A great egret was among the one hundred animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a striped mud turtle, a nestling gray squirrel, a northern cardinal, a double-crested cormorant, two brown pelicans and a red-shouldered hawk.
Staff and customers at a local business were shocked when they saw what they thought was a white ibis fly into a power line. They watched from below as the bird struggled to free itself from the wire. The bird finally fell to the ground, one wing bloodied and obviously broken. The onlookers took action. One person called the hospital seeking advice on what to do while others were attempting to corner the bird and contain it in a box. Surprisingly the bird was very reactive even after going through such trauma. Hospital staff recommended the people bring the bird to the hospital immediately once they secured it in a box.
When the bird arrived at the hospital it was identified as a great egret, not a white ibis. A conversation with the rescuers revealed that the bird had defensively struck at one of its rescuers. Luckily the rescue only sustained a superficial cut on the cheek.
Always utilize personal protective equipment when offering assistance to an animal in distress. Wear sunglasses or eyeglasses if you are helping a bird with a long neck (egret, heron, cormorant, pelican). Most animals are so sick or injured they are weak and don’t have the strength to defend themselves when being rescued. Sometimes, as in this situation, the animal is still basically healthy and strong and will do anything it can to protect itself from what it perceives as a predator attack.
Understanding an animal’s defenses can help keep you safe. A long necked bird will strike out and trying to defend itself with its beak. A bird of prey will use its talons as a defense mechanism. Mammals have sharp teeth and may try to bite. Wearing safety glasses and gloves and using a towel to cover the animal can help ensure your safety in any rescue situation. Call the staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for more information on how to protect yourself in case you encounter an animal needing assistance.
Five mourning doves, seven northern mockingbirds, six eastern cottontails, a musk turtle, three gopher tortoises, a Florida softshell turtle, a striped mud turtle, two common grackles, a least tern, a marsh rabbit, two blue jays, an eastern screech owl, three Virginia opossums, three fish crows, two northern cardinals and a red-bellied woodpecker were released this past week.
Opportunities to Help
The von Arx Wildlife Hospital offers many opportunities for volunteer assistance. Currently we are in need of people to volunteer as Critter Couriers. Critter Couriers transport injured, sick and orphaned animals to our hospital when members of the public are unable to do so. Volunteer Critter Couriers are vital to our mission. If you believe you would like to get involved please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time helps us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.
Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see conservancy.org.