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THE WHOOPING CRANE REPORT: 37

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  Correcting Crooked Toes.

WCEP chick #01 has had a persistent problem with crooked toes. Both his middle toes are curving and his inner toes are also developing an abnormal angle.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
WCEP chick #01 has had a persistent problem with crooked toes. Both his middle toes are curving and his inner toes are also developing an abnormal angle.

Dr. Glenn Olsen, Patuxent's veterinarian, has already seen the chick and is prepare to tape his toes. Like all procedures done with WCEP chicks, toe taping is done in costume. The black line running down Dr. Olsen's costume is his stethoscope. The inset picture of Dr. Olsen, without costume, was taken for a previous report on quarantine procedures.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
Dr. Glenn Olsen, Patuxent's veterinarian, has already seen the chick and is prepare to tape his toes. Like all procedures done with WCEP chicks, toe taping is done in costume. The black line running down Dr. Olsen's costume is his stethoscope. The inset picture of Dr. Olsen, without costume, was taken for a previous report on quarantine procedures.

Barb carries chick #01 to get his toes taped. (The inset picture of Barb is from our group picture taken for chick report 14.) She keeps one finger of her right hand between the chick's legs to prevent his legs from rubbing and becoming abraded. She holds the legs securely, but loosely enough so that the chick can move a little. Her left hand cradles his keel.
Barb carries chick #01 to get his toes taped. (The inset picture of Barb is from our group picture taken for chick report 14.) She keeps one finger of her right hand between the chick's legs to prevent his legs from rubbing and becoming abraded. She holds the legs securely, but loosely enough so that the chick can move a little. Her left hand cradles his keel.

While Barb holds WCEP #01, Dr. Olsen measures the applicator stick against the curved toe. He'll cut the stick to fit the length of the toe.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS Then, placing the stick against the curve, uses strap tape secure it to the toe. The tape is placed against the toe and pressed into placed, never pulled tight.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS When finished, the tape and applicator stick make a small cast keeping the toe growing straight.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS  
While Barb holds WCEP #01, Dr. Olsen measures the applicator stick against the curved toe. He'll cut the stick to fit the length of the toe, then, placing the stick against the curve, uses strap tape secure it to the toe. The tape is placed against the toe and pressed into placed, never pulled tight. When finished, the tape and applicator stick make a small cast keeping the toe growing straight.

Dr. Olsen tapes the inner toe. This chick will need 4 toes taped today.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS   Dr. Olsen tapes the inner toe. This chick will need 4 toes taped today.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS   Dr. Olsen tapes the inner toe. This chick will need 4 toes taped today.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
Dr. Olsen tapes the inner toe. This chick will need 4 toes taped today.

After Barb returns #01 to his pen, he takes a few minutes to get used to his new "shoes."   Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS   
After Barb returns #01 to his pen, he takes a few minutes to get used to his new "shoes." 
Photos, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS

Current Number of Chicks: 14!

We've mentioned before that some chicks might not remain with the WCEP program depending on their gender. We need to keep certain birds of specific sexes to maintain a good genetic variation in our captive breeding flock. Previously, we discussed keeping WCEP #02 if that bird turned out to be female. But, #02 is a male, and so will stay with WCEP. However, #10 is a female, and a bird we need to keep, so #10 is no longer part of the WCEP program. 

Chick #10, a female, shown here at day 2, will remain at Patuxent as part of our breeding flock.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
Chick #10, a female, shown here at day 2, will remain at Patuxent as part of our breeding flock.

But that still leaves 13 birds in the WCEP program with more on the way. We also neglected to mention in the last report that WCEP chick #11 was hatched from an egg sent to us from our partners at the International Crane Foundation. The chick is doing great and is a welcomed addition to the WCEP flock.

WCEP chick #11, 18 hours old in this picture, originated at ICF.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
WCEP chick #11, 18 hours old in this picture, originated as an egg at ICF.

Sadly, we regret to report that neither of the San Antonio Zoo whooper eggs survived. In report 34 we discussed what happened to the first San Antonio egg when the chick hatched but died soon after. Unfortunately, the second egg, which was due to hatch in May, died early in its development and never got to the hatching stage. It's hard to say what causes an egg to suffer an early death, but everyone at Patuxent felt the loss of both chicks. Last year's San Antonio chicks were a great contribution to the WCEP program and they will be missed this year. 

 Dealing with Crooked Toes.

Because crane chicks, especially whoopers, grow so rapidly, and because conditions in captivity aren't the same as in the wild, we sometimes have problems with chicks developing crooked toes. We suspect that it's because of differences in substrate (chicks in the wild are on various natural substrates, while our chicks are on sod, carpet over concrete, or bedding over concrete) combined with less exercise than in the wild, and differences in nutrition. It's a complex problem we haven't been able to eliminate despite many attempts. However, we have learned how to correct it. 

To correct crooked toes, we must tape small splints to the crooked toes and leave the tape on for 2 days. We use a tape that isn't too sticky, that doesn't irritate their skin, and comes off easily, along with veterinary applicator sticks. 

The chicks grow so fast that the tape has to come off by the second day, simply because the foot is getting larger. But usually, two days is all it takes to resolve the problem. When the tape comes off, the toe is straight. It might stay that way, and it might become crooked again later. If it deviates again, we simply continue to tape it until the problem is corrected. We've learned, however, if we don't correct crooked toes, they get worse, and can result in deformed feet that can hamper the bird's ability to get around, and can become arthritic at an early age. Certainly not a condition we'd want to have on a chick that will be released into the wild. We also discussed crooked toes in a report about one our breeding pairs, 02-74001 and 02-77001

Soon, he starts walking around his pen normally. Barb will make sure he doesn't start limping or showing signs of discomfort, which rarely happens.  Photo, Kathleen O'Malley, USGS
Soon, he starts walking around his pen normally. Barb will make sure he doesn't start limping or showing signs of discomfort, which rarely happens.

This Year's Migration Success!

You can read regular updates and see pictures of the WCEP migratory flock as they leave Florida to return to Wisconsin at the International Crane Foundations' migration website:  http://www.savingcranes.org/about/whats_new/. Several of the birds from 2003 have already arrived at Necedah.

Their migration photo journal can be seen at: http://www.savingcranes.org/about/whats_new/.  

More updates and information on the WCEP project can be found at:
The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership
website and at the Journey North Whooping Crane website. 

Regular updates and pictures of the ultralight migrations can be found on Operation Migration's website in their Field Journal.

Information about the WCEP whoopers' winter and summer homes can be found  at the Chassahowitzka NWR site and the Necedah NWR site.

Florida Update!

The non-migratory whoopers in Florida are nesting. Information about last year's production can be found on the Whooping Crane Conservation Association's website under Flock Status

See our Crane Videos!

Click here to ask questions about Patuxent's whooping crane program.   And don't forget to check out our new SITE MAP to learn more about our previously published whooper reports. Please check our site on May 20th for a web page update!  

Whooping Crane Reports

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Hatch Day (Click on numbered links to view all other egg (negative numbers) and chick days).

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Other Patuxent Crane Information

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA
URL http://whoopers.usgs.gov
Contact: Jonathan Male
Last modified: 05/20/2004
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