Inside the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic: When it rains, it pours

An ornate box turtle and a common ground dove were among the 62 animals admitted to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic this week. Other admissions include a royal tern, three chimney swifts, six northern mockingbirds, eight eastern cottontails and a Florida red-bellied turtle.

Turtle trouble

The ornate box turtle was injured by a lawn mower when approximately five inches of its carapace (top shell) were completely sliced off by the lawn mower blade. The turtle’s lungs were exposed and its spinal cord was extensively damaged. The only treatment option was humane euthanasia.

Many species of wildlife inhabit our yards. Do a quick check of the area you plan to work in before performing any landscaping activities such as mowing, trimming trees and branches, clearing brush piles and spreading mulch. It literally only takes a few extra minutes but can mean the matter of life and death for animals living in your yard. Animals commonly injured or displaced by routine landscaping projects include nesting screech owls, woodpeckers, songbirds, rabbits and squirrels.

Two young women stopped at the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic after seeing the large Florida red-bellied turtle injured on the side of Livingston Road. One woman mentioned the turtle was stuck against the curb of the road — it was still alive but she could tell it was critically injured. They were willing to go back to the scene and help the turtle but they needed a box and towel to rescue and transport the animal to the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic. We provided the needed rescue equipment, advised the women on how to handle the turtle, and cautioned them to keep their safety a top priority.

When the ladies returned with the injured turtle, it was immediately apparent that euthanasia was the only possible course of treatment. The carapace and plastron (top and bottom shell) were completely shattered leaving the all of the turtles’ internal organs (liver, stomach, intestines) damaged and exposed. The women expected this outcome but were so thankful the turtle received help and was no longer suffering.

If you stop to help a turtle that is crossing the road, always make sure you keep your safety and that of fellow motorists the main priority. Move the turtle off the road in the direction it was headed. Do not put it directly in a lake or canal. Many species of turtles and tortoises can’t swim — placing them in the water will cause more harm. If unsure of the proper course of action, always call the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic for advice. We can properly identify the species of turtle and suggest an appropriate release site.

Protect pets and wildlife

The common ground dove was one of several animals severely injured by dog and cat attacks this week. Common ground doves are the smallest species of dove found in our area — they are approximately one third of the size of a mourning dove. Their name is a bit of a misnomer because they aren’t that common. The Wildlife Clinic receives less than 10 common ground doves each year, compared to more than 200 mourning doves admitted annually.

The ground dove sustained several lacerations after a housecat caught the bird and brought it back to its owner. The initial physical exam showed a large laceration on the left leg and under the right wing. The dove also had a punctured crop which allowed all the seed it had been eating to spill out the hole in its neck. The punctured crop required surgery but the dove first needed to be stabilized to give it the best chance of surviving the surgery.

Surgery, which was performed the following morning, was difficult due to the small size of the bird and the severity of the puncture wound. Prognosis for survival is guarded but we are hopeful.

Along with the ground dove, a female northern cardinal was dead on arrival and a fledgling blue jay sustained serious injuries — both were attacked by cats. Three infant eastern cottontails suffered extensive damage after their nest was destroyed by a dog. Help us help wildlife and protect your pets as well; don’t allow your beloved pets to roam outdoors unattended. Monitor your pets if you allow them outdoors — this will ensure their safety and it will keep wildlife safe as well.

Happy, happy day

A white-tailed deer fawn was one of the few animals released this week. The fawn had been at the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic for several months after FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) confiscated the deer from well-meaning folks who were trying to raise it. Upon arrival at a site known to be frequented by a herd of white-tailed deer, no deer could be found!

“Our” fawn explored the woods for a good 20 minutes when finally a doe with one fawn appeared at the edge of the woods. “Our” fawn and the doe were hesitant at first but after a few minutes they approached each other and disappeared into the woods. We have had wild deer accept “our” orphaned fawns into their herd in the past so we had no worries that our fawn would be just fine.

As a reminder

The Conservancy Wildlife Clinic is a “hospital” where injured animals can rest, heal and recuperate, so it is never open to the public. Our outdoor wildlife viewing area is also temporarily closed to the public while the new Sharon and Dolph von Arx Wildlife Clinic is underway.

Help needed

Please visit the Conservancy website at and become a member. Memberships and donations are our primary source of funding which help us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

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Joanna Fitzgerald is the director of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic. The clinic is located just off 14th Avenue North and Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples. If you find injured or orphaned wildlife, contact the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at (239) 262-CARE (2273) 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Visit for complete information.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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