2018 is off to an unusually busy start for Nature's Nursery

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WHITEHOUSE, Ohio (13abc Action News) - Last year was a busy time at Nature's Nursery. In fact, it was one for the record books at the wildlife rehabilitation center in Whitehouse. The trend is continuing into the new year.

One of the many animals they're caring for right now is a young bald eagle. The center takes in bald eagles from time to time, but it is not common. He was found in a farm field. After weeks of around-the-clock care he's made remarkable progress. The end goal is to get him back to the wild.

Usually there's a bit of a break in the action at Nature's Nursery this time of year, but that's not the case so far this year. Laura Zitzelberger is the Operations Director at Nature's Nursery, "2018 is starting off the way last year ended up. It's only January 8th and in an average year we would have only taken in about five animals at this point. So far this year, we've already taken in over 20.

One of the big success stories to date is a blue heron The bird was rescued by a woman from Gibsonburg.

At first, they weren't sure the bird would even make it through the night, "Literally his feet were frozen in balls of ice. Icicles were hanging from its beak. It was basically frozen to the ground and emaciated. Often times, animals in that condition do not make it."

But the heron is now eating well and should be released soon. While the extreme cold was part of the equation for the heron, it's not a factor in all cases.

This is a snowy owl, a raptor that is well equipped to handle frigid temperatures, "We don't know how the injury occurred but a bone in his wing is broken fairly close to wrist. That has us concerned because they lose flexibility they need. We have taken x-rays and we will closely monitor the injury. He was found near Ney. These birds are found much farther north, but after a successful breeding season, they are moving into areas like ours to find better food sources. These are not birds that are used to seeing people very often. We ask anyone who sees one to keep their distance. We don't want to distract them from what they are here to do and that is hunt. We want people to be excited about seeing them, but to be respectful of their space."

Because of the severity of his injury, the owl will likely have to become an educational animal.

Now back to that bald eagle. It was found in a field near Defiance, "When it came in it was having grand mal seizures, but that stopped quickly after we gave it fluid and medication. We're also going to give it medication to treat lead toxicity."

Executive Director Steve Kiessling says the reason they have so much success helping thousands of animals every year is simple, "Our volunteers put in about 15,000 hours a year. They do everything from answering phones to cleaning cages and transporting injured animals to educational programs. Nature's Nursery wouldn't be here without them or the incredible sacrifices our staff makes on a regular basis."

As you just learned, the staff at Nature's Nursery says the bald eagle they're now caring for is suffering from lead poisoning. So how does that happen? A couple big reasons are lead fishing sinkers and lead bullets. According to the National Wildlife Health Center, birds like eagles can die from ingesting just one lead shot, bullet fragment or sinker.

Nature's Nursery is not asking people to stop hunting or fishing, but they are asking people to do it responsibly. They want people to think about the big picture and what will happen to wildlife if they use fishing gear or ammunition with lead in it, "It is important to avoid using lead of any kind because this bird is lucky. If they get heavy lead toxicity in their systems they will not come back from that. This bird is is on the mend and doing well, but that is not the case for a lot of birds when it comes to lead poisoning.The solution to the problem is simple. Be aware of what you are using to hunt or fish and pick up your fishing lines when you are done, don't just toss them on the ground." The hope is that the eagle will be able to be released soon.

Taking care of all the animals is of course expensive and time consuming. If you'd like to donate money, supplies or volunteer your time at Nature's Nursery, we've posted a link.