A gopher tortoise and a common moorhen were among the 36 animals admitted to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic this week. Other admissions include a black racer, a Florida softshell turtle, a great horned owl, a brown thrasher, a northern cardinal, an anhinga, a gray kingbird and a black vulture.
A young gopher tortoise was admitted with a crack and puncture in the middle of its carapace (top shell) caused by a dog attack. Since the turtle was young, the shell was still slightly soft, making it easy for the dog’s teeth to damage the shell. It takes six to seven years for a gopher tortoise shell to harden and provide stronger protection from predators. The tortoise is alert and active even though the shell fracture exposed its right lung to the elements.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a 14-pound adult gopher tortoise was admitted after being hit by a car. The tortoise prognosis is guarded; it suffered extreme blood loss and extensive damage to the carapace.
Slow moving turtles and tortoises are no match for busy, traffic filled roadways. If you see a turtle or tortoise crossing the road, safely stop and offer assistance if possible. Keep yourself safe, and always place the animal out of harm’s way in the direction it was headed. Although unapparent to us, the turtle was headed in a specific direction for a reason.
Indoors: Safe pets and wildlife
The juvenile common moorhen was injured after being attacked by a cat. Less then one month old and still covered in soft downy fuzz, the baby moorhen was an easy target because it was unable to fly and escape from the cat. The moorhen was weak when admitted and had sustained several puncture wounds. Currently it is receiving antibiotics and needs hand feeding every hour.
Summer is the height of baby season. Common species such as raccoons, squirrels, opossums and various species of birds are all actively nesting this time of year. Please monitor pets while they are allowed outdoors. It is the best way to ensure the health and safety of your pet while protecting wildlife as well.
Give wildlife a chance
A call came into the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic regarding an active raccoon nest that was found in a truck. A female raccoon took up residency since the truck had sat unused for an extended length of time. A mechanic, set to begin work on the inoperable vehicle, found the nest containing five baby raccoons when he lifted the hood. Using proper precaution, the mechanic wore a pair of welding gloves and removed the babies from the vehicle. At this point he called the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic to see if he could bring the babies in for us to care for. Not wanting to remove five healthy babies from their mother, we encouraged the mechanic to take a different approach.
We advised the mechanic to leave the babies in a box near the truck overnight, giving the mother raccoon time to come and retrieve her babies. Raccoons (as well as many other species of wildlife) tend to have a second nest site available for use if their primary nest site is disturbed. We also suggested he place moth balls or ammonia-soaked rags in the truck where the nest had been located so it was no longer an attractive nest site.
The plan worked – the babies were gone the following morning. Please call the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic if you have questions regarding an active wild animal nest; we will do all we can to promote a positive outcome for you and the wild animal involved.
Tragedy leads to solution
A black vulture suspected of being electrocuted arrived at the Wildlife Clinic exhibiting severe signs of neurological damage. No one saw the bird strike the power line, but five vultures had been found dead in the same area over a course of several months. All the birds were found dead directly under the power lines. This one survived but was critically injured and the only course of treatment was humane euthanasia.
The business owners were disturbed each time a dead bird had been discovered but never reported the incidents. The Conservancy Wildlife Clinic team gathered contact information and reported the problem to the utility company that services this particular area. The company immediately took action to rectify the problem which will hopefully stop birds from being injured at that location.
A glossy ibis, a white ibis, a great egret, a barred owl, three eastern screech owls, five mourning doves, four mottled ducks, five common grackles, eight northern mockingbirds, an eastern bluebird, two raccoons and two opossums were released. Aside from the egret, two ibis and barred owl, all the releases were young animals that had required many weeks of care until they were old enough to fend for themselves in the wild.
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.
We are receiving record numbers of injured and orphaned wildlife and need your help. For those of you who read and enjoy these articles, please visit the Conservancy of Southwest Florida website at www.conservancy.org and become a member or make a donation. 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.
- - -
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 www.conservancy.org for complete information.