High winds potentially responsible for broken legs

Lynsey Kitching


It’s been about two months since Leona Green Wildlife Rehabilitator in Dawson Creek began getting reports of ravens having no use of their legs.

As the story unravelled the birds were transported down to the wildlife lab in Abbotsford operated through the Ministry of Agriculture, called the Animal Health Centre, where Dr. Helen Schwantje, the Provincial Wildlife Vet for Fish and Habitat Wildlife Management works for the Ministry of Forest Lands and Resource Operations.

Rumours flied about the potential for West Nile and other possibilities for the paralysis, however, after intensive testing, nothing seemed plausible as the only commonality between the birds were broken legs.

Schwantje says, “The case has now been finalized.”

Though having it finalized does not mean the case has been solved. The only thing that is for sure after all of this, is that the birds were not ravens, they were young crows.

“At the end of July early August eight birds were submitted from the Peace area to the lab with the description they were unable to use their hind legs. I don’t really know whether there was something else going on with ravens but all we got were crows.”

She continues, “Of the eight birds, six had leg or other bone fractures, some broken ribs, but there was no sign of any underlying causes or diseases to make the bones more fragile.”

Two birds had unrelated diseases, one with pneumonia, and one with gastrointestinal problems. “We went the full way on this,” says Schwantje continuing, “We did X-rays and CT scans, and the conclusion was the fractures were from some kind of trauma but we don’t know what caused the trauma.”

One plausible answer for Schwantje came from a phone call she received one day. “One of the most interesting things for me was a phone call,” says Schwantje. The caller said to her, “I just thought this was interesting. I don’t know if anyone has told you but we had some very strong winds go through the Peace about the time these birds were found. I wonder if that would explain things.”

Schwantje thinks this theory may be the most logical so far. She says, “It’s probably the most common sense and likely. Lots of young crows in nests and the heavy winds threw them out before they were ready to go. We’ve done everything we can. It’s an unusual set of circumstances. I don’t think we will see it again.”