Wildlife Care

Share This!

Our Wildlife Program is a community service provided by the Long Beach Animal Hospital. In this program we provide free medical care for injured wildlife. We routinely care for over 1,000 injured animals each year, and successfully releases almost 50% of them back into their native habitat. This success rate is due to the hard work of all the volunteers and staff of our hospital.

Wildlife Chick

This is nothing wrong with this chick, found on our roof. It is such a nice picture we thought it would be great time to let you know that wildlife exists everywhere, even in our urban environment. Can you tell what it is and how old it is. The fact that there is an egg behind it is a good clue to its age.

We work closely with the California Department of Fish & Game to ensure that all state and federal laws are followed. Many of the injured wild animals brought to us come from Fish & Game, Long Beach Animal Control, lifeguards, and regular Joe citizens.


Dr. P has been working with wildlife since he first became a veterinarian in Michigan in 1978. This picture is when he was a at his first job as a veterinarian when he was 24 years old.

In 1980 Dr. P moved to CA and started working at the Sun Surf Animal Hospital, where he continued to work with wildlife and started the Wildlife Program at Sun Surf

He took care of many pelicans, many of them with fish hooks inside of them

Many surgeries were performed to remove them

This was around the time someone (presumable a fisherman) was sawing the tops of their beaks off

Dr. P has been treating wildlife at the Long Beach Animal Hospital since 1989. This article in the Long Beach Press Telegram is about a fox that came to LBAH after a golfer hit it with a golf ball. His front leg was so badly fractured that it had to be amputated. It was amazing how fast he took off on 3 legs when he was released weeks later! At least this fox had his 5 minutes of fame in the local newspaper! 

 Dr. Wood will be working as the primary doctor for all the injured wildlife brought to our hospital. Here she is examining a peregrine falcon.

Caring for injured wildlife is a team effort, and all of our staff gets kudos for all of the work they do

We will do whatever it takes, including acupuncture on this duck, to get them better

We see some strange things sometimes, like this squirrel with a nail in its head

We are a registered teaching hospital with the veterinary schools throughout the country through our externship program. Externs are senior veterinary students training with us as part of their veterinary school curriculum. During this training we involve our externs in the care of wildlife. We want them to learn the importance of conservation medicine early in the careers, and the tremendous need for this, as wildlife is being encroached upon with the burgeoning human population everywhere. If you follow this Wildlife Photography link you can see this as Dr. P travels the world.

Justine Ma, a UC Davis veterinary student, is suturing a laceration on an opossum

Another UC Davis student extern, Lisa Hsuan, had an opportunity to work on a red tailed hawk. The radiograph showed no internal problems.

She sutured the laceration on its back

She had the pleasure of releasing it back where it was found

We teach these students how to read radiographs on wildlife, something they do not routinely get in veterinary school. Take a look at this opossum and see if you see any problems.

This opossum has a severely fractured spine, visible at the top left of the radiograph. This very serious injury is not correctable, so it was humanely euthanized. Click on the radiograph to make it larger and see if you notice anything else about this opossum. 

Marie is learning how to confidently handle small raptors like this owl 

This is Liz Whitsett, another one of our externs in 2014. She spent several weeks working with a duck with an injured neck. This video shows you the dedication she had to helping rehabilitate this duck.

This is Kellie Davis, a future veterinarian-to-be working on a pelican with Julio. 

When you bring us injured wildlife we need you to fill out a Wildlife Rescue form. This keeps us in compliance with Fish & Game Regulations, tells us where you found it and what you did for it, and gives us a medical record. After we provide initial medical and surgical care, our goal is to release these patients back into their native habitat or send them to licensed rehabilitators.

If you find an injured wild animal there are several common sense things to do before you bring it to us:

Be cautious because wild animals are very quick and powerful. They have strong instincts to protect themselves and can inflict serious injury.

Be particularly wary of shore birds with pointed beaks and birds of prey with strong talons. They can inflict serious eye and bodily injury.

Call your local animal control authorities to see if they can capture the animal.

When captured, place it in a box, keep the box covered and in a warm spot, and keep children away. These animals can easily die from fright, so keep handling and observations to a minimum.

Do not attempt to provide medical care. What seems to be such common sense treatment for our personal pets or us humanoids does not carry over to wildlife.

Call us to make sure we are open, and bring the animal to us during our regular office hours as soon as possible. If we are closed, keep it warm and covered until we are available.

In the springtime many baby birds are brought to us that have fallen out of a nest. Unless they are obviously injured, it is best to leave them alone. The odds of them surviving are much greater if you put them back in the vicinity where you found them. Put them back into the nest if it is available. Your smell on the bird will not bother the parents. If the bird is on the ground and there is no nest, leave it alone, because the parents are watching it.

Even though we like feeding cuties like this  baby hummingbird, it is not injured, and its best chance for survival would have been to leave it where it was found prevent animals like cats from injuring it if it is on the ground.

These guys have personality!

Graphic photos of injured wildlife on this page

Unfortunately, if you are able to catch a wild animal, it is usually seriously injured. Their prognosis is very poor in this advanced state of disease. Unfortunately, we cannot save all of them due to these serious injuries. This is the case with the sharp shinned hawk below.


The radiograph of this hawk shows an open transverse fracture of the distal left humerus


You can see how the fractured bone has broken through the skin


This is what it actually looked like, after it was cleaned up. It is infected and the upper bone is discolored and non-vital. The bird has probably been in this state for a while before being brought in to us. The prognosis is poor and the bird was humanely euthanized. 

This page contains the wide variety of injured wildlife treated at our hospital since 1989. Take your time and pace yourself because there is lots here to learn about.

A Duck with Personality

This duck was brought to us with a bum wing that it could use at all. It had a great personality, so we took a radiograph to determine the extent of the problem.

Duck Rad

The humerus (upper arm bone) has an old and severe fracture. This wing is painful and non-functional.

 This fracture is not surgically repairable, and we knew we had to amputate the painful wing.  This duck could not survive in the wild with only one wing. This duck had a great personality, and we were able to find someone that would care for her since she could note be released back into the wild. We treated her with pain medication and supportive care for a few days to get her stronger in anticipation of surgery. The duck adapted to us quite well, and loved the 3 full meals (and Netflix movies) it received each day.


At first she did not eat well

She soon adapted to us and we had to stay on our toes to keep up with her appetite


On her surgery day she was given a pre-operative exam to make sure she was ready for the anesthesia and surgery. She passed with flying colors.


She made herself right at home in our surgery suite


The heart and lungs are important organs to check in regards to anesthesia. She seemed to know we were helping her, and sat still for her exam.


We gave her a pain injection just prior to her surgery. She remained calm the whole time, completely trusting us. 


We wrapped her in a towel and let her relax as the medication calmed her down


While our duck was being prepared our surgeons were getting ready for surgery


We started the anesthesia with a mask


Once our patient was relaxed we intubated her


Now the fun part of plucking (we don’t clip bird feathers) all those feathers begins!


The downy undercoat feathers would be floating around the room if we did not have our powerful vacuum sucking them up immediately


While Dr. P is draping, his assistant is getting the surgical instruments ready

We used our carbon dioxide laser for this surgery. Amputations can be bloody, since we are going through muscles and many blood vessels. We are even going through the brachial artery, a large artery that supplies the wing. The laser dramatically reduces bleeding, which is advantageous because this reduces surgery time. For the patient, there is substantially less pain, swelling, and inflammation after surgery. Its the only way to go for a surgery like this.


The laser has many settings to customize it to the exact surgery we are performing


Dr. P has been using the laser for 20 years, and rapidly makes an incision in the skin and down through the muscles


The cut muscle is the white tissue between the clamps. Notice the lack of bleeding at the muscles.


Dr. P gave his assistant surgeon, our extern Michelle Greenberg, an opportunity to experience the laser. She is a lefty, so he had to think backwards when he guided her on where to incise the muscles and skin.


The procedure went as expected, and our friend woke up with much less pain. Hopefully we have enough food to keep her happy until she goes to her new home!

The morning after surgery she was eating good and obviously felt better. With a little more rehab and rest should would soon be good to go.


Her morning weigh in showed she is maintaining her weight

She is still lame on her left leg, and does not bear complete weight on it, or walk for very far with her weight on it. We have her on a pain and anti-inflammatory medication to help. We also do rehab with her twice each day.

She seems to enjoy her passive range of motion exercises with her sore left leg


After  rehab we take her outside in the sun and let her do her duck thing. The buoyancy of the water helps with her leg problem. For some funny reason we get the impression she enjoys this.

All too soon a volunteer came to take her to her new home

Peregrine Falcon with a broken wing

Not all fractures are as severe as the duck, and can be treated with a splint. This Peregrine Falcon was brought to us with a wing injury, as noted by its inability to fly and drooping wing. After a thorough physical exam a radiograph was taken.

The radiograph of this falcon revealed a transverse fracture of the proximal radius

We splinted the wing and will be sending it to South Bay Wildlife Rehab for care. It will return periodically for exams and radiographs to assess the healing, and hopefully will be released back into the wild. 

Barn Owl Hanging by its Wing

Long Beach Animal Control received a call about a bird hanging from a bridge in Long Beach. When the officer got there she saw an owl hanging by its wing.


There was fishing line around the wing


She called the Long Beach Lifeguards for assistance. They brought equipment to remove the owl.


The owl was successfully removed without injuring it any further

It was brought right to our hospital for medical care. The first thing we do after our rapid and immediate physical exam (after removing the fishing line around the wing) is to warm the owl up, give it warm fluids for shock, and let it rest from its ordeal. It was given several medications to help it heal faster and minimize the pain in its wing.


The only problem we found on our exam was an injured right wing


When it was stronger we took a radiograph. Fortunately, it did not have any fractures.


A special bandage was applied to let the wing heal

We kept the owl for several days to make sure it was healing well and eating on its own. Once we were sure it was on the right track we transferred it to South Bay Wildlife Rehab.

We have been working with them for many years, and they are an invaluable part of our work. Without their dedication, experience, and knowledge, we would not be as successful as we are in our Wildlife Program.


They specialize in birds, including birds of prey, like this Barn Owl

After resting, healing, rehab of the wing, and eating lots of meesers (mice), and a recheck exam by Dr. P and Dr. W, the owl was ready to be released. We gathered everyone involved for a final farewell to our friend, and released it back in the area where it was found.


These are the main players in this owl’s recovery. From left to right:

Christine from South Bay Wildlife

Dr. Wood from Long Beach Animal Hospital

Vyktoria from Long Beach Animal Control

When the time was right, and Dr. P had the camera’s rolling, it was released. It was obvious from the beginning that the wing was 100% healed when it flew off into a palm tree 100 yards away from where it was hanging from the bridge when found.








A slow motion video of the owl’s release

Our team telling of their experience

Sparrow Caught in a Glue Trap

A sparrow made a landing at the wrong airport and got stuck in a glue trap. This is a very serious condition that frequently results in death due to exhaustion and shock.

After he was stabilized and warmed up, we gently removed him from the trap with Eaze Off and mineral oil. Then we gave him his first washing and let him rest. We need to remove all the glue from his feathers, and then let him preen, to bring his feathers back to normal function and repellency.


Our little friend stuck fast


It took several minutes of gently applying the mineral oil directly where it was stuck


We used a tongue depressor to very, very gently extricate him


We checked his wings carefully for any damage to the bones, tendons, or ligaments


 Off to a bath with warm water and dilute Dawn detergent. We need to get all of the adhesive off for him to return to normal function. This might take several washings.


We kept him cozy warm after his bath

A check of the wings after the bath showed most of the glue gone, with some minor irritation under the wing


Enough for one day, we will wash him again soon after he rests


Another day with us to preen his feathers to return their water repellency, and he should be good to go. He gave us a big thanks, and said he would bring donuts next week next time he flies by.

Hawk with a Bad Wing

This hawk was brought to our wildlife program with a drooping wing. It is imperative to minimize stress on raptors, so after stabilization and exam a radiograph was taken.


It was shot with two pellets


Did you see the fractured ulna at the red circle?


A special bandage was applied and he was sent off to a licensed rehabilitator

Egyptian Goose Fracture Repair

This cute guy was presented to us by a good samaritan. The goose was unable to walk at all. After a thorough exam, assessment of why it could not walk, and therapy for shock and dehydration, we radiographed the rear legs.


It was another friendly goose that adapted to us well


 Brenda, wearing her protective apron, is getting ready to bring the goose into x-ray


You can readily see the fractured metatarsal bone. It turns out both rear legs had this same fracture.

It was decided that surgical repair using an IM (intramedullary) pin was necessary to fix both legs. These pins are made of stainless steel, and are not reactive. Sometimes we keep them in after the bone has healed, sometimes we remove them.


We have a supply of various size pins to customize the repair to the right size of the bone marrow cavity


We use a special instrument that allows precise placement of the pin


The pin will stay in for several months, and is placed in such a way that removal is easy


Once the fracture is repaired, and the skin is sutured, our technician Lisa applies special bandages


The bandages aid in healing, prevent further trauma, and make the bird more comfortable. We change them often to assess the surgery site.

We routinely have senior veterinary students observe in surgery. You can learn more about them from our web site, and especially our Facebook page, where they post a daily diary of what they learned for the day.


They get to come right into surgery, and oftentimes get to scrub in and help


Our patient waking up from surgery, already able to bear some weight

Banded Peregrine Falcon

Downtown Long Beach has many pigeons, just like many cities. This means there are Peregrine Falcons, living on the ledges of the high rise buildings, also. We see them frequently, usually due to some trauma. 

Someone brought us a weak one that was banded

We contacted the place where it was banded and went about diagnosing and treating the weakness

A lateral radiograph revealed prior injuries. There is a pellet in the chest and a BB in the right femur.

This is a VD (venture-dorsal) radiograph

It was determined that the pellet in the chest was not causing any trouble. The BB in the leg was inside the marrow cavity of the femur, so it was left alone. Taking it out might cause more harm than good.

The falcon was standing on the leg well and had adequate talon strength, so it was stabilized and sent to a falcon rehabilitator for long term care before release.

Owl with an eye problem

Owl with blood in eye. Technically, this is called hyphema, which is blood in the anterior chamber. The cornea and lens were ok, and this owl was treated with topical eye medication and supportive care until it healed and was released.

That red area at the bottom of the eye is the hyphema

Squirrel with fracture

One brightly colored green splint and he would be OK

Some birds are so young and tiny it is hard to determine what they are. We fix em up anyway!

Butterfly with a bum wing

Sometimes people bring us injured wildlife that even amazes Dr. P! Someone brought in this butterfly that was unable to fly.

You can see the tear at the edge of the right wing

It was quite large and made it impossible to fly

A few drops of our special tissue glue from surgery and things look better

A quick fill up of the tank with high octane jet fuel

Then a test flight to make sure the rudders and ailerons are working

And this little one is good to go

Peregrine Falcon Wing Injury

A Peregrine Falcon from downtown Long Beach was brought to us because it could not fly. The fact that someone could catch such a flighty bird indicates it could be severely injured.

Dr. R is performing an exam upon admission while Jessica is gently holding it

We took a radiograph to look for fractures or internal injuries. You can see the tremendous detail we get from our digital radiography (click on the photo for a larger view).

Once we determined there was no fracture we bandaged the bruised wing

A closeup of our friend before we said good bye

Hawk Fracture

This red tailed hawk had a traumatic fracture of its radius and ulna. It was repaired with an intramedullay pin and sent to a rehabilitator for 30 days. The pin was removed and the hawk went back to the rehabilitator to strengthen the wing and flight muscles in the hope of releasing it.

Nature cooperated on this one and we were able to release it in Long Beach near where it was found

Pelican Esophagus Laceration

A good samaritan found this weakened pelican in Long Beach.

It had a serious and chronic laceration of the neck that penetrated the esophagus.

When suturing we have to carefully dissect the esophagus away from the skin or the esophagus will never heal. We also have to remove the dead tissue at the edges of the esophagus for healing to progress. We use a special suture material that is strong, causes minimal chance of scarring the extremely sensitive esophagus, and will eventually dissolve on its own. We doubt this pelican will keep its suture removal appointment!

In a chronic wound of this nature the healing process causes the lacerated esophagus (E) to fuse with the skin (S). This laceration is so large you can see the backside of the esophagus in the center of the picture

We infused the area with local anesthetic and carefully repaired the laceration. The bleeding is a good sign, and tells us there is adequate blood flow to allow healing.

After a few days of rest,  and lots of grueled mackerel, our friend was strong enough to be released. We took him to Marine Stadium in the late afternoon.

Our kennel assistant Ian was instrumental in this pelican’s treatment, so he got the honors

The pelican did what any self respecting pelican did and flew the coop (actually, cage in this case)

Next stop was a quick dip, then off to pelican land to spend the night with his buddies

Oil Soaked Duckling

This little duckling came to us severely oil soaked. This is a dangerous situation that commonly leads to death. Death is a result of hypothermia, ingestion of toxic oil, and the loss of water repellency by the feathers. Do not try to remove the oil at home because professional care is necessary if they are to have any chance for survival.

This little guy was completely coated in oil. He had quite the personality, so we nicknamed him Yacky.

The washing process is carefully orchestrated to minimize stress during this critical stage. Many washings are needed to eventually remove all of the oil.

Yacky is one of the lucky ones because the people that found him brought him in immediately. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Red Tailed Hawk Criminal Case

An immature red tailed hawk was brought to our wildlife program by the Department of Fish and Game. It was confiscated from people that were inexperienced in dealing with this type of bird and were caring for it poorly. This is in violation of California law.

Fish and Game will be prosecuting the people that performed this senseless act, so all of our effort is carefully documented and the chain of evidence is maintained

The left eye is non-functional

The normal right eye as a comparison

X-rays revealed a BB in the eye. It is unknown to the Fish and Game officers who shot the bird so maliciously.

In addition to the serious eye injury, this bird had two additional problems, both due to inadequate care. The people that were caring for this bird were not experienced at handling a hawk, and added to this bird’s woes.

The first additional problem was the infection it had on the bottom of its foot

Its feathers were also damaged. This will take a long time to repair itself because of the manner in which birds molt.

One of the precautions we took while the hawk was hospitalized is to protect the tail feathers, an area that is easily injured in captivity. This apparatus is called a tail card. It is made up of used x-ray film, making it both light and strong.

The hawk and x-rays were sent to one of our colleagues that specializes in eye injuries. He decided that the eye was stable and that any intervention would not help, and may even make the problem worse. After we corrected the dietary deficiencies the bird was released to a licensed rehabilitator. He will utilize his extensive experience and try to teach this bird to hunt with only one functional eye. We will keep you posted as to the outcome of the hawk and people that caused this problem.

It turns out that the people that brought the hawk to Fish and Game were the ones that shot it, and they were prosecuted.

Albatross Leg Fracture

An albatross with a fractured shin bone (called the tibiotarsal bone in a bird) was found at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and brought to our clinic for care.

They are beautiful birds with a large beak and wingspan

Upon initial examination we realized this bird had a serious problem. Survery radiographs revealed a fracture (arrow) of the tibiotarsal bone.

Closer inspection of this radiograph revealed several bone fragments. This is a serious injury that requires surgical correction. An albatross needs to run a long distance before it is able to get off the ground, so any repair of this fracture must be performed with great care.

One of our board certified surgeons, Paul Cechner, is gearing up for this complicated procedure

Undertaking a repair of this nature is a team effort. Heather and Melinda, our current externs, are monitoring anesthesia and assisting our surgeon with any of his needs.

Wild birds are highly stressed when in captivity. In addition, any wild bird with a serious fracture that undergoes anesthesia is a high risk patient. Several precautions are taken during the anesthetic procedure.

In this picture you can see the tube that is placed in its windpipe (trachea). This allows us to administer 100% oxygen and give the anesthetic in very refined quantities. It also allows us to ventilate the lungs with oxygen if respirations become depressed.

The heart rate and oxygen saturation of the red blood cells are measured continuously during the surgery with an instrument called a Pulse Oximeter. It gives us an early warning indication of any problems.

This picture shows a hemoglobin saturation of 93%, a heart rate of 167 beats per minute. and 4 bars for pulse strength. These numbers are well within the normal range.

All birds that undergo anesthesia are in serious jeopardy of hypothermia. In this picture you can see the 3 strategically placed hot water bottles (arrows). In addition to these bottles, all birds that are put under anesthesia are placed on a warm water blanket.

Careful preparation of the surgical site is necessary to prevent any bone infection, a serious complication that could easily prevent healing. All the feathers around the area must be carefully plucked and the skin cleansed meticulously. We pluck the feathers instead of clip them so that they will grow back faster.

These birds have large muscles in relation to their bones. Our surgeon is carefully dissecting the bruised muscle in order to get to the fracture site. Repairing the fracture is of no use if the surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves are damaged.

It takes two pair of hands, teamwork, experience, and specialized instruments to get the bone fragments lined up correctly

You can visualize some of the cerclage wires that are wrapped around the bone fragments to hold them in place. The black arrow points to a nerve that runs downward from the tip of our surgeon’s finger. Preservation of this nerve is critical.

Once the fracture segements are in place with the cerclage wires, a pin (called an intramedullary pin) is placed down the shaft of the bone. In this picture our surgeon is holding the bone with clamps while his assistant is inserting the pin from the right side of the picture towards the left.

Even though there are wires around the bone and a pin down the center, the fracture is still not stable enough. Four pins are placed on the outside of the bone to prevent the bone fragments from rotating.

The four external pins are connected by a special acrylic. It has to be mixed to just the right consistency.

The four pins (the 2 left most pins are visualized in this picture by the arrows) are connected with a hollow tube. The acrylic is squeezed into the tube and allowed to harden. This keeps the four external pins rigidly in place, and prevents the fracture site from rotating.

The external pins are covered with a bandage to prevent them from snagging and to minimize trauma

The post operative radiograph gives good visualization of how the fractured bone was repaired. On the left you can see the tube that is filled with acrylic and the four pins that are attached to the acrylic tube externally. On the right you can see the fractured tibiotarsal bone with the four cerclage wires and the intramedullary pin down the center of the bone.

To prevent thrashing when awakening from anesthesia the albatross is gently wrapped in a snug towel. It is kept in a warm room until it is fully awake to prevent loss of excess body heat.

The day after surgery our friend is awake and alert. She is kept in a confined cage initially to prevent her from trying to fly or even use the leg.

She will need several months of postoperative care before she is fully healed. Her intramedullary pin and her external pins with attached acrylic will all need to be remove if the bone heals. The cerclage wires on the inside will stay with her for the rest of her life.

At this point we will be working with AWRE for her long term care. Come back to this site periodically to check for updates as to her condition. Our ultimate goal is to release her back to the wild (and to find enough food to feed her!). Donations of squid, mackerel and smelt are always welcome because she needs lots of calories if she has any chance of healing. Click on the AWRE address below to learn more about this albatross.

Heron Esophagus Laceration

A good samaritan found a weak heron and brought it to us for assessment. We saw a wound on the side of its neck.

This is the wound on the side of the neck on initial presentation

Once it was stabilized we assessed the neck wound, which was more severe than originally appeared. It has a severe laceration to its esophagus, a potentially life-threatening situation.

The esophagus required extensive surgery due to the chronicity of the problem and the sensitive nature of the esophagus

Eventually we put all the pieces back where they belonged

Now the process of building up its strength and making sure it can use the esophagus began. After several days he continued to do well and was ready for release.

The heron was taken to an area on Long Beach near to where it was found. Dave Thraen and Dr. Petersen had the honors of releasing it since they did most of the work.

It didn’t take him long to find a nice tree to hide in


This is Archimedes, a sawhet owl that died in July, 2000 who was the mascot for AWRE. You can learn more about him by going to the AWRE web site. The address is: http://www.awre.org The Long Beach Animal Hospital supports the non profit AWRE, and provides medical and surgical services for this worthy organization.