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Devoted to her feathered friends

Sandi Hoover
shoover@nevadaappeal.com
Photos by Sandi Hoover/Nevada AppealNancy Laird, who operates the Wild Animal Infirmary of Nevada, feeds pieces of chicken and liver to the barn owl downey Saturday during the organization's annual open house. The event continues today.
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For 33 years Nancy Laird has selflessly devoted her time and resources to rehabilitating and releasing the region’s injured, ill and abandoned avian wildlife.

“We like to do everything well, and sometimes we’re so busy, we run from one job to the next,” Laird said Saturday during the organization’s annual weekend fundraising open house.

The Wild Animal Infirmary of Nevada, located in Washoe Valley, is operated by people trained in medicine. Veterinarians do the examinations, diagnoses and surgeries, and an ophthalmologist treats eye problems, according to the WAIF newsletter.

Nursing care is provided by Laird, a registered nurse, who supervises a few select volunteers such as Suzette Feilan, who has been with Laird for 12 years, coming from Las Vegas where she worked as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Besides the indoor infirmary, where birds – from the tiniest sparrows to the plumpest of pelicans – are nursed back to health, WAIF provides a number of large outdoor flights where raptors such as eagles, hawks, falcons and owls can learn to fly and hunt and get lots of exercise while acclimating to the outdoor weather.

Birds come to WAIF by way of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Society, animal control agencies and the general public, Laird said.

While some birds come in after falling from nests or being hit by vehicles, other cases are more disturbing.

“The golden eagle was brought in from Yerington with all its feathers pulled out by someone who had then discarded it to die,” Laird said. “It had been taken as a baby before it could even fly or hunt.”

Among the tenants on the mend for visitors to observe today are a scrub jay, juvenile quail raised by a chicken, yellow-bellied sapsucker, white-headed woodpeckers, pygmie owl, great-horned owls, peregrine falcon, a golden eagle, barn owls and red-tailed hawks.

WAIF receives no funding from state or government agencies so it must rely upon donations to operate. It receives donations during the open house, as well as from donors throughout the year.

This year, a gold and diamond baguette ring from the Gem Gallery, with an appraised value of $900, will be awarded in August to the highest bidder from this weekend’s silent auction.