Center immediately. Dakota will respond to his handlers, and may be frightened by people he does not already know and is comfortable with.  We would not want anyone to inadvertantly further traumatize Dakota, or unduly traumatize any other owl(s) in the area who might be mistaken for Dakota.

During this past week we have continued to hand out informational flyers during our daily foot searchs, and have followed up on many leads from people who have reported hearing owls in their area. Unfortunately, we still have not been successful in pinpointing Dakota's exact location. We have heard owl calls from time to time, but not always received responses that we could definitively identify as Dakota’s. We have made some minor changes to the locations of the feeding stations, but still have not seen any measurable evidence that he is visiting them. Even though it may seem obvious, one of the things that people sometimes forget is that, even if he is not catching live prey, Dakota will eat dead animals. And even if he is not visiting the feeding stations to do so, he may be finding other food in that manner. We remain optimistic that Dakota is eating on his own.

We also remain optimistic Dakota remains in the general area. There is a statistic on released owls that points to most of them staying in a 5-mile radius from the area they are released in. As we know the approximate area Dakota was in when he escaped his captors, we have a fairly good idea of the areas we need to be most watchful for him in. Additionally, part of that range for us includes both our current building and grounds, and our old building. We have had many people ask, and yes---we do search the premises around our old building on a regular basis, on the chance Dakota has found his way back to that area.

The most important thing that we want people to remember is, we have not given up on our efforts to locate Dakota. We absolutely believe he is out there, and we will absolutely continue to search for him, and continue to raise awareness of him throughout the community. The eyes and the ears of the local community are one of the greatest resources we have available to us.  We have know from the very beginning that this would not be an easy process, but we remain committed to bringing him home. He is such an important member of our family, we are not whole without him.

Please continue to help us to find Dakota by remaining observant and vigilant especially when you are in the Dousman/Hunter’s Lake area. We have an improved version of our original flyer available & attached to this blog for download. We've added some specific information about Dakota's behavior and habits that we hope will prove helpful in further increasing education & raising awareness of Dakota in the local community. As previously mentioned, we’d like to again invite everyone to please feel free to print out the picture of the flyer included with this blog and post it-----WITH PERMISSION = please do not post it or distribute it unless you have the expressed permission of any given property owner, business, school---etc. 
((Reminder: it is ILLEGAL to place flyers in mailboxes.))

Thank you for your continued support of Dakota, and of WINC. Please continue to keep the faith that he remains strong, and will be home with us again soon.

(Guest Blogger K.P.)