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Raptor Foot Care

September 28th, 2011

Raptor Foot Care

 

BEFORE:

 

This picture is from trapping day as we dressed and cleaned up Sable after getting her home.  The dirty feet and marks and splotches indicate wear and tear possibly as a result of recent tangles with squirrels or other small biting mammals.  As I scrubbed and cleaned her feet up, one of the spots opened up an started bleeding.  The Scales were quite dry, hard and cracked.

 

AFTER:

 

This picture is after nine days of regular washing, scrubbing, and lotion.  The talons are bright and glistening.  Small dark splotches still exist due to scabs and possibly scars that continue to heal up. Given enough time, these will disappear and the scales will grow strong in their place.

 

Clean feet make for a happy raptor.  As I outlined in my ‘raptor talon spa‘ program that I designed, it’s a regular practice with my Raptors  in order to keep clean feet.  It’s also entirely possible that two or three soaking sessions in the tub could yield the same results.  Since Sable is a freshly trapped bird, I’m opting for ‘on-the-glove’ care for now.  When I have more confidence in her ability for soaking her feet, I’ll get her in the soak tub I designed.  So far, I’m pleased with her tolerance of the scrubbing and cleaning and positive  results are starting to show in the condition of her feet.

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The Raptor Talon Spa

May 28th, 2010

The Raptor Talon Spa

Talon Maintenance and Foot Care

Talons and foot care are important aspects of maintaining your raptor’s health.  You want to ensure that no small lesion or sore becomes an wound that could later cripple your raptor. While opinions of some falconers may reflect poor attentiveness to their raptor’s health, I prefer to be attentive and proactive in dealing with or treating any issues regarding my raptor’s feet. This article discusses some methods and rationale behind caring proactively for your raptors talon and foot health.

Perspective

When I was researching new boots to get for a backpacking expedition, I read many reviews on boots, brands, and uses.  I remember reading about foot care with socks, mole-skin, and liners.  It made sense to me that caring for your feet was one of the single most important things you can do to ensure a successful trip. There is nothing like being 25 miles into your hike and having foot or boot issues.  Your feet are your transportation, so it’s important to care for them. Boot selection also important, and I was reviewing a medium-weight boot made by a reputable company with good ankle support.  Sure I could have chose a lesser brand, one made with lower quality standards in order to save a few dollars, but caring for my feet made sense to me. So I purchased a higher quality boot, more sturdy ankle support, (also more expensive) and was very happy with the results: no foot trouble on my trip.  Ironically, on the trail I met another hiker who had purchased the hiking boots I was originally looking at early on in my research.  She was three days into her adventure trip and the sole of her hiking boot had come away from the bottom of the boot. I helped her out with some hot glue and she was very thankful.

I look at my raptors feet in much the same way. Healthy feet makes for a happy hawk. The talons on a raptor are very important for catching and holding game. With one or two chances or flights at a rabbit that get away, and your hawk might get discouraged or lose her confidence in catching game. Dulled talons usually result in escaped quarry, commonly known as ‘pulling fur’. Taking extra precautions are important (to me) in order to prevent any small issues from growing out of control.

Inspection:

Take a look at the feet, talons, every week.  Pick up the feet while on the glove and look at the underside of the pads.
Things to look for: brown patches, soreness, redness, flaking skin, flaking talons.

Cleaning:

Use hydrogen peroxide to clean blood off the feet after a kill, cleansing any wounds or scrapes that may occur during the capture.
Brush / clean the feet with diluted betadine solution after each hunt.
Veteranarian supplied ‘Novalsan’ is also a good antisceptic for scrapes and cuts.

Soaking:

To get clean feet, soak the raptors feet in a bath two-three times a week.
Use a dish pan / bucket with a perch submerged.
Spa Perch that goes in a dish-bucket;  Tahoe on the Spa Perch in the bucket with water.  This experiment didn’t work so well, as Tahoe figured out that there was a nice place to sit on top of the perch stand where it was nice and dry.

The second attempt at a dish-bucket soaking pan seemed to be designed better, and worked out much better.

* The water-bucket method works for soaking talons when done for a few hours each day for a few days in a row. Talons and beaks will exfoliate with additional water.

Perches:

Perches need to be soft, padded, and have the proper size to support the raptor feet.  Shown in this picture is a 2×4 perch with a strip of long-leaf astroturf on the top of it for padding.  The talons are free to curve, grow, and grip into the wood for sharpness.

Maintenance and Care Products:

There are some good recommended products by other falconers when tending to nail therapy for raptors, which include:

  • Sally Hansen Vitamin E Moisturizing Nail and Cuticle Oil
  • Hard as Nails
  • Hoof Saver hoof cream – good for birds because it does not make feathers sticky and it doesn’t attract dirt.

I arrived at these two hand / nail care creams :

  • Mane and Tail : Moisturizing cream
  • Netrogena Hand Cream

Mews Floor:

Another aspect that is crucial to proper foot care of raptors is the substrate of the mews.  For as many falconers as there are, many varying opinions exist for substrate and floor materials in the mews. Some folks like something that is easily cleaned, and others prefer no maintenance at all. In all, each type of flooring has it’s advantages and disadvantages. You may also be limited by the space in which you construct your mews, so you make due with what you have.
Sand is ok, but difficult to keep clean.
Gravel is not so good, as it dulls talons easily.
Concrete / patio floors should be covered or padded; outdoor carpet, indoor carpet with padding, or I prefer interlocking yoga mats.
The floor is then covered with Builders Paper for easy cleanup.

Time and care will tell if the program worked or not.  I’ll update later on in the summer on progress. Stay tuned…

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