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Osprey survives lightning strike

This young osprey survived a fire that destroyed its nest and killed a sibling. The bird is being nursed back to health at an animal hospital near Garrison, Minn. Submitted photo.

A juvenile osprey displaced from its nest by a lightning-caused fire near Biwabik last week was in "guarded" condition today at a wildlife rehabilitation center near Garrison, Minn.

"He came in really thin," said Dr. Katie Baratto, a veterinarian at the Wild and Free Rehabilitation Program in Garrison. "We're hoping to get him fattened up as much as we can so he's releasable."

Mark Fredin of Aurora, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, found the young osprey on the ground Wednesday morning. It had apparently fallen from a nest that had been destroyed in a fire the night before. Fredin and Biwabik firefighters also found another fledgling chick that burned to death in the fire.

Fredin captured the young osprey with a fishing net. He transported it to Peggy Farr, a wildlife rehabilitator in Duluth, on Thursday. She transferred the bird to the Wild and Free program on Friday.

The bird was emaciated not as a result of the fire but more likely because it was not yet a good enough hunter, Baratto said.

"With young birds, sometimes they just aren't effective in catching food," she said.

X-rays showed no broken bones or other health issues, she said. The bird was dehydrated and emaciated. In that condition, birds have to be carefully given fluids and bits of food so they recover gradually.

"We're giving it mostly solid foods," Baratto said. "Ospreys are fish-eaters. A local bait store donates minnows, so it's eating sucker minnows."

Ospreys don't do as well as some other birds at being rehabilitated in captivity, she said.

"We hope he's going to do well, but we're not sure," Baratto said.

She said the rehabilitation center likely will keep the osprey for about three weeks until it builds enough muscle mass. If it's released, it will be released somewhere near its nest site, she said.