Admissions to the wildlife rehabilitation center at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida serve as lessons about the environment around us.
Over the past week, 68 new animals were admitted, including two double-crested cormorants, two loggerhead shrikes, a gopher tortoise, a river otter, a great horned owl, a Seminole bat, a sora, a wood thrush, a cedar waxwing, several opossums and mourning doves, seven brown pelicans and a young osprey.
Fifteen of the new admissions did not survive the first 48 hours due to the severity of their injuries. All the others are doing well.
Do Not Feed Wildlife
We experienced a perhaps unavoidable euthanasia of a young otter that was admitted late in the evening of April 4.
A woman saw something moving in her yard and went to investigate. She approached the otter, which ended up biting her on the toe. She managed to get the otter into a cat crate and bring it to the center.
It turns out that people in the area may have been feeding the otter and, most likely, it nipped at the woman expecting food.
Because otters are considered a rabies vector species, it needed to be euthanized and sent to the state lab for testing. The woman who found the otter was heartbroken at the outcome of this situation, as was the staff at the wildlife center.
This was a sad reminder that no matter how tempting, people should avoid feeding wildlife. Animals begin to expect food and it normally leads to an injurious outcome for the animal.
If a young animal is suspected of being orphaned, please call the Conservancy clinic immediately. The staff will be able to advise you on the best course of action according to each situation.
A Long Journey: Migration in Bloom
The cedar waxwing and sora are species of birds that we see during migration.
The cedar waxwing was found in a field unable to fly. The bird did not have any apparent injuries when it was admitted but its face was covered with juice from berries it had been feeding on.
Many times waxwings are admitted in a “drunken” state after eating too many wild berries. If the bird had not been rescued, it would have been vulnerable to any predators in the area.
The waxwing is now perching and eating on its own. We are hopeful it can be released soon.
The sora, a small marsh bird, was admitted to the clinic at half its normal body weight with no notable injuries. It already has begun to eat on its own. With a week or two of supportive care, it should back to a healthy weight and be able to be released.
Migration takes a toll on most birds, and the few days of cold weather this past week most likely made it even more difficult for any animal that was already in a weakened condition.
Soras, which fly about 3,000 miles each way during the fall and spring migration, have one of the longest migration routes of any member of the rail family.
Having suitable habitat available where these birds and other migrating species can rest and forage is crucial for them to successfully migrate. Many shorebirds are passing through our area this time of year and are seen resting in flocks along the beach.
Try to avoid disrupting these birds by walking around them instead of through the flock. Birds expend essential energy dispersing each time a person walks through their flock. This wasted energy can literally mean life or death for these birds.
The first fledgling osprey of the season was admitted this week from an osprey nest located near Avalon Elementary School. Three chicks are in the nest this year. So far, only the one chick has had trouble.
While the clinic staff normally gets fallen baby chicks back into the nest as soon as possible, it was not necessary in this case because the parents are tending to the other two other chicks in the nest. When we do return the third bird to the area, the parents will resume feeding it as well.
We have had the young osprey in a large flight enclosure at the wildlife clinic to practice flying and gain strength.
Two years ago the same ospreys had both their chicks blown from the nest after a storm.
It is encouraging to know that these ospreys are still out there doing well.
Keep the “Wild” in Wildlife
Two loggerhead shrike fledglings and three northern mockingbird fledglings were brought to the clinic this week.
The shrikes had been kept for several days by some children who thought it was OK to keep them as pets. These babies were healthy and should not have been taken from the wild. It is against state and federal laws to keep native birds without the proper permits.
The wildlife center staff is hopeful that we may be able to reunite these two fledglings with their parents. Parents always do the best job raising their young.
Wildlife centers do a good job raising orphaned animals but it is much more difficult for the young animal to learn how to find food and defend itself.
We always want to give the parents the chance to raise their young if the young are healthy.
The three northern mockingbirds were found jumping from their nest. This is typical behavior for all fledgling birds. Most leave the nest before they can fly.
They make short hopping flights, but within two or three days of leaving the nest, they are able to fly and keep up with their parents.
Baby birds at this age are very vulnerable which is why we encourage people to keep their cats indoors and monitor their dogs while they are in the yard.
A Successful Release
The Seminole bat was admitted when it was found in the middle of a road.
With the heavy winds this past week it could have been knocked to the ground. Most bat species need to be high off the ground in order to take flight.
Although it only weighed 13 grams, the bat had a healthy appetite while at the clinic. It was released two days after it was admitted.
Bats are small and therefore seem easy to capture, but all bats have extremely sharp teeth. Always be cautious if a bat is found on the ground.
The only other release this week was a palm warbler that was admitted after it hit a window. It was slightly stunned and just needed a day to recover.
Please call the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, 239-262-CARE, for assistance before attempting any wildlife rescue.