Thursday, March 01, 2012

A visit to U of I Wildlife Medical Clinic, a plug for "Doodle for Wildlife" benefit

A visit to U of I Wildlife Medical Clinic, a plug for "Doodle for Wildlife" benefit

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Winter is a slow time of year for the U of I Wildlife Medical Clinic, where the patients currently include only three birds of prey and a garter snake. I took advantage of this quiet to stop by while the veterinary medicine students who provide health care there did their morning work one day last week.

Kelsey Braun, a second-year vet med student, leads the team that has been providing care for a red-tailed hawk named Samson. He came to the clinic in early January with a wing fracture caused by a BB, an open wound in his mouth and lacerations in his feet.

Braun carried Samson into the treatment room wrapped in a towel, but allowed for a peek at his face before covering it with a leather hood to calm him. In cooperation with second-year clinic manager Nicki Rosenhagen, and with the help of various devices to protect her from his beak and talons, she then carefully checked the progress of healing on each of Samson’s injuries. [Photo by Vanda Bidwell, courtesy of Champaign News-Gazette.]

Braun reported that the bone in his wing has knit together well, and the wounds in his mouth and feet have closed, thanks to suturing done at the clinic. He’ll soon be healthy enough for transfer to a rehabilitative center, on his way to release in the wild.

It was a treat to witness the skill and care Braun and Rosenhagen brought to their work. They are but two of approximately 120 students of veterinary medicine at the UI who volunteer their time to staff the Wildlife Medical Clinic.

Under the supervision of faculty, these students, who are at various stages in their education, work in teams, enabling those with less experience to learn from those with more experience as they assess patients and provide care. The approach, says clinic director Julia Whittington, is “See one, do one, teach one.”

Few of the students who volunteer at the clinic will go on to work with wildlife in their veterinary careers, but they will enter those careers with invaluable hands-on experience.

Of course, the work of students at the Wildlife Medical Clinic is a great benefit to the patients they treat, too. The range of patients admitted to the clinic includes animals as large and formidable as white-tailed deer and coyotes, and as small and delicate as ruby throated hummingbirds.

With spring almost upon us, Whittington asks that people who encounter an animal they suspect to be sick, injured or orphaned take some time to assess the situation before they act. “Parents of many species, including rabbits and deer, leave their young unattended as a matter of course, so a person need not intervene just because they see a baby animal alone.”

The Wildlife Medical Clinic Website includes a page that provides detailed advice on how to decide whether a wild animal needs human help or not, as well as general information about various wild animals found in Illinois.

If you would like to help support the work of the Wildlife Medical Clinic, which operates as a nonprofit organization, check out the “Doodle for Wildlife” benefit to be held Saturday, March 3, at the I Hotel and Conference Center in Champaign. At the benefit, signed photographs and original drawings donated by a slew of national celebrities will be auctioned off, along with a variety of unique travel and outing packages. Further information about “Doodle for Wildlife” is available by phone at 217-333-2761.