The Seattle Seahawks’ live mascot, Taima, will be ready to lead his team onto the field when the NFL season kicks off after undergoing a short procedure at Washington State University to remove a concerning growth from his left foot.
Dr. Marcie Logsdon, a falconer and an exotics veterinarian at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman, led the surgery on March 15 to remove the jelly bean-sized mass from the left foot of the augur hawk. The mass was sent for testing at WSU’s Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, where it was determined it was caused by an inflammatory response to a small foreign body, possibly a small splinter or thorn.
“His surgery went very, very well, and fortunately the mass was not cancerous,” Logsdon said. “He should be all ready to go for the season opener and another Super Bowl run for the Seahawks.”
Taima has been a fixture at CenturyLink Field since 2005, where no Seahawks’ game begins until the hawk makes his rousing flight from the team’s locker room tunnel to midfield as the players storm behind onto the field.
David Knutson, Taima’s owner and master falconer, said the 18-year-old hawk received a short break from training, but his recovery has gone smoothly, and he has resumed his normal activities.
“You are always nervous when anesthesia is involved with raptors, so when Dr. Logsdon texted me and said the procedure had gone perfect, that was a big relief,” Knutson said.
Taima was initially brought to WSU in early March to have the mass examined. Logsdon and her team obtained a small sample of the tissue and took an X-ray of the foot to get a better idea of what was causing the growth and if any bony structures were affected.
“We definitely had to consider the possibility of cancerous-type growths because of his age,” Logsdon said. “Fortunately, the initial diagnostics came back as a granuloma, which is an inflammatory response to something like a small foreign body.”
Removal of the mass was still recommended even though it was believed to be benign.
“It did not appear to be causing any discomfort, but it was starting to get bigger and since it was on his foot, that’s a really sensitive spot for raptors,” Logsdon said. “We’re pretty lucky it was on the side of his foot because if it moved down or had grown bigger that could have put pressure on the bottom of the foot and resulted in some really serious issues.”
Only a small incision and two sutures on the side of the foot were needed to remove the mass. Special care was made to ensure no tendons or nerves were damaged, which could have complicated recovery and impacted Taima’s mobility.
“We were very careful in where we placed the incision,” Logsdon said. “We made sure to avoid any of the deeper or important structures of the foot like tendons and nerves.”
Logsdon said it is always a treat to work with raptors at WSU, and it is even more exciting when her patient is world-famous.
“Raptors definitely have a special place for me, and it isn’t every day I get to care for an animal that has performed at the Super Bowl,” she said. “I also really value being able to work with falconers and provide care for their birds because I have a personal connection with the community and I know it can sometimes be hard to find a veterinarian who has experience with raptors.”