Douglas County wildlife rehabilitation center sees spike in birds dying of West Nile virus

Douglas County wildlife rehabilitation center sees spike in birds dying of West Nile virus

The Rocky Mountain Wildlife Alliance in Sedalia has only been around for a year, and has already helped over 1,000 animals. The wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center serves all kinds of animals, but specializes in birds of prey. This year, many of the birds they’ve seen are sick with West Nile virus. 

“This year alone we’ve seen over 100 cases. And we’ve had a really high mortality rate this year,” said Emily Davenport, founder of the Wildlife Alliance. 

Davenport does what she can for birds sick with West Nile.  

“There’s not a cure for West Nile virus we just have to support the animal’s body until they are able to kind of fight the virus with their own immune system,” said Davenport. 

She diagnoses birds through tests and symptoms, like elevated temperature, weakness, and pinched off feathers. 

“So, if you look here, it’s a very high probability this bird has West Nile virus. We’re seeing a really unusual molding pattern really weird feather loss,” said Davenport, while examining a new arrival: a juvenile magpie.

“Here you can also see some unusual feather growth,” said Davenport.

A junior magpie with West Nile virus is treated at the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Alliance in Sedalia, Colorado on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.


Sadly, Davenport says they’ve seen a 99% mortality rate for this type of bird, known as Corvids. 

“We’re gonna give him some subcutaneous fluids, give him a little bit of Meloxicam. Which is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory,” said Davenport. 

Larger birds seem to fare a little better. 

“He has finally stopped dropping feathers so that’s also a sign that his immune system is more supported and his getting through this virus,” said Davenport, while pointing out a golden eagle, rescued in Elizabeth. 

“Due to the virus, he could not fly, he was too weak to fly,” said Davenport. 

Out of 55 West Nile cases in the last two months, only six birds have survived. 

“The little great horned owl here came in partially paralyzed. They can get temporary paralysis from the virus. We just kinda supported his immune system with supportive care, hydration, good food, and slowly been able to get him through this,” said Davenport. 

Davenport is optimistic the owl and eagle will survive. And she’s doing her best to make sure birds like the magpie beat the odds. 

“There’s always hope,” said Davenport. 

Davenport recommends mitigating mosquito activity, since mosquitoes spread West Nile, by removing standing water around your home and planting native plants. She says if you find a sick or diseased wild animal, reach out to a wildlife professional before you engage with it. 

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