Inside the Conservancy Wildlife Clinic: Cars, calls and mysteries
* Joanna Fitzgerald Vaught, Community Contributor
* Posted January 7, 2010 at 5:47 p.m.
The total number of injured, orphaned and sick native wild animals admitted to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic in 2009 was 2,217. That number is only 39 less “patients” from 2008. Interestingly, an orphaned bobcat was our first admission for 2009 and one of the last admissions for 2009 was an adult bobcat hit by a car.
Animals admitted the first week of 2010 include four brown pelicans, three northern gannets, a grey squirrel and two raccoons.
The bobcat was found in East Naples near Collier Boulevard and U.S. 41. It had severe internal damage and the clinic team feared it would not make it through the first 24 hours of care. The bobcat survived, but X-rays showed it had multiple fractures to its upper and lower jaws.
It also had a puncture wound on its torso and was neurologically impaired. After consulting with several local volunteer veterinarians regarding the proper course of treatment, the bobcat’s condition has stabilized. Thank you to the Emergency Pet Hospital and St. Francis Animal Clinic for providing assistance with this difficult case.
Several raccoons admitted over the past several weeks have shown neurological problems such as seizures and uncoordinated movements when standing or walking. The clinic team attempts to determine the cause of the neurological disorder according to the information provided by the rescuer. Being hit by a car can cause severe neurological damage (as was the case with the bobcat.) If a raccoon is found in or near a road our first assumption is that the damage was caused from being hit by a vehicle.
So far, the majority of the raccoons admitted with neurological impairment have not been found near roadways. That leads us to believe the problems could be due to an infection or a virus such as rabies or distemper. Costs associated with diagnostic tests are prohibitive, so the course of action is to quarantine the animals, provide supportive care and medical treatment while monitoring the animals’ behavior. Of the raccoons admitted over the past two weeks, 75 percent have died. Without testing, it is impossible to determine the cause of mortality.
The Conservancy Wildlife Clinic team always wears protective equipment, even with young, healthy orphans, to ensure they are not exposed to any diseases that could be passed from wildlife to humans. If you find a mammal in distress, call the clinic for information and assistance. The clinic team will provide guidance to keep the rescuer and the animal safe.
A call from afar
The Conservancy Clinic team provided assistance to a bird in distress in Rhode Island. A woman who visited our facility last year called the clinic after she found a rail (a small, chicken-like wading bird) alive and healthy, in a shipment of plants from Miami to a garden store in Rhode Island.
In winter, rails normally migrate south or they withdraw from the northern end of their range into parts of the southeast. The Wildlife Clinic team advised the woman on what to feed the bird and how to keep it as stress-free as possible until a plan for getting it back south could be coordinated. One idea was to have “snowbirds” from Rhode Island bring it along during their planned trip to Orlando.
Then a Wildlife Clinic team member who was visiting the Orlando area for the holidays was set to transport the bird to Naples. Unfortunately, the folks in Rhode Island never finalized the plans and have not returned our phone calls so we don’t know what happened to the bird.
Releases have not been possible lately due to the harsh weather conditions. Our goal is to ensure long-term survival of all rehabilitated animals after release.
Before releasing a rehabilitated animal, we ensure that the animal is physically and psychologically ready and that it is released in the proper habitat. Also, the weather forecast plays a huge role in timing the release of animals. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans, as the current weather conditions and the forecast were not optimum for releases.
Please visit our Web site at www.conservancy.org for more information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Support our mission through memberships, donations, or by volunteering. Did you also know that donating furniture to the Conservancy Upscale Furniture and More Resale Store in Naples helps us immensely?
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Joanna Fitzgerald Vaught 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 8 p.m. seven days a week. Visit conservancy.org for complete information.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org