Taking Steps to Protect Wildlife

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Since the beginning of 2021, we have admitted 360 wild animals after negative cat or dog interactions. Over half of those admissions were specifically cat attack victims. So far in 2021, we have seen at least one cat attack vicitim each day. Cats are natural hunters and effective predators who will hunt for fun – not necessarily because they are hungry or need to eat. Domestic cats, like other invasive species, can devastate the native wildlife populations of birds and other small mammals. Most wild animals admitted are not as lucky as the Blue Jay (# 21-4339) and Northern Cardinal (# 21-4365) in our care who were both admitted after cat attacks.

Most people don’t know the bacteria in cat saliva is toxic to wildlife, especially birds, and untreated bites can lead to infection and death. Regardless of visible injury, every bird or small mammal caught by cat requires antibiotic treatment. Often times, veterinarians will find tiny puncture wounds not visible to the naked eye. If untreated, this bacteria can cause infection leading to sepsis and could have fatal consequences. This is one of the main reasons we beg people to bring in cat-caught wildlife to prevent serious infection or death.

Outdoor domestic cats are a recognized threat to global biodiversity and have contributed to the extinction of 63 bird, mammal, and reptile species in the wild. The loss of these species unfavorably impacts a wide variety of other species including those at risk of extinction, like the Piping Plover. Domestic cats do not naturally occur in the wild; therefore, native species of wildlife may have no defense against or awareness of them. Similar to other introduced species, domestic cats will push native wildlife out of their territories indiscriminately. This results in an absence of wild animals who have specific roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Both pets and wild animals are near and dear to our hearts. 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 wild animals hunting on the ground or from the sky and are susceptible to hit by car situations. In addition to obvious predatory dangers, dogs and cats can contract zoonotic diseases from interfering with wildlife or their habitats. Dogs and cats also have the potential to spread other diseases to wild animals.

There are many ways domestic pets can get natural enrichment from the outdoors without posing a threat to native wildlife! For cats, building a catio space is great for the curious and playful allowing them to be outdoors while simultaneously protecting native critters. Leash or harness training can provide the animal with an outdoor experience under supervision. At the very least, placing a bell around the cat’s neck will give wild animals a fair chance to escape before the cat approaches! If you do choose to let your cat roam free (with a bell), please consider spaying or neutering them to prevent population growth of invasive feral cats. With responsible pet ownership, we can all help prevent the loss of native wild species AND enrich the lives of our domestic animals!

THIS WEEK AT CROW (8/29-9/3):
There were 21 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including six eastern gray squirrels, four eastern cottontails, two mourning doves, two striped skunks, a semipalmated plover, a marsh rabbit, a southern toad, an eastern screech owl, and a Florida red-bellied cooter. Recent Releases include a great blue heron, a loggerhead sea turtle, a Florida softshell turtle, a magnificent frigatebird, a worm-eating warbler, and two Florida box turtles. 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!

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 http://www.crowclinic.org. If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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