A red-tailed hawk has received a second chance at life after receiving a blood transfusion. On December 3, 2019, California Wildlife Center received an adult female red-tailed hawk with evidence that she had been poisoned by anticoagulant rodenticide, which prevents blood from clotting.
“She likely became exposed to the rodenticide by eating rats or mice who had ingested the toxin,” a press release from the CWC states. The hawk had multiple bruises on her body, was actively bleeding through a pinpoint puncture wound on her toe, and was severely anemic. The small amount of her blood that was drawn did not clot even after several hours.
The hawk’s prognosis was poor. In 2019, California Wildlife Center treated 44 patients suffering from rodenticide poisoning and only six survived using conventional treatment methods.
California Wildlife Center veterinarian Stephany Lewis decided the patient’s best chance of survival was to receive a blood transfusion. She used another healthy adult female red-tailed hawk as a blood donor.
“The hawk slowly received the donated blood through a catheter,” Lewis explained. “She began to perk up towards the end of her transfusion and started to nibble at the line. The hawk successfully completed her blood transfusion and is now on fluids, also being given through her catheter.”
“Birds do not have any naturally occurring antibodies to blood types, so they can safely receive a blood transfusion without typing or cross-matching,” Lewis said. “In this case, the transfused blood not only provided life-saving oxygen and nutrients to the hawk’s cells but also replaced some of her clotting factors that had been inactivated by the rodenticide. The result is that it will stop the bleeding that is occurring while waiting for the vitamin K antidote to rodenticide to take effect, which takes 12-24 hours.”
Since the transfusion, the Hawk’s prognosis has been upgraded to good. She will continue to receive vitamin K treatments until the poison leaves her system. Once the Hawk is eating on her own, she will be moved from the Intensive Care Unit to an outdoor enclosure for the remainder of her rehabilitation before she is returned to the wild.
This is the first time such a procedure has been done at CWC. “We receive dozens of raptors suffering from rodenticide poisoning each year and are hopeful to add this life-saving technique to our means of helping animals, Lewis said.
Despite a concerted campaign to ban the toxins by wildlife advocacy groups like Poison Free Malibu, anticoagulant rodenticides remain a major cause of death for wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains and throughout the county. AB 1788, an assembly bill authored by Santa Monica Mountains area Representative Richard Bloom that seeks to restrict the use of this class of pesticides statewide, will be voted on later this year.
California Wildlife Center (CWC) is dedicated to the protection, rescue, and rehabilitation of native California species. Since 1998, CWC has seen more than 52,000 animals. Staff and volunteers field more than 30,000 phone calls from the public every year regarding injured, ill and orphaned wildlife, nuisance wildlife, and other, more general inquiries about encounters with wildlife in LA County. For more information visit www.cwc.org.