Inside the Wildlife Clinic: Bats and a rare duck

— A slower week gave the staff at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic a chance to catch their breath but the week was not without a couple tragic twists and a rare admission.

Only 36 animals were admitted to the clinic this week, including a barred owl, a burrowing owl, an osprey, a cooper’s hawk, two American crows, a surf scoter, a gopher tortoise, a Brazilian free-tailed bat, and two evening bats.

Preventable Deaths

The two evening bats were found in a man’s home in Golden Gate Estates. The first bat was found under a pillow on the couch. The next day he found another bat in his bedroom. The man was confused as to how the bats were getting in the house until he mentioned he keeps his unscreened windows open at night.

The evening bats were not injured and were very alert and active when admitted. Unfortunately, because there was a possibility the man could have been bitten in his sleep and not felt the bite, Collier County Health Department staff deemed it necessary for the bats to be euthanized and tested for rabies. This was such a tragic turn of events since the juvenile bats accidentally ended up in the wrong place.

The man promised the health department that he would no longer leave windows open at night until he had screens installed.

The Brazilian free-tailed bat was a baby, still naked with no fur. This bat was found on the ground after a stormy night. It was barely alive when found and died on the drive to the Conservancy Clinic. Because the woman wasn’t wearing gloves when she picked up the bat, it was also sent out for rabies diagnosis.

While all mammals are susceptible to the rabies virus, it is most commonly seen in raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes. Rabies is carried in the saliva and nervous tissue and most commonly transmitted by bite. There is a risk of infection should saliva from a rabid animal get into an open wound. Since the woman had picked up the baby bat without gloves, there was a risk, although minimal, that saliva from the bat could have made it into any open wounds she may have had on her hands.

It is not uncommon for people to encounter bats in our area, many of which are in need of rescuing. Bats can be easily rescued without ever handling them. Cover the bat with a wash cloth or hand towel. Place the opening of the transport box next to the covered bat. Using a dust pan, shovel or broom, gently slide the covered bat into the box. Close the box, if necessary, tip the box upright otherwise just keep the sealed box on its side.

Staff at the Clinic will have the proper protective gear to retrieve the bat from the box. Most of the bats admitted to the center have been displaced from their roosting trees during routine landscaping or they are blown from their roosts during storms.

Many people have an irrational fear of bats, but bats are an extremely beneficial, natural form of insect control. Please call the Clinic if you encounter a bat, staff will provide advice and assistance.

A Rare Patient

The surf scoter is a sea-duck rarely seen in our area. This is the first record of a scoter being admitted to the Clinic. Typically scoters spend most of their time in the ocean surf and salt bays.

In the summer, the scoter is found in the Arctic on fresh water lakes and slow moving rivers. It is also found in the open tundra. The scoter was found in an alley, several blocks from the beach. It had no external injuries, but blood work showed it was severely dehydrated. Although it is underweight, it is extremely alert and aggressive.

Normally scoters migrate in large flocks. Since the scoter has missed its spring migration, it will have to be kept over the summer and be released in the fall when the scoters return to our area from the Arctic. Staff at the Conservancy has a contact at a wildlife rehab center in Fort Pierce, where they are currently rehabbing three black scoters.

The plan is to transfer our surf scoter to their center so it can be housed with their black scoters. It is always stressful for a flock species to be kept by itself. The transfer will take place in two weeks once the scoter is rehydrated and has gained some weight.

Going Home

Many animals were released “back home” this past week. Eight brown pelicans admitted with injuries from fishing lines and hooks were strong enough to be released far from the Naples Pier. Two wildlife volunteers loaded up the pelicans and headed out on the release. Luckily they are good-natured folks and weren’t upset when the Conservancy van ran out of gas. Thankfully the van didn’t break down until after the pelicans were released. To put it politely, a van full of pelicans can be quite odoriferous.

A snowy egret that had been found floating in a canal was released after two weeks of care. It had neurological damage and was underweight when admitted. A red-shouldered hawk was released after three weeks of care. The hawk had sustained minor neurological damage when it flew into a window.

Three common grackles, a brown thrasher, three blue jays, five Northern mockingbirds and an Eastern bluebird were also released. All of these birds were admitted after they were found on the ground and no parent birds were observed tending to the babies.

Although all of these birds were found in different areas throughout Collier County, the majority of the rescuers noted that their neighborhoods, to the detriment of the baby birds, all had lots of cats that roamed free.

Volunteer Vets to the Rescue

We owe a huge thank you to our volunteer vets for all their help this week. Dr. Lanier at Golden Gate Animal Clinic removed a massive fish hook from a pelican’s stomach and pinned the tibiotarsus (a long bone in the leg) in a burrowing owl.

The vets at St. Francis Animal Clinic pinned the fractured tibiotarsus on an anhinga and attempted to pin the radius and ulna on a barred owl. Unfortunately, the owl’s wing was so badly damaged it could not be saved. Our only option for this bird was humane euthanasia.

None of these animals would have had a chance at survival without the help of these dedicated professionals. All the time and expertise these vets give the clinic is donated.

To learn more about ways you can donate time and supplies to help injured wildlife at the Conservancy, please visit our Web site at

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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