Inside the Wildlife Clinic: Weather, collisions and construction

— A sooty tern, rarely found inland, was one of 32 animals admitted to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic over the past week.

Some of the other bird admissions include three mourning doves, two red-bellied woodpeckers, a Northern cardinal and a brown thrasher.

Reptile and mammal admissions include a gopher tortoise, a striped mud turtle, six grey squirrels, two fox squirrels and six opossums.

Off course

Seabirds can get blown off course during inclement weather, often many hundreds of miles by hurricanes and tropical storms.

These birds can be caught in strong winds for days and are completely exhausted when they are finally able to land.

This was probably the case with the sooty tern. The sooty tern is a true seabird, normally traveling and foraging far out at sea and nesting on remote islands.

This bird rarely comes to land except to breed and can stay out to sea for between three and 10 years.

It was found on East Terry Street in Bonita Springs, a long way off from its home.

The sooty tern was extremely thin and lethargic --- it weighed less then 50 percent of its normal body weight. Unfortunately, the tern was so emaciated it did not survive.

Collision course

Several animals were admitted after collisions with cars and windows.

One of the red-bellied woodpeckers flew into the windshield of a parked truck and sustained extensive injuries that proved fatal.

The other red-bellied woodpecker hit a window on an office building. Fortunately, the bird was just stunned and was able to be released later the same day.

A Northern cardinal was found in the road after being hit by a car on Pompei Lane. The cardinal lost some tail feathers and one wing was bruised in the collision.

Overall, the injuries were minor, and the bird was released three days later.

The gopher tortoise was run over by a car and sustained severe damage to its carapace, or top shell. A large part of the shell along the spine shattered and broke off the remaining shell.

The damage to the tortoise is tremendous, yet the tortoise is still alert and active. Since there was severe trauma to the spine, paralysis is always a concern.

It may take several weeks to determine whether the tortoise can overcome the damage caused by the impact.

Pet surveillance needed

Most pets are very in tune with wildlife activity in their yard and are ready to hunt if given the opportunity.

Proof of this was four of the grey squirrels admitted this week. They were orphaned when their mother was killed by a dog.

If your pet becomes increasingly agitated in your yard, an active wildlife nest could be nearby.

To avoid injury to your pet and wildlife, alerting wildlife of the presence of a pet gives the animal time to reach safety before the pet is set loose in the yard.

Something as simple as clapping your hands to make noise or turning on an outside light is all it takes to let a wild animal know it is time to take cover.

Baby care

The two young fox squirrels were admitted on different days and are likely unrelated.

One was found at the shopping plaza on the corner of Vanderbilt Beach and Livingston roads. It was healthy and uninjured, but no adult squirrel was seen in the area.

The second fox squirrel was admitted several days later after someone left it on the doorstep of a local vet clinic. We have no information as to where the second baby was found.

The great thing about this situation is that the two baby fox squirrels are the same size and can now be raised together.

Since it is very stressful for a baby animal to be raised alone, we always try to find a litter mate for any of the babies admitted to the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic.

Because fox squirrels are rarely admitted, we were raising the first fox squirrel with a group of grey squirrels. Now that a second fox squirrel has arrived, we can raise the two together.

Even as babies, these fox squirrels are absolutely gorgeous creatures. They have black faces and blonde bodies. They are almost three times larger then a grey squirrel of a similar age.

Home again

An American crow that had been receiving care since September 2008 was released in the neighborhood where it was originally found.

The bird sustained severe feather damage when it landed on a power line transformer.

Feathers are shed every year during molting, and it is a long process. While the crow was rehabilitating/molting, we housed some of our orphaned crows with it so they could grow up imprinting on the appropriate role model.

Needless to say, the crow shot out of the pet crate when the door opened and it continued flying well after our volunteer lost sight of it. Yeah crow!

Other releases included a sanderling, a small wading bird, which had been admitted with symptoms similar to what we see during botulism poisoning.

After several days of receiving fluids and a diet consisting of various invertebrates, it was strong on its feet and ready to go.

New homes

New recovery enclosures that will provide better accommodations for rehabilitating wildlife are under construction at the Conservancy.

This is the first part of making preparations for the new von Arx Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. All of the renovation involves careful planning to ensure we meet the needs of a variety of species that will utilize these enclosures.

Open for business

While the Conservancy Nature Center is closed to the public Sept. 6 through Oct. 31 due to major renovations near the Nature Store, please remember that the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic is open 365 days a year.

The injured wildlife drop-off area will remain accessible. For information on injured wildlife, call 239.262.CARE.

For more information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and how you can support our mission through memberships and donations, please visit our Web site at

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

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