The hospital side of TWC receives up to 1,000 injured or orphaned wild animals a year from around the state. As the only permitted wildlife hospital in New Mexico we are the happy recipients of mule deer from Chama, Mississippi kites from Carlsbad, Mexican spotted owls from Deming, mountain lions from Abiquiu and on and on. There are a number of talented rehabilitators around New Mexico and they do a terrific job of caring for many of the raptors and small mammals that may need temporary care or protection. But when a wing needs to be pinned or orphaned mule deer fawns need a solid start or an eagle is electrocuted, they come to TWC. The Wildlife Center’s return to the wild rate is 65%.
Here is how it works: TWC will receive a call from a connection in Silver City that they have a Harris’s hawk with a broken wing. TWC has developed a network of individuals, from throughout the state, willing to drop what they are doing to bring us an injured animal. It’s a tag team. One person can get the hawk to Alamogordo, another as far as Santa Fe and a third on up to TWC.
By the next day we have the hawk in the hospital where it will receive a thorough examination by skilled staff. It will be radio-graphed, hydrated, and, if necessary have surgery to repair the wing. Dr. Andrew Cameron and Dr. Kim Freeman are the contract veterinarians on-site. They perform all surgeries and provide diagnostic and follow-up services. Dr. Peter Schwarz, a veterinary surgeon in Santa Fe, provides consultation and his services for complex raptor surgeries, free of charge. While the bird is receiving medication or requires confinement and close supervision, it remains in the hospital. When the time is right, it is transferred outdoors to one of the many “mews” where it can really begin its rehabilitation. Special diets will be devised by staff knowledgeable in wildlife nutrition. An exercise regime may be in order or, if it is a juvenile, it may be placed with an adult of its species to “learn the ropes”.
When the bird is well enough and we have tested it to make sure it cannot only navigate in its native environment but capture food, we devise a plan for release. This plan will take into consideration the health of the bird, its normal habitat, its origin, whether or not it migrates, if it is an adult, might it have a mate in its original territory, what the weather is likely to be at the time of release, what time of day should the animal be released, what are the likely predators for this animal and what is the carrying capacity for this species in the release zone. There is more to think of, but this represents a good start. Finally, a release is executed. It is a wonderful event!