I always get excited when publishing a story about one of my awesome, talented friends, but this month I am super excited! My love affair with both domestic and “wild” animals is well known, so when Tina agreed to be March’s “Awesome, Talented Friend,” I was literally jumping for joy! I mean, how many Certified Wildlife Rehabilitation specialists do you know? This is a field that requires being on call 24/7 for injured Raptors, ( think Eagles, Hawks and Owls). Waking up in the middle of the night to feed raw meat and give medication to injured Raptors. This job also requires a certain amount of courage and steady nerves. Have you ever seen an Eagles beak and talons up close? They’re huge! Tina also resides Ferry County, Washington, so it is with special delight that I introduce another wonderful hometown friend.
So let’s go meet and talk to Tina and meet a few of her memorable rescues.
This photo of Tina was taken the day they retrieved “Joe” from Jump Off Joe Lake. She had him all summer treating a wing injury. Then a foot issue occurred after he kept slamming his foot pads into the wooden perches too hard. Tina said a foot injury can be lethal to an Eagle so they took great care in getting his perches padded and treating his injury every night.
Here’s a wonderful picture of our national bird, the American Bald Eagle. Rehabilitated by Tina and being released back into the wild from Kelly Hill. What an awesome picture!
I was completely enthralled when I interviewed Tina about her work and I’m going to share with you her actual responses because she said it so beautifully. Here’s Tina in her own words. And I’m sharing lots more fantastic pictures too!
TJG: Raptor Rehab, really? How did you become interested in wildlife rehabilitation?
Tina: I was the kind of kid who wanted to save every sick or injured creature I found. I was seldom successful but that innate desire to help a bird or animal in distress has been with me for many years. About 15 years ago I started studying the art of Falconry. I became a licensed Falconer and enjoyed the thrill of the entire process from capturing a wild hawk and training it to hunt and then releasing it back to the wild after a season or two. It was during that time the local Veterinarian asked me to house a red-tailed hawk he had patched up and get it ready to release. That hawk was the first of many raptors that came here after word started to get out that the vet in town would treat sick and injured raptors. Not all Vets will take wildlife. Many are not endorsed or simply just don’t want to add to their already full practices. But our local Vet really enjoyed working with raptors. Over the next few years I came to realize my heart was no longer in Falconry so much as it was in helping the injured and sick raptors and animals that came to us. I worked as a sub-permittee for several years but am now state and federally licensed as a wildlife rehabilitator. Raptors are my main focus.
A Red Tailed Hawk that Tina Released after Rehab. She said he sat in that tree for two hours to get his bearings before he flew away.
TJG: Why the interest in Raptors? They are some big birds who could hurt you.
Tina: I wrote an essay on bald eagles for my final English paper in my senior year of high school. The more I learned about the effects that DDT had on their population and the reasons that they were so scarce in our area(although they were slowly making a comeback at that time) the longer my essay became. I poured my heart and soul into that paper and got high marks for it. But it also planted that seed of this fascination I have for wild animals, especially for raptors. Eagles, hawks and owls are all big birds with the potential to cause serious injury. Even the small species of hawks and owls can inflict damage with their sharp beaks and talons. I have been injured a few times, always due to carelessness on my part or on the part of another. Raptors demand respect and a certain knowledge of their behaviors and strength. There is always risk. A bite or a scratch/cut has the potential to carry serious disease as well as to do lasting physical damage. Proper leather gloves, handling procedures and care with fluids and clean up are critical. Keeping up to date on avian diseases is also important. Rehabilitators receive alerts from Fish and Wildlife about avian flu and other communicable diseases when they are a threat.
TJG: How long have you been involved with Raptor Rehab?
Tina: For about 12 years now. I’ve been fully licensed myself for almost two years.
TJG: How large a territory do you work with? I mean, I live way over in Republic,in Ferry County. Can I bring an injured Hawk to you?
Tina: Yes, I cover Ferry County as well as a good portion of Stevens County. Tribal Officers out of Inchelium on the Reservation bring rescues here on a regular basis as well. Fish and Wildlife officers regularly bring raptors here from both counties as well. Occasionally they will transport from Spokane County if there is no Veterinarian office open or other rehabilitator available.
TJG: What kind of training did you receive and where did you train?
Tina: Initially the training and education I acquired for my falconry permit served me very well. The Vet was always willing to teach life saving techniques when the opportunity presented itself. As a licensed rehabilitator I must continue my education on a regular basis. I have to have a certain number of clock hours for state and federally approved classes. There are training seminars state and nation wide and also many courses are offered on-line as well. That is my preferred method of training as it doesn’t take me away from home. I also have had the opportunity several times to work with biologists in the field, helping them to capture and band loons on area lakes. These opportunities don’t seem like training to me, more of a life changing occasion that brought me pure joy as I held and sang to loon chicks as they fell asleep in my arms while we worked on their parents. Even though they aren’t considered “raptors” they are one of my favorite birds and after these experiences they too, hold a special place in my heart.
Tina holding a Loon chick while it’s getting some blood work drawn.
Tina up in the middle of the night for baby Loon feedings.
TJG: What was your worst story with a happy ending?
Tina: January of 2015 I had a knock on my door one evening. It was a Fish and Wildlife officer with an immature bald eagle that he had picked up about 40 miles away. We unloaded the crate and it was so still and near death there really wasn’t anything I could do except wait until morning and transport it to Mt. Spokane Animal Hospital…100 miles away. This eagle was critically ill, unconscious and seemingly paralyzed. Later I got another call. Another eagle, immature bald, from the same place with the same symptoms. I called Fish and Wildlife and we all agreed it was most likely poison and they would investigate the next day and I would get both eagles to Mt. Spokane, dead or alive, to be tested. The ride to Mt. Spokane was the worst trip I’ve ever had to take. The smell in my Durango was awful, but I had to keep the windows up and the heat on. But the worst part was the screaming of the second eagle, his cries and convulsions had me sobbing the entire 90 minute trip. When the tech helped me unload the crates she took one look at the first one and literally scooted it into the corner with her boot and declared it “gone.” Then they went to work on the other. After cleaning myself up and wiping out my car I left my number with the front desk and asked her to please have the Vet call me and let me know what she found. I went in to Spokane and ran some errands and tried to just calm myself after such a horrendous morning. I left Spokane well before noon and headed home, knowing there was no way I’d be taking these eagles back with me for rehabilitation. About 5 miles out of Spokane my cell phone rang. It was the Vet, with the astounding news that “Both eagles are up on their feet and doing fine”. It was poison, but they aggressively flushed out the system of the eagle that was conscious with immediate improvement. Then when the tech went to tag the ‘dead’ eagle she found a very faint heartbeat. So they did the same treatment with fluids and treated for shock and within a couple of hours it too was back on its feet. A miracle even to all of the medical staff who witnessed it. Turns out the poison was botulism which I learned that day is not uncommon in eagles. These two eagles were released just two days later!
TJG: Do you see human inflicted injuries or are they mostly naturally occurring injuries/ illnesses.
Tina: Most Fish and Wildlife officers will not intervene and retrieve a raptor or an animal that is dying from natural causes, be it illness or injuries sustained as the result of natural consequences, and I have come to adopt the same policy. I used to find this hard to deal with. But, I have come to realize that simply dealing with the raptors and animals that are sick or injured due to human consequences is almost more than I can handle at times. Sadly, human inflicted harm to raptors is all too common. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of educating people to just be more aware and think about the consequences of their actions. Gopher poisons kill hawks and owls. Bird feeders hung too close to living room windows kill small hawks and the smaller owls that are drawn to all those little nuggets feeding at the feeder! But sometimes accidents just happen. Many eagle and owls get hit by cars. That’s no ones fault.
TJG: There have to be sad stories too. Anything you’d like to share that maybe could have been prevented?
Tina: I have held more than a few owls while they took their last breaths after ingesting mice or gophers that had been poisoned. It’s so hard to see such a senseless death. And one particular incident will always stay with me. I met one of the local Fish and Wildlife officers in the field and we captured a female bald eagle. She had been shot through the wing. Beside her was a rather substantial pile of bones and fur where her mate, who was circling us above, had been feeding her. This was early in my rehab career and one of the most difficult cases for me. I held that eagle on my lap all the way to the Vets office, knowing by the look in her eyes that she was dying. And I fought everyone to let me take her back and let her die in peace so that her mate would know what happened to her and wouldn’t keep looking for her. I sobbed with sadness, anger and frustration. But, I lost the battle. She had been shot and there would be an investigation and they needed her as “evidence.” As far as I know they never caught the person that shot her. I’ve seen so many eagles that have been shot since that time, it’s so sad to me that anyone would do such a thing. And really sad that it’s not “uncommon.”
TJG: If I find an injured non domestic animal, what should I do first?
Tina: First and foremost, leave it alone. Make sure any nearby dogs are contained. Call Fish and Wildlife or local Sheriff’s Dispatch, or me directly. If there are rehabbers available they will get the message out. Sometimes it takes a few hours to get through the channels and many people find it hard to wait. I have developed a good relationship with the local and federal wildlife officers. They are very grateful to have rehabilitators to count on. Sometimes what looks like an injury isn’t. For instance eagles commonly gorge themselves to the point of gluttony and can’t fly after feasting for several hours. Many small owl species get scooped up because they are “sick”, when in fact they are just weirdly docile sometimes! But injured birds and animals are dangerous. It’s “safety first” for anyone who comes in contact with a wild animal that may be injured or sick. Getting bit or scratched can lead to serious consequences.
TJG: Anything you’d like to share that we haven’t touched on?
Tina: It seems like such serious business sometimes. There are happy moments and many sad moments but I guess what I didn’t touch on was the complete and utter “weirdness” of what I do at times. My kids and my grandkids are pretty used to it by now, thank goodness. But I have to say that even though there have been moments of feeling utter sadness of loss after loss or being overwhelmed with every new one on the property full of ravenous raptors, and possibly a fawn or two in the barn, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world. I am saddened by the losses, yes, but always learning. And it’s the successes, the joys, of taking a fully healed eagle or hawk or owl back out to the open air and watching it fly away to freedom that keep me doing this crazy thing I do.
Hi,this is Karen. I think you’ll agree that this is one awesome, talented woman! And I, for one, am so thankful for all she does to lovingly and professionally care for these injured or ill Raptors.I have had the privilege to observe a large number of Raptors in the wild and their is no greater thrill than to see a Great Horned Owl swooping through the dark sky or an Eagle riding the thermals high above Curlew Lake or hear the soul shivering cry of a Red Tailed Hawk on the hunt.
Here are some fabulous Raptor pictures with great explanations from Tina. Enjoy!
“She was rescued on Lake Roosevelt, another wing injury. It wasn’t until she was scooped literally out of the water that we noticed her eye. The Veterinarian said it was either a birth defect or an old injury that caused her lid to fuse. Her injury was such that she was deemed non-releasable. I eventually transported her to another facility after housing her for me maximum permitted time.”
“The photo of the immature Bald Eagle that you see on the perch is in my “flight bay” which is a building that is smaller than the flight pen.I use this flight bay to contain larger birds of prey that require limited activity.”
“This is the full flight pen. We built this pen with grant monies and generous donations from area businesses. It’s built to specifications for large raptors that need conditioning for release.”
“This is a little Merlin chick just brought in a dog crate. Merlins are fragile, super nervous and hard to raise as they go into shock quite easily even if they aren’t injured. But this little one was a success and was eventually released.”
“This is Ozzie, the Osprey. Osprey are notoriously difficult to rehab as they tend to eat only live fish. He was a challenge but we finally got him to eat if we floated thawed fish in a kiddie pool. He was eventually released.”
“This is one of the most beautiful Owlets I’ve ever had. Here he is “mantling” over his food. A great way to show off his newly sprouted feathers! “
Pygmy Owl. “Me and one of my little pygmy owl friends. Sadly, many of them that hit windows or buildings generally die from their head injuries. But this one didn’t, he recovered nicely and I was able to release him.”
“This is a little Saw-Whet Owl. Cutest little owls ever! These are “beep-beep-beep” you hear when you step outside sometimes. They can be rather docile and people often pick them up from the fence post or out in their yards thinking they are sick or hurt. I generally just suggest that people put them back where the found them and keep their cats and dogs away from them. It’s usually an easy fix with a happy ending!”
And speaking of happy endings! “This is “Dude.” He hit a barbed wire fence and had a nasty cut on his wing. The Vet at Mt. Spokane stitched him up and I brought him home for a round of antibiotics then moved him to the flight bay to get his muscle tone built back up. He eats a LOT. At least a whole quail or 3 gophers or 6 to 8 mice a day. I’m releasing him this afternoon!!!”
I hope you all have enjoyed meeting Tina Tolliver Matney as much as I enjoyed sharing the story of her journey with you. I know you’ll agree that she is indeed, an awesome, talented friend dedicated to the care and healing of these magnificent birds.
Tina, the kind hearted person that she is, asked that mention be made of the help and helpers she has had over the years and continues to have to this day. There are people who will transport injured birds for her and others she can call on to capture an injured bird and bring it to her for rehabilitation.
Today, on your journey, I wish you the pure pleasure of hearing the haunting call of the Owl and observing the majesty of a Bald Eagle! Thanks to people like Tina who work so hard to ensure their safety and well being!