Protecting Your Pets and Wildlife

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Containers filled with syringes, rubber nipples, and feeding tubes line the walls of the baby room at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. Baby season requires all hands on deck at almost all hours of the day. In order to replicate the care these babies would normally receive from their mother, we must constantly monitor, feed, and stimulate them to go to the bathroom. This means we have many volunteers, staff members, and on-campus students working around the clock to take care of baby squirrels, opossums, mourning doves, and other nestling birds.

Babies come into the clinic for all different types of reasons. Heavy windstorms will blow baby birds from their nests. When fledgling birds are learning to fly, they can fall to the ground unable to make it back to the nest. Rabbits leave the nest when they are just three weeks old, so even a seemingly small rabbit with its eyes open and ears standing up is self-sufficient and does not need your assistance.

Wildlife parents are very devoted to the care of their young and rarely abandon them. When abandonment does occur, it is usually the result of an injury or the death of the parent. Typically, it is the female mammal that raises the young and often leaves the nest in search of the next meal. In the case of birds, where both parents are generally caretakers, both are often away from the nest for the majority of the day, returning only for the brief stops to feed their hungry young. Occasionally, well-meaning finders will bring in babies that do not need care and are perfectly fit to be out on their own. Humans are never a young animal’s best hope for survival. They are its last hope. A young animal should only be removed from the wild after all avenues to reunite it with an adult animal are exhausted.

Animals, especially babies, that are injured or abandoned can be left exposed and vulnerable to predator attacks. Even though sometimes, their natural predators are animals we love and care for as pets. On March 12, a fledgling mourning dove (21-904) was admitted when it was found surrounded by cats after it had fallen from its nest in Cape Coral. Upon intake, the fledgling weighed 50 grams and was warm, alert, and apparently healthy. With the history of a cat attack, the bird was started on antibiotics due to the amount of bacteria present in a cats mouth which can lead to life-threatening infection. The patient was started on a feeding plan and closely monitored over the next few days for any signs of infection. Hospital staff has reported that the dove is eating well and has been getting along with its cage mates.

Whenever an animal has been in the mouth of a cat, even if the animal does not seem injured, we always ask to have the animal brought in and checked out. Cats can leave small pin-prick injuries that may not be noticeable to anyone other than a veterinarian that is specifically looking for that type of injury. Regardless of the severity of the claw or bite mark, animals caught by cat are always provided antibiotics to prevent serious infections that can result from these small puncture wounds.

Both pets and wild animals are near and dear to our hearts. In order to protect them both, there are a few different steps that can be taken. Facilitating an enclosed outdoor area for cats and dogs can benefit everyone involved. Our domestic animals pose a threat to wildlife, especially ones that are orphaned or injured. On the flip side, our pets can be prey for larger wildlife species hunting on the ground or from the sky. In addition to obvious predatory dangers, our pets can contract zoonotic disease when interfering with wildlife or their habitats and also have the potential to spread diseases to wild animals.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (3/13-3/19):
There were 30 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including five brown pelicans, four eastern cottontails, three double-crested cormorants, two mottled ducks, a great blue heron, a little blue heron, a loggerhead sea turtle, a gopher tortoise, and a bald eagle. Recent Releases include nine eastern cottontails, eight eastern gray squirrels, two Virginia opossums, a green heron, a Mexican free-tailed bat, and a loggerhead sea turtle. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year. Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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