New Digital X-ray Equipment Helps Willowbrook Diagnose Animal Injuries

News Release

New Digital X-Ray Equipment Helps Willowbrook Wildlife Center Diagnose Animal Injuries

Estate gift provided funding for vital equipment

(Aug. 20, 2020) — Staff at the DuPage Forest Preserve District’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn is better able to diagnose and treat injured native wildlife thanks to new X-ray equipment purchased with an estate gift from a Glen Ellyn man.

The new equipment allowed Willowbrook to upgrade from computed radiography to digital radiography, which provides more detailed X-rays more quickly, according to Dr. Sarah Reich, staff veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitation and research manager at Willowbrook.

“With our previous system, a plate or cassette was physically placed under a patient, the X-ray was taken, and then the plate needed to be removed and inserted into a developer,” Reich said. “This process often took 30 – 60 seconds. While this doesn’t seem like much, every second counts when an animal is under anesthesia.”
The $35,000 equipment was made possible due to a generous estate gift from longtime Glen Ellyn resident Ron Bork, who established a nearly $1 million fund for animal welfare projects through the DuPage Foundation. The fund is being distributed over five years (2018 – 2022), with half of the annual donation supporting Willowbrook through the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, and half supporting other local agencies.
Since the new equipment was installed in May, Willowbrook staff has taken more than 300 sets of X-rays comprised of nearly 800 individual images.
A juvenile herring gull gets full radiographs performed by Willowbrook volunteer Ashlee Nix and seasonal clinic staff member Lexi Bublitz, who position the bird, take the radiographs, and monitor anesthesia.

“With the new system, the plate is permanently attached under the radiograph table and the image is digitally ‘developed’ in under 8 seconds,” Reich said.

The bird was found to have a fractured ulna, which was suspected based on physical exam findings.
X-rays help assess fractured bones, gunshot pellets or accidental ingestion of foreign material, Reich said.

Reich said she specifically chose the system because it provides great detail for all types of small animals.

“The majority of our patients are under 5 pounds, with many being less than a few ounces, so a high degree of detail was necessary,” Reich said. “We use it on all species, from birds and mammals to reptiles and amphibians.”
A radiograph of a squirrel shows a large pellet over the head and a fractured skull.

“We regularly take images on small songbirds that are around one ounce,” she said. “Recently we took radiographs on a small toad with a leg fracture. Not only were the images helpful to see the fracture, we were also able to take recheck radiographs after a metal pin was surgically placed to make sure the limb was properly aligned.”

The new equipment recently helped diagnose and monitor a red-tailed hawk’s fractures after it was hit by a vehicle and trapped in the front grill, Reich said. The hawk suffered an open wing and leg fracture.
Initial X-rays helped diagnose the fractures, and subsequent X-rays showed the bones healing properly. The pins were removed after four weeks, and the bird is now flying and standing well and regaining strength in Willowbrook’s outdoor flight facility.

Willowbrook treats nearly 10,000 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians every year. It is the only publicly funded wildlife rehabilitation facility in DuPage County and one of the few in northeastern Illinois equipped to treat native and migratory birds.

Prior to bringing in native wildlife, people should first check the Willowbrook webpage to see which animals have reached capacity at the center. If the animal is still being accepted, they should then call the center at 630-942-6200 to arrange for a no-contact curbside drop-off. The center accepts wildlife patients every day 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

To donate to Willowbrook or the Forest Preserve District, contact the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County at 630-933-7097 or or visit

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been connecting people to nature for more than 100 years. More than 4 million people visit its 60+ forest preserves, 166 miles of trails, six education centers and scores of programs each year. For information, call 630-933-7200 or visit, where you can also link to the District’s e-newsletter, blogFacebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.


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