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    Hurricane kicks up wave of hurt birds

    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    Like others at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, volunteer Jan DeGraw-Higgins has been swamped with work taking care of the many storm-tossed victims.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 22, 2000

    INDIAN SHORES -- While most area hospitals stayed calm as Hurricane Gordon blew by the coast, one clinic was flooded with dozens of injured patients.

    Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary has taken in 160 birds since Saturday, half of them with storm-related injuries.

    "There were a lot of orthopedic problems," said Barbara Suto, a biologist in charge of the sanctuary's hospital.

    Seabirds, such as pelicans, were pounded by the surf, and land birds, such as warblers, were thrashed by branches. There were so many fractures to set, hospital workers ran out of medical equipment and had to have an order of supplies mailed overnight.

    Other birds were suffering from head trauma, internal injuries and shock.

    "Then you had complete exhaustion of being out in the wind for such a long period," Suto said.

    [Times photo: Jim Damaske]
    Rescuers have been finding scores of injured birds, such as this booby with a broken wing, and bringing them to the sanctuary.
    People started bringing the injured birds Sunday to the shelter on Gulf Boulevard.

    "On Monday it really peaked because they were finding them in their yards," Suto said, adding that 62 birds were brought to the hospital on that day.

    It was crunch time in the emergency room. Volunteers and staff employees worked around the clock.

    At one point, the hospital ran out of pet carriers to house the birds. "We were having to put pelicans in the bathroom," Suto said.

    On Thursday there were enough cages for the patients, but Suto is concerned more birds may be on the way.

    "We know the rescuers are out there and they're going to bring more in," she said.

    Workers were busy with birds even before Sunday's rain and wind. A day earlier, they moved the hospital's 200 patients and some of the sanctuary's 325 permanent residents into their homes.

    Forty of them spent the night in cages at Joyce Galiardo's home in Largo.

    "I was able to watch a little football between treatments," said Galiardo, who works in the sanctuary's hospital.

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