A gray fox suffers from vehicle strike

October 6, 2023

A gray fox and a little blue heron were among the 65 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a burrowing owl, a black-crowned night-heron, a ruddy turnstone, a common tern, a prairie warbler, four raccoons and a Florida softshell turtle.

The gray fox was found along the side of a road near a ranch in Immokalee unable to stand and not attempting to flee when approached. The people who reported the fox to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital were willing to assist the fox, but their boss would not allow them time to do so. Wildlife Hospital Volunteer Critter Courier, Michael Simonik, responded to our text for rescue help. He captured the fox and brought her to the Conservancy for care.

The fox was aware during the physical exam, but her mentation was dull. She was in fair body condition with no obvious external injuries. Knowing the fox hadn’t made any attempt to stand indicated serious injuries. Hospital staff administered pain medication and once the medication took effect, radiographs were taken that revealed the fox had suffered a fractured pelvis and a fractured humerus.

A radiograph taken of a gray fox upon admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital reveals a fractured pelvis. The fox also suffered a fractured humerus. The fox was injured in a vehicle strike.

The extent of damage from the vehicle strike was too significant. The only option was humane euthanasia. While certainly not the outcome we hoped for, staff was incredibly grateful to the people who reported the situation, so the fox did not continue to lie injured and unable to move on the side of the road.

Gray foxes are not a common admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. On average, our facility has only two gray fox admissions per year. Gray foxes are nocturnal with vehicle strikes a common cause of injury. It was heartbreaking to see the fox seriously injured to the point where she couldn’t move.

Please, if you hit an animal, safely pull over and offer assistance. Never leave an injured animal suffering on the side of the road. Keep in mind that many animals (owls, opossums, foxes) are nocturnal (active at night) or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), like rabbits and deer.

Reducing your speed and increasing awareness of your surroundings may improve your reaction time and allow you to avoid hitting an animal. Always keep a towel, gloves and box in your car. Having rescue equipment available relieves some of the stress involved if you encounter an animal that needs help. 

Rescuing a wild animal may seem daunting but remember, the animal is ill, injured or orphaned and therefore debilitated, disoriented and/or weak which makes rescuing quite straightforward the majority of the time. Call the staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital (239-262-2273) if you have questions on how to safely help an animal in need.

Little Blue Heron Entangled in Fishing Line

The little blue heron was entangled in fishing line and found struggling at Clam Pass. Beach staff captured the bird, but were unable to transport since they were working. A Volunteer Critter Courier was dispatched to transport the injured bird to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for medical care.

Become a Critter Courier.

A little blue heron recovers in the bird room at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after being injured from monofilament line entanglement.

The heron was alert and responsive when handled, in fair body condition and had a wound on the right shoulder. The right wing was swollen and raw from the monofilament line inhibiting circulation and cutting into the wing as the bird futilely struggled to free itself. Once admitted, staff provided pain medications, performed laser therapy on the wing and shoulder and settled the heron in a recovery space to rest.

Pain meds, wound management and laser therapy were performed daily. The heron also required an antibiotic and an antifungal medication as part of its daily treatment plan. The heron was alert and perching and after several feedings, finally began to eat on its own. The bruising and swelling diminished by the fourth day at the hospital.

The heron’s condition continued to improve allowing staff to move the bird to a large indoor flight recovery enclosure. The heron was cleared for release after ten days of care. The volunteer critter courier who helped with the transport was called to release the heron back in the area where it was found.

Fishing line and hook injuries are preventable. Anglers must be responsible and take measures to avoid injuring wildlife. Be aware of your surroundings. If birds are congregating nearby while you are fishing, don’t risk snagging a bird. Wait to cast your line until the birds have moved on. 

Hook A Bird? Here are Some Safety Tips

  • If you hook a bird while fishing, don’t cut the line and allow the bird to fly off with several feet of monofilament line trailing behind.
  • Reel the bird in carefully, but quickly.
  • A bird struggling against a taut line may cause the monofilament line to snap allowing the bird to fly away with the line trailing behind. 
  • Once the bird is reeled in, cover its head and wings with a towel to help calm the bird and assess the damage.
  • If the hook is not deeply embedded, gently push the hook through until the barb is exposed. Use a wire cutter to clip the barb and back the hook out.
  • After the hook is removed, step away and allow the bird time to gain its bearings. The bird should fly off once it has had a bit of time to rest.
  • If it is unable to fly away, the damage could be more severe then it seemed and the bird needs to come to the wildlife hospital for care.
  • If the hook is deeply embedded or if the hook has been ingested, contain the bird and bring it to the wildlife hospital for immediate medical attention.

When engaged in angling activities, be a responsible steward of the environment. If you miscast while you are fishing, retrieve the line. Do not leave it hanging in the vegetation where an unsuspecting animal may get entangled.

It can take over six hundred years for monofilament to breakdown.

There is a statewide Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP) dedicated to reducing the environmental damage caused by discarded fishing line.

Recent releases

Three American redstarts, a gopher tortoise, two eastern cottontails, a palm warbler, a white ibis, a red-shouldered hawk, an eastern screech owl, four grey squirrels and a northern mockingbird were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Visit the Conservancy website to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Volunteers help in many different capacities. If you could dedicate one shift a week to help in the hospital, contact our volunteer office and get involved.

Currently, we are in desperate need of volunteer help with our outside morning shift and our evening shift from 5pm to 9pm. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are truly vital and allow us continue our 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. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org