EDMOND — As a veterinarian, Jason Smart never knows what he'll see come through White Oaks Veterinarian Clinic on any given day, but usually the surprises don't come when he's away from his office.
In July, Smart was driving along Waterloo Road when he happened upon a hawk that had been struck by a car. The bird had a cut on his wing and was unable to fly.
“I had my fiance drive and I held onto him,” Smart said. “I put a towel over his eyes to reduce his stress a little bit. He wasn't too happy about it but we were able to get him back to the clinic.”
The X-rays revealed the bird's wing was not fractured. Smart kept him at the clinic for two weeks, giving him antibiotics to prevent infection.
The hawk then was transferred to WildCare Foundation in Cleveland County. That organization receives about 4,500 wild animals each year with the goal of rehabbing them and returning them to the wild.
WildCare Director Rondi Large said birds have the ability to rehab in an 80-foot-long aviary that has cedar trees inside. Space is critical for the rehabilitation of injuries to birds, she said.
“If you think of it in terms of a human athlete, if they were only given one room to walk around in ... you wouldn't be able to get into condition for a marathon,” she said. “The aviary allows them to fly and land and perch in trees. It's a very natural way to rebuild strength in a safe environment.”
And when birds, or other animals, are ready for release, they usually make the decision easy on staffers.
“When you walk by the enclosure and you hear them jumping or leaping, you know the wildness is back and they're ready,” she said. “They tell us when it's time.”
For Smart, rehabilitating birds is becoming more common. Since he joined White Oaks in June, he's treated several other wild birds, including a falcon and a sparrow. He also has treated at least one wild rabbit.
“I guess the word has gotten out a little bit,” he said.
Smart has some experience in wild and exotic animals. He spent some time in college working in Africa with exotic animals.
“I've always had an interest in them, it's probably one of the biggest reasons I became a vet,” he said.