Rich McIlhenny carries the injured vulture into the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Center in Andorra, not something you do every day.

by Rich McIlhenny

Just as my son Daniel and I were about to head up to the Poconos to do some fishing last week, I saw a post come over from Richard Gilbertie on the Nextdoor app about an injured bird on Howard Terrace in Mt. Airy. He wasn’t sure what kind it was, but several others and I responded that it was a vulture, and I was pretty sure it was a black vulture. It had been spotted earlier by Darlene Martin walking down her block of Devon Street around the corner.

I grabbed a pet carrier, a sheet and some gloves, and we drove over to find Gilbertie and a few other neighbors trying to capture it against a retaining wall with a box that looked a bit smaller than the large bird. It tried to fly away but was unable to. I attempted to put the gloves on that I had brought for myself but wasn’t able to get them past the base of my fingers in a moment that resembled the O.J. Simpson trial, as they were a pair of my son’s that I continually mistake for my own.

I shrugged it off, and with my heart racing a bit I cornered the bird and threw the sheet over it. Then I grabbed it around the midsection and guided it right into the open pet carrier that Daniel had perfectly positioned, whereupon I closed the door to cheers and accolades from the neighbors. It went so smoothly that I wondered if they thought we rescued injured vultures on a daily basis.

We jumped into the car to head to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Center (SWRC) in Andorra and quickly realized that vultures smell like vomit, urine and rotting flesh. Daniel buried his face in his sweatshirt as I rolled down the windows to try and minimize the stench.

We got to SWRC and I called out for its director of wildlife rehabilitation, Rich Schubert, whom I’ve gotten to know over the years. He came out and confirmed that it was a black vulture as he opened the pet carrier and it jumped out onto the ground. Rich grabbed it barehanded around the body as I had done, except with no sheet, and said that it looked as if it had been poisoned. I remembered from bringing a screech owl there years back that birds who eat poisoned rodents often become poisoned themselves.

Rich took the vulture back to get him started on medications and came back to give me a form with a reference number so that I could check on him early this week. I’ve never felt concern for a vulture until this week. Hopefully I will hear some good news about the clinic’s being able to bring him back to health and release him back to the wild soon.

Please visit the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Center’s website to find out what to do if you come upon an injured or distressed wild animal, and consider making a donation to help the volunteers in their wonderful and noble cause.

Ed. Note: On Monday afternoon we received the following message from McIlhenny: “Unfortunately, the vulture didn’t make it. Rich Schubert confirmed that he had probably eaten a rat that was poisoned, and he was suffering multiple seizures, but Rich said he would have experienced more pain in dying had we not brought him there.”

For more information, call 215-482-7300 or visit Lifelong Mt. Airy resident Richard McIlhenny is a realtor for Remax Services who was a Readers Choice Best Real Estate Agent Award Winner for both 2015 and 2016.




  • Jamie Rellis

    Interesting story. Did the smell leave the car when the bird was removed?