CROW Case of the Week: Blue Jay (#22-16)

The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a blue and white songbird that is known for its intelligence. Part of its expertise includes mimicking the calls of hawks to provide protective information that a hawk is around, even though one may be seen but not heard.

At CROW, an adult male blue jay was admitted after being found stuck in a glue trap. The finders ended up cutting the jay’s wings to release the bird, a procedure that resulted in the patient missing primary and secondary feathers on the left wing.

“We do not recommend cutting the wings to free birds from glue traps. This will significantly lengthen time at a rehabilitation facility, impair flight and could result in injury to the bird,” said Dr. Charlotte Cournoyer, CROW veterinary intern.

If a bird or animal is found in a glue trap, there is a way to keep it from fully embedding itself in the sticky board.

“Granular substances, including flour, cornmeal and cornstarch, can be put on glue traps to help keep an animal caught in a glue trap from becoming more trapped as it struggles,” said Dr. Cournoyer. “Removing an animal that is severely caught in a glue trap can be a tricky process, therefore we recommend putting safe granular substances on the trap then placing the animal in a dark, quiet box and immediately transporting to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator for proper removal.”

The blue jay also had body abrasions from struggling to free itself. The bird was given pain medications and will continue to be monitored under supportive care. “Luckily, the abrasions were mild and the bird was treated with pain medications and antibiotics while (it) healed,” said Dr. Cournoyer. “No bandaging or further attention was required for the abrasions in this case.” Since some flight feathers were cut, the patient will need time at the clinic to grow new ones to provide lift and maneuverability when up in the air. “The bird is not currently able to fly but is receiving supportive care and flight is being rechecked regularly,” said Dr. Cournoyer.

“When feathers are cut, those cut feathers will not regrow but need to be pulled so that new feathers can grow in their place. In this case, important feathers for flight were cut, therefore it will take time before (new) feathers grow enough for flight. It is painful to pull feathers, therefore this procedure was performed under general anesthesia. The patient will need to show great flight capabilities before being cleared for release.” The jay also suffered two different forms of trauma. “The patient sustained head trauma and internal trauma resulting in a ruptured air sac, secondary to his struggling,” stated Dr. Cournoyer. “His mentation has improved but the air sac will need to heal, and his flight will need to be great before he can be released.” Unfortunately, the patient was trapped in a place where no bird or animal wants to end up.

Glue traps are not recommended for pest managment. “Glue traps are cruel and inhumane. When animals become trapped, they panic and struggle so much they can severely injure themselves. They are then trapped until they starve to death,” said Dr. Counoyer. “Glue traps are indiscriminate and often trap animals other than the species they were intended for by those who set them out. For these reasons, we urge the public to avoid the use of glue traps as a method of pest control.”

CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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