JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - An X-ray displayed the gun pellet lodged in an American Crow's wing.
While surgery is needed, Archie Ryan anticipates the bird will fly once again. The second chance is one of thousands the Jonesboro veterinarian has provided to area wildlife over the years, The Jonesboro Sun reported (http://bit.ly/1AS1Vcd).
Ryan operates Southwest Drive Animal Clinic, although in his spare time he serves as one of 11 Arkansans who are federally permitted to rehabilitate migratory birds. He is one of 43 Arkansans the state allows to treat other injured wildlife.
A 1987 graduate of veterinary school, Ryan moved to Jonesboro in 1991 after he visited and realized he enjoyed the area. Since then, the Houston native has taken care of any animal a person has brought in. His typical patients are dogs, cats, rabbits, pocket pets, reptiles, birds and exotics.
"I like answering problems," Ryan said. "I like helping animals and people, and I can do both of those things being a veterinarian. You can choose where you live and you can be self-employed."
Wildlife rehabilitation is an unpaid job that has him purchasing the material and food to care for each of the injured. He said he does it because he enjoys it.
His wife Jayne helps him nurse the injured back to help. Ryan said he renders care until he is confident the animal can survive in the wild. Their care has extended to a variety of animals including bobcats, black buzzards, foxes, otters and raccoons.
They typically have about six to eight animals housed at their residence at any given time. Sixty percent of the cared-for animals are eventually released while the remainder have to be euthanized because they are unable to fly, defend themselves and/or eat.
Ryan's annual list includes about 100 to 125 injured birds ranging from songbirds to raptors, including American Robins, doves, owls and eagles.
He admits it can be tricky with migratory birds who winter or summer elsewhere.
For example, Ryan said Mississippi Kites can be found locally snacking on dragonflies and cicadas before migrating in September to South America. If released after the migration, the cared-for bird may not be able to make the journey or find food if it stays.
He said it means Mississippi Kites not ready to release by September will need to remain in the rehabber's care until late March, which is when the raptor typically returns to Northeast Arkansas.
For each rehabbed critter, Ryan likes to release the animal near the area it was found. The release is typically sooner rather than later for younger animals, who may have been rescued when it was not warranted.
Ryan said the problem is people often pick up younger animals thinking it is lost or abandoned when it is not - the parents are caring for it. Fledglings often fall out of the nests causing its parents to care for it on the ground.
Recently, he had to replace a Mississippi Kite back into a tree after a person found it on the ground and brought it to him.
If an animal is found, Ryan said a person should first ensure he or she will not get injured rescuing the critter. If it is injured, he suggests using thick gloves or a towel to catch the animal to bring to him or another rehabilitator.
Occasionally, all is needed is for the injured animal, such as a bird who struck a window, to rest for an hour or two in a safe and calm environment so it can shake off the injury and recover.
There are only two species Ryan does not take in: coyotes and skunks. He said coyotes are common predators that easily adapt to humans while skunks can carry rabies for up to six months before developing symptoms. He excludes skunks primarily for the health risk than anything else.
However, Ryan said he does train others to rehabilitate wildlife who may decide to accept coyotes and skunks. But, the first injured animal he allows another to care for is a squirrel. Ryan considers it the hardest animal to care for.
"If you can keep it alive then you can keep all animals alive," he added.
Information from: The Jonesboro Sun,