See the World Through Their Eyes
By Joanna Fitzgerald |von Arx Wildlife Hospital, Director
Family members killed in a car accident, a single mother left homeless, orphaned babies. Like humans, these are the real and heartbreaking scenarios facing Southwest Florida’s wildlife. Collisions with cars and windows, litter, rat poison, roaming pets, fishing hooks and line — these are several common causes of injury to wildlife.
More than 3,800 animals are admitted to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s von Arx Wildlife Hospital each year. This year the wildlife hospital has already admitted more than 1,500 injured or orphaned animals. Spring and summer months are particularly busy because many species of birds and mammals are breeding and raising their young. Every day brings new admissions and animals in need of help. When we see the world through the eyes of our wildlife we realize most injuries are preventable.
The overwhelming majority are human-related causes. The good news is, if humans cause the injuries, we can also help prevent them. Most people do not intentionally harm wildlife. We have learned many people simply do not understand how their behavior can reduce the likelihood of injury. With this understanding, comes action. People must take action and commit to changing their behaviors in order to reduce dangers to wildlife. We can be part of the solution.
These are five easy steps everyone can take:
Don’t litter, but pick up litter if you see it.
Animals get tangled up or ingest items that can be deadly such as plastic bottles and lids, six-pack rings, plastic bags, fishing tackle and old pieces of carpet or netting.
Prevent your pet cats and dogs from attacking and/or playing with wildlife.
Don’t allow dogs to run without supervision and raise cats indoors. Many injured animals are brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital with fatal wounds from dog or cat attacks. Keeping pets indoors also keeps them safe from wildlife that may carry disease.
Use non-toxic and humane rodent control methods.
Nestling hawks and owls can become gravely ill if their parents feed them rodents that have ingested rat or mice poison. Glue traps are indiscriminant killers and can cause devastating injuries to any birds or small mammals that touch the glue.
Leave healthy infant wildlife alone.
They are seldom truly orphans. A parent may be nearby foraging for food or will return at dusk. If you find healthy, young birds on the ground, attempt to return them to their nest. If they’re learning to fly, place them in a tree or bush for safety. Keep pets away from areas with active nests.
Call before you act.
If you think you’ve encountered injured or orphaned wildlife the von Arx Wildlife Hospital can help. Call 23–262-CARE. Put the animal’s needs first and get it professional help as quickly as possible.
While many of the animals cared for at the hospital are able to recover and be released to the wild, preventing and reducing injuries to wildlife by raising public awareness is a goal of our work as well. We need caring and responsible community members to help.
Opportunities to help
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, as well as memberships and donations, are vital in helping 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.