A sooty tern and a banded water snake among the 53 animals admitted this past week

September 10, 2021

A sooty tern and a banded water snake were among the fifty-three animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a black racer, a marsh rabbit, two red-shouldered hawks, two snowy egrets and two ospreys.

Hurricane Ida Bringing in Displaced Seabirds

The sooty tern was found in a yard three blocks inland from Lowdermilk Beach in Naples. Two brown noddies were admitted within a day of the sooty tern, one was found on the sidewalk in Mercato, while the other in a parking lot of an apartment complex nine miles inland from Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park. All three seabirds were in similar condition. The physical exams revealed that the tern and the noddies were emaciated, weak and dehydrated.

Sooty terns and brown noddies are seabirds rarely seen in our area. Most often sooty terns and brown noddies are seen west of the Florida Keys near the Dry Tortugas. Often time’s hurricanes are responsible for blowing birds many miles inland. The three birds showed up in our area shortly after Hurricane Ida passed through.

Although hospital staff provided immediate supportive care to the displaced seabirds, none of the three survived.

Many people bring birds to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after finding them exhausted or injured on the beach. Most people are unprepared when they find any animal in distress. If you are inclined to assist to a bird in need, take time to assemble rescue gear. A towel and a mid-sized box with ventilation holes kept in your car is all that is needed to safely contain a bird.

Banded Water Snake Struck by Car

A couple in Estero was driving when the woman noticed a snake in the road. She insisted they stop to check on the snake and found the snake was injured but still alive. The woman was careful and safely contained the snake in a box. Since it was late at night, she kept the snake at their home until she could transport it to the hospital the following morning.

When staff looked in the transport box, the snake was completely still and seemed to have passed away. However, when staff went to lift the snake from the box the snake reacted and was very much alive.

The banded water snake was severely injured. Its skin behind the right side of its head was lacerated and the underlying muscle was damaged as well. A section of intestine was protruding through a lacerated section of skin and muscle three fourths of the way down the snake’s body. A radiograph showed the right side of the snake’s jaw fractured. Due to the severity of the injuries, humane euthanasia was the only appropriate treatment option. While the outcome for the snake was not what we hoped for, the kindness and action of the snake’s rescuer prevented further suffering.

Banded water snakes are non-venomous, as are most snakes that people will encounter. Humans and native snakes can peacefully coexist, to do so people must conquer the irrational fear of snakes that, for many, has been instilled in them from a very young age. A snake’s only means of defense is to strike out and it typically will only do so if it is cornered and has absolutely no other option for escape. The snake is doing what is instinctual which is to protect itself from a predator. No matter how much you may fear a snake, you are the predator in the encounter.

Snakes are a vital component of a healthy ecosystem because they prey on species such as insects and rodents that are considered pests by most people. Native snakes keep pest populations in check and are a natural means of pest control.

Please, if you find an injured snake, offer assistance. Snakes feel pain and suffer just as other animals do. Cover the snake with a towel, place a ventilated box with the opening on the side next to the snake. Use a dust pan, broom or shovel and gently slide the snake into the box. Close the flaps on the box and securely shut the box with tape. Always call the wildlife hospital for information if you are unsure how to help.

Recent Releases

A Florida softshell turtle, three peninsula cooters, a Florida box turtle, two Virginia opossums, three eastern cottontails, a marsh rabbit, a red-shouldered hawk and a grey squirrel were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website at www.conservancy.org to learn about opportunities to get involved. If you are unable to give your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. Your support will help the Conservancy continue 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 conservancy.org.