Teaching in the Yukon and Southeast Alaska

By Dr. Scott Ford

A trip through Southeast Alaska and up to the Yukon to teach others about caring for injured wild birds. From the archives, originally posted in April, 2011.

I just returned from a great trip to Alaska and Yukon Territory. I started by flying to Haines, Alaska, renting a car, and driving up to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. The weather was absolutely clear and beautiful (and stayed that way for most of my trip!).

I was hosted by Dr. Maria Hallock at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. This 1000-acre preserve is home to herds of dall sheep, caribou, black-tail deer, muskox, and mountain goats as well as arctic fox and lynx. They just completed construction of a new hospital facility and are planning on seeing some more bird rehabilitation action in the future. So, I was invited to teach a 2-day class on wild bird medicine to a group of some 15 conservation officers, volunteers, technicians, and veterinarians. It was a great turn out and everyone was very excited for the exchange of knowledge. I particularly enjoyed the wet labs where we practiced techniques with carcasses (these were found dead… the less fortunate wildlife from the region).

Maria and her family were great hosts and made me feel right at home. Dr. David Mossop from Yukon College helped make the event happen and was also a great tour guide for the area. With his help, I made it out to Swan Haven on nearby Marsh Lake (see photo to the right). Weather was gorgeous on the return trip to Haines and was able to stop and spend time watching the willow ptarmigan in Chilkat Pass. They were lekking (the ptarmigan mating game) and were very approachable. Unfortunately I didn’t make a sighting of any gyrfalcons as I had hoped but I still had a great time.

I also made stops in Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan to see pet and wild birds for medical evaluations. A special thanks to David Mossop, Maria Hallock, and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, the American Bald Eagle Foundation, Juneau Raptor Center, Michael New at Juneau Veterinary Hospital, Dayna Robertson, Jim King, Bob Armstrong, Steve Lewis, Cheryl Fultz, Ketchikan Indian Community (esp. Tony Azure), and SEAPRO for their hospitality and support that made the trip possible.

In all, I attended to the health of 36 birds: 2 ravens, 10 bald eagles, 1 golden eagle, 3 red-tailed hawks, 1 great grey owl, 1 eastern screech owl, 1 northern barred owl, 3 great horned owls, 1 turkey vulture, 1 northern flicker, 2 falcons, and 10 parrots. I was able to pass on knowledge and hands-on training to over 20 people including helping pass on a jugular vein blood draw technique for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain good contaminants-analysis samples from bald eagles. I had a great time and Alaska and the Yukon served up some of the best weather I’ve ever seen for this time of year (61°F on a sunny day in Ketchikan!)– doesn’t get any better!!

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