Thursday, April 19, 2007

Animal Control to the Rescue
Seagulls Keep Animal Control Officers Busy

The Portland Police Department receives a lot of calls about injured seagulls that are sometimes hit by cars when wandering Portland’s streets. These birds have to be euthanized, since they don’t rehab well; it’s hard to heal them and the healing time is very long. The problem is caused by broken bones that poke through the skin and also shatter because they’re hollow.

But many of the seagulls that police are called about have not actually been hurt. They’re baby seagulls that have jumped out of their nests while trying to fly. When Animal Control answers this type of call, the seagull is left alone. The babies are too large to be carried back to the nest by the adult gulls, who watch over and guard the babies until they are able to fly.

Seagull nests are usually on tops of buildings, where they are safe from street predators. Video cameras placed on the roof of Portland police headquarters on Middle Street as a protective measure provided an extra bonus for employees, enabling them to watch the development of baby gulls in two nests that came into the camera’s range.

Garth Russell and Debbie Estrella are the two Animal Control officers working in Portland. Russell has been in his job for two years and Estrella has sixteen years in the animal control business. They are civilians working for the Police Department, and they can cite and summons people for criminal and civil offenses.

The most unusual case Russell came across was when he was flagged down by a man near Deering Oaks Park who led him to a lobster “hanging out in Fitzpatrick Stadium.” He said the lobster’s claws had marks on it, and it looked as though it had been previously banded. The lucky crustacean was returned to Casco Bay. The most unusual call of Estrella’s career came when she had to jump into a pool to rescue a dog that was unable to get out.

The officers get a lot of calls about bats during the summer. Bats living in attics often come into houses when it’s warm. If bats are found in living quarters and the police are called, the animals are tested for rabies. Both officers are vaccinated against rabies. When asked what his greatest fear was, Russell didn’t hesitate to say “being sprayed by a skunk.”


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