Lake Norman & Mooresville

Raptor Center’s hospital helps injured birds of prey

Dr. Dave Scott standing in the surgery suite at Carolina Raptor Center hospital.
Dr. Dave Scott standing in the surgery suite at Carolina Raptor Center hospital. JOE MELTON

Driving out Sample Road toward Latta Plantation, just before you reach the public portion of the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, on your left you’ll see the CRC hospital, tucked away behind a screen of trees.

If you were a critically injured bird of prey, this is where you’d want to be.

“We’re pretty much a full service hospital for avian patients,” said Dr. Dave Scott, staff veterinarian at the CRC. “You name it, we can do it in house. ... We can do complete blood work, digital x-rays, endoscopy and of course we have our surgery suite, which is well-equipped.”

All of which is good news for injured raptors. “We’ve gotten very good at trauma-type surgery, Scott said, “I’m really proud of what we can do with that. Some of the birds we’d get in five years ago I would have euthanized on arrival because I just couldn’t repair them. But we’ve gotten better and better. …

“Just to give you an example, a humerus fracture. It typically used to take us an hour and 10 minutes of surgery time, maybe two hours total, including anesthesia. Now we’re down to about 25 minutes surgery time and under an hour total time.”

No matter how good Scott and his team are, though, they rely heavily on volunteers – particularly to bring in injured birds. “We have a network of people,” said Scott, “but we have astoundingly big gaps all over the Charlotte area.”

If there is anyone interested in volunteering, he said, that would be a huge help: “If we can’t get a bird here, we can’t help it.”

Medical work at the CRC hospital involves more than just saving lives, though.

“We do different training sessions of all different levels, from high school kids to students just finishing their vet school fourth years,” Scott said. Additionally, CRC staff regularly collect samples for biologists, and Scott himself developed RaptorMed, an avian medical records program. Michelle Houck, associate executive director of CRC, said Scott’s software has been installed in hospitals as far away as Qatar and Beijing.

Despite the excellence of patient care at the CRC hospital, many animals cannot be saved. Forty percent of raptors arriving at the hospital are euthanized on arrival because they’re so badly injured, Scott said, emphasizing the need for people to be more conscientious and thoughtful outdoors. “We get 900 to 1,000 birds a year, which is a really huge caseload. Nine out of 10 birds that come in here are injured because of human behavior – intentional or not – so that means that nine out of 10 birds that come in here don’t need to be here if people were little bit smarter, a little more compassionate. We can fix up those other ones, but we’d rather not have them be here at all.

“Hit by a car is the No. 1 cause of injury; that obviously is an accident. But it’s caused because people throw trash out the window, which attracts a rodent, which attracts the bird of prey, and they get hit by a car. So that’s something people can do right now, and cut down on our admissions dramatically,” he said. “Who would have thought that throwing a biodegradable apple core out the window was bad? But it is. Keep your garbage in your car.”

Learn more:

To see one of Dr. Dave Scott’s more challenging cases on RaptorMed, go to http://raptormed.carolinaraptorcenter.org and enter case 18570. You can also learn about patients currently in treatment there.

Want to help?

For information about volunteering, go to www.carolinaraptorcenter.org or contact volunteer experience manager Ann Parker at aparker@carolinaraptorcenter.org.

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