Lake Murray magazine video extra: Bobo the duck and his prosthetic bill

Columbia - The StateApril 20, 2014 

  • In 1989, five Columbia residents recognized a growing need for a local organization dedicated to the care of wildlife in distress. Thus was born the Carolina Wildlife Center, a nonprofit organization devoted to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals and the preservation of wildlife through education. The mission started in a garage. Jan Alber-Senn was the founder. Today, the center has treated and rehabilitated more than 55,000 animals representing 200 species. Executive director Jay Coles said the center takes in injured and orphaned wildlife, including opossums, squirrels, birds, mammals and reptiles. The center is the only active licensed songbird rehabilitator in the state. “We’re here to take in animals, raise, rehabilitate and release them,” Alber-Senn said. “The majority come from people who rescue them. ... We’re the only center in the Midlands who do what we do.” Wildlife is a part of a cycle and a balance to nature, he said. A robin might be struck by a car or a nest of baby birds blown from a tree and brought to the center in a shoe ox. Sometimes drivers run over turtles and crack their shells. “We’ll raise them and start from the tiniest,” he said. “They are tube-fed, bottle-fed and are taught to feed themselves.” Coles said the center has a good group of volunteers and interns in the summer. There is a base staff of seven to 12 people. In an average year, they can expect 1,500 to 1,800 songbirds, 600-700 squirrels, 500-600 opossums, 120 raptors (hawks and owls), 120 rabbits, turtles, snakes, chameleons and frogs, 100-200 waterfowl, one fawn a day during summer, racoons, otters, beavers and armadillos. The center does not accept foxes, coyotes or rabies-bearing animals. There are different sizes of enclosures inside and out to accommodate the animals. “Our goal is to treat, raise and release them back to nature,” Coles said. “Our dream is to have a free-standing education center one day.” The center offers spring and fall internships for college students and welcomes donations from conservation partners. Outdoor summer camps for children ages 6 through 9 and 10 through 14 are offered in June and July. The center at 5551 Bush River Road is not open to the public, but is open for accepting injured and orphaned wildlife every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The Injured Animal hot line number is (803) 772-3994. For information, visit Kay Gordon is a freelance writer based in the Midlands.

Meet Bobo the mallard duck. He was a friendly duck who hung out near Lighthouse Marina. But they noticed he was injured. In this story by Kay Gordon for Lake Murray magazine, we learn how people came together to replace the broken bill that threatened Bobo's life.

A broken bill, helping hands and kind hearts led a handsome mallard duck to Carolina Wildlife Center and a new lease on life earlier this year.

When the mallard with the broken mandible showed up last fall with other ducks at Lighthouse Marina on Lake Murray, the marina crew immediately took to him, tossing him bits of bread and building up his trust.

Billy McNair, a forklift driver at the marina, said wildlife always flocks near the marina, including a large-mouth bass the crew has named Bocephus. There’s also a one-legged duck who’s been hanging around for a few years.

But he was especially drawn to the duck with the missing bill and named him Bobo. The name stuck.

After everybody started feeding him, Bobo started to come in on his own to be fed bits of bread and scraps the dockhands tossed.

Ric Favati, who owns Totally Mobile Detailing Service, said Bobo was a fixture at the marina. Favati brought his three kids to the marina to visit Bobo on weekends.

“He was the marina pet,” Favati said.

“He became one of the guys,” McNair said. “He’d fly around the point to the dock to be fed. Then he’d walk in and make himself at home. He was almost like a dog – a pet.”

Bobo would regularly feed right at McNair’s feet and try to eat out of his hand. In order to help him, McNair would make him step back so he could pitch the food and he could catch it in mid air.

But everyone knew that Bobo needed help to survive on his own.

“I had built up enough trust that I knew I could capture him, and it became clear that he wasn’t able to feed on his own like he needed to,” McNair said.

So in January McNair did catch Bobo and took him to Carolina Wildlife Center along Bush River Road. The center accepts and rehabilitates wounded wildlife and raises and releases orphaned animals.

Dr. Randy Basinger, a veterinarian, and his wife, Dr. Louise Burpee, found out about Bobo through Julie McKenzie, the wildlife center’s director of rehabilitation. The Basingers paid for surgery to mend his broken bill.

Dr. Greg Burkett, a veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of birds, performed the surgery at Avian Veterinary Services in Durham, N.C. Burkett is the only vet in a three-state area who could do the procedure.

The prosthetic bill is made of acrylic using an impression of the bill of an uninjured duck. The new bill was attached by drilling and inserting four small pins into the remaining base of Bobo’s bill. The new acrylic bill was cemented to those pins.

While Bobo was on the mend , he taught one of the crows at the Durham center to quack. In late March, Bobo arrived at his new home at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in Indian Trail, N.C., near Charlotte. Jay Coles, executive director of the center, said the center has a large tract of land with ponds protected by aviary netting.

The wildlife center’s staff has high hopes for Bobo.

“Maybe Bobo can be a conduit” for other birds, Coles said.


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