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Osprey Ensnared in Communications Tower - Rescued!

Cape Wildlife Center provides emergency, on-site care and guidance to rescuers

  • A juvenile osprey hangs upside down, 160 feet above the ground. His family holds vigil nearby. Michael Ruley/Crown Castle International Corp.

  • The osprey dangles from just one leg, allowing him to struggle, which tires him quickly. Michael Ruley/Crown Castle International Corp.

  • Veterinary externs at Cape Wildlife Center provide a more thorough examination of the osprey. Deborah Millman/Cape Wildlife Center

Although a tall communications tower out of the reach of predators might have originally seemed a good place to build a nest, it almost spelled disaster for one member of an osprey family.

A life in peril

On July 10, 2013, a male juvenile osprey was spotted hanging upside down by one leg from the top of a 160-foot communications tower in Harwich, Mass. The young bird’s leg was entangled in some frayed plastic that was used as nesting material on the tower’s platform. As he dangled, his parents circled the tower, crying for help.

NSTAR, a local electric and gas company, received the first call for help and helped organize the rescue, which included involving Cape Wildlife Center to assist with caring for the osprey upon rescue. Two staff members from Heidrea Communications, which constructs and maintains wireless communication towers, scaled the tower to rescue the osprey. By the time the rescuers reached the osprey, he had stopped flailing, making them anxious about his condition.

Watch the daring rescue here»

Cape Wildlife Center's Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Lynn Miller and veterinary extern Karina Flores were on the ground providing guidance on how to handle the osprey during the rescue and were prepared to provide emergency care upon his safe retrieval.

Alive, but injured

Thankfully, the osprey was still alive when the rescuers reached him. On the ground, Miller and Flores removed the plastic from the bird's leg, provided stabilization and treatment, then transported him to Cape Wildlife Center for diagnostic tests. See more photos of the rescue»

X-rays showed that the osprey's femur was damaged from hanging upside down for so long, perhaps perpetuated by his struggling. Cape Widlife Center collaborates with other area wildlife rehabilitation organizations in an effort to provide optimal care, and in this case the center consulted with Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine's Wildlife Clinic to determine the best course of action for the osprey's care.

A bright future

Despite suffering an injured femur, the osprey is expected to recover from his injuries with monitored rest and without the need for surgery. In a matter of days he will return to Cape Wildlife Center to complete his rehabilitation. Cape Wildlife Center always ensures its patient releases are optimal for the species and the age of its patients. Therefore only when the osprey is of appropriate age and completely capable of living on his own will he be released into an area near his original nest site.

Cape Wildlife Center, operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States, promotes and protects the health and well-being of native wildlife and their habitats. Located in Barnstable, Mass., the center is open 365 days a year and provides emergency care and wildlife rehabilitation.

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