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Wildlife rehab cares for abused vulture

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

A turkey vulture is expected to recover from an unusual case of apparent animal abuse, as it rehabilitates at Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Inc., in Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor Ed Straight and his wife Gail have run the organization at their home for 26 years and Straight said, in all that time, he has never seen anything like what this vulture endured.

“We’ve dealt with gunshot wounds and we were part of the rescue of the St. Petersburg duck that had an arrow through its neck, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Straight.

“We started getting calls about two weeks ago about a vulture that was having a hard time flying,” he said. “It was eating out of people’s garbage to stay alive.”

Straight said volunteer rescuers tried several times to locate the vulture after a call to their organization, and finally captured it in a patch of thick bushes Feb. 18.

“Damen Hurd, one of our rescuers, who is very good at what he does, found it in some bushes near King Middle School, in Bradenton,” he said. “It couldn’t fly, but it could still run around pretty good, so it was not an easy catch.”

The bird was covered in red paint upon arrival to Wildlife Inc. Straight said the people that called suspected it had been shot with a paint gun.

“But if you saw it when it first came in, you would have seen it covered in paint from head to toe,” he said. “The paint was all the way down to the skin, so it appears to me that someone dipped this bird into paint. For what reason, I cannot imagine.”

Straight said he had no idea why someone would do such a thing, “but I hope whoever did it eventually gets caught and prosecuted.”

He said a similar incident occurred in north Florida several months ago to some seagulls, and there were no leads in that case.

“He’s doing pretty good now,” said Straight. “He’s expected to fully recover, but we got to him just in time because he was in pretty bad shape. If we hadn’t got to him when we did, he wouldn’t have made it.”

Some of the paint has come off naturally and the vulture has been attempting to cleanse itself, but Straight said a veterinarian will soon begin bathing the bird with Dawn detergent. It’s the same treatment used for birds damaged by oil spills.

“We wanted to give it a few days to avoid causing too much stress,” he said. “But everything is looking good for him to recover from this.”

Straight asks that anyone with information on who may have done this to the vulture call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement division at 863-648-3200.

Wildlife Inc. is a nonprofit rescue/rehabilitation organization. As many wildlife rehabilitation centers across Florida shut down due to struggling finances and stricter regulations, demands on Wildlife Inc. are growing.

Straight said his facility is receiving calls for help from all along the Gulf coastline.

To learn more, go online at www.wildlifeinc.org, visit Wildlife Inc. on Facebook or call 941-778-6324.

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