Rodent Control Harms Wildlife

November 9, 2023

A black racer and a red-shouldered hawk were among the sixty animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include an eastern harvest mouse, a lesser scaup, an American coot, a barred owl, and a peninsula cooter.

Black Racer Trapped on Glue Rodent Board

The black racer was brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital late in the afternoon, stuck to a glue board rodent trap. The snake was quiet, tired but alert, dehydrated and had glue covering the length of its body. Hospital staff used a natural soy product to remove the snake from the trap and rinsed the snake in warm water once the adhesive was cleaned from the snake’s body. The removal process is involved and can be stressful, so the snake was set up in a reptarium to rest for the night. 

A black racer receives a bath after being found stuck to a glue board rodent trap.

The reptarium had water for the snake to drink and bathe in with a towel and natural leaf cover to hide. Supplemental heat was provided to create a preferred optimal temperature zone (POTZ). Each species of reptile has its own unique POTZ or temperature gradient in which it will forage, eat and reproduce at its optimum. 

The correct POTZ must be created for all reptiles in captivity and is essential for a debilitated reptile to heal and recover most successfully.

Each day the snake was more alert, reactive and began displaying normal defensive behavior. On the third day at the hospital, the snake was cleared for release. 

Glue boards are indiscriminate killers causing animals to die cruelly and slowly from dehydration and starvation.

Birds (doves, hawks, cardinals, blue jays), reptiles (snakes, lizards), and various species of small mammals (rabbits, opossums, squirrels) have been admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital stuck to glue boards. The injuries sustained as they futilely struggle to free themselves from the industrial strength adhesive are horrific; in fact, in the struggle to free themselves from the glue, animals can tear their skin, legs, tails or wings from their bodies.  

Humane methods of rodent control do exist and must focus on the cause and source of the rodent problem. Preventative measures are the key to long-term solutions.

Some tips:

  • Make problem areas unattractive or inaccessible for rats and mice.
  • Keep garage doors securely closed and inspect your house regularly to ensure there are no areas that will allow rodents access to your home. A rat can fit through an opening the size of a quarter.
  • Eliminate potential food sources by storing food items, such as birdseed and pet food in chew-proof containers.
  • Securely seal trashcans.
  • Pick up fallen fruit.
  • Never feed pets outside.
  • Never feed wildlife.
  • Eliminate hiding places by trimming grass and vegetation.
  • Keep brush piles away from buildings.

While most people consider mice and rats pests, that’s no excuse for blatant cruelty. No living creature deserves an inhumane death by glue trap.

Red-Shouldered Hawk Stuck in a Rat Trap

Hospital staff received a call about a red-shouldered hawk on the ground with its leg stuck in a rat snap trap. The rat trap was tied to a string. Hospital staff provided guidance over the phone and volunteer Critter Courier, Andy Bloom, was able to respond to the situation and assist so the rescuer could successfully contain the hawk and transport it to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for care. 

A photo texted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital shows a red-shouldered hawk with its leg stuck in a rat snap trap.

At the wildlife hospital, staff removed the rat trap and performed a physical exam. The hawk was well muscled, quiet but aware, and had blood in its oral cavity. The left foot had an encircling wound from the rat trap. The leg and foot had significant swelling and was cool to the touch. The tips of its talons were discolored from loss of circulation. It was estimated the trap had been on the hawk’s foot for approximately twelve hours. 

Staff disinfected the wound, applied an antibiotic cream, bandaged the wound and performed laser therapy. Multiple pain medications were administered as well as an antibiotic. The hawk was placed in an animal intensive care unit on oxygen to rest for the night. 

The following morning the hawk was alert, resting on its hocks and its foot was warm. Laser therapy was performed and Chinese herbs and vitamin K were added to the treatment plan. An afternoon health check showed the hawk resting comfortable. Due to the nature of the wound, the hawk requires oral fluids, medications and hand feeding twice daily with a once a day bandage change. The hawk will require extensive time to recover due to the severity of the injury.

Snap traps can potentially humanely kill rodents but they are indiscriminate with the animal species they can kill and often trap nontarget species. If setting a snap trap outside, rather than indoors in attics and walls, the trap must be placed inside a protected box to make sure the trap isn’t accessible to other animals.

As previously mentioned, prevention is the key. Successful pest control is about excluding rodents from structures and reducing or removing the attractants that bring them to our homes and buildings in the first place. As consumers, when hiring a pest control service, we must ensure the company is ethical and minimizes the risk the chosen pest control options have on the environment.

Recent Releases

A black racer, a broad-winged hawk, eight eastern cottontails, an anhinga, a red-shouldered hawk, a laughing gull, a mourning dove, a gopher tortoise, a Virginia opossum, four grey squirrels, and a bald eagle were released this past week.

The bald eagle release was one for the record books and can be viewed on our Facebook page. Von Arx Wildlife Hospital Volunteer, Tim Thompson, helped hospital staff rescue the eagle from the roof of Sugden Community Theatre almost two months ago and was able to participate in the release. It was a full circle moment yet bitter sweet.

Tim has volunteered at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for over twenty years and the eagle release was one of his last before moving to North Carolina. 

Conservancy von Arx Wildlife Hospital Volunteer, Tim Thompson, releases a bald eagle back into the wild. The eagle was found injured on the roof of Sugden Community Theatre and spent almost two months recovering.

The number of animals Tim has rescued and renested during his volunteer time are too numerous to count. If you are a faithful reader of this column, his name should sound familiar – he was always available to help wildlife in need and his escapades provided many stories for me to share. Our gratitude for Tim’s dedication and passion for our work is immense.  

Opportunities to Help

There are many ways to support the Conservancy, become a member, donate and visit our website to see the many engaging volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida currently the Wildlife Hospital and Horticulture teams are actively recruiting new volunteers. Volunteers are essential to our success and a fun way to meet new people with similar interests. By offering your time, talent and skills, you support the Conservancy’s work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is the Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see