An eastern cottontail’s run in with landscapers and a young bobcat

September 1, 2022

A young eastern cottontail and a bobcat kitten were among the 78 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include an osprey, a burrowing owl, a prothonotary warbler, a belted kingfisher, a green heron, a Florida softshell turtle and a Brazilian free-tailed bat.

Injured Rabbit

A woman called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after finding a young eastern cottontail in her yard. There had been some landscaping activity going on the day prior and she was concerned the rabbit’s nest may have been disturbed. In order to assess the situation hospital staff had the woman text a picture of the rabbit to the hospital cell phone. Hospital staff knew the young rabbit needed medical attention as soon as they saw the picture.

The picture showed the young rabbit in the middle of a grassy lawn with no cover from the sun. The rabbit’s eyes were partially closed but most notably, the rabbit had a large swollen area on the top of its head; both issues indicated the rabbit needed medical attention. The woman contained the rabbit and immediately transported it to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

Picture sent to us from rescuer

A physical exam was performed upon admission; the young rabbit was aware but dull, ataxic (falling over) and had a significant hematoma on the top of its skull. The swelling was so significant it was impossible to determine if there was a skull fracture as well. Staff provided pain medications and placed the rabbit on supplemental oxygen in an animal intensive care unit to rest. A re-check a few hours later showed the rabbit was alert and calm, yet still unable to balance properly. Staff hand fed the rabbit because it was too off balance to eat on its own. 

A check on the rabbit the following morning showed the rabbit had moved around its small recovery space, had good feces and the swelling on the head looked slightly decreased. Hospital staff prepared the rabbit’s medication and diet to administer its morning treatment but the rabbit seizured as soon as it was picked up. It was determined the rabbit’s condition had deteriorated too significantly and euthanasia was the only humane treatment option.

Obviously, staff and everyone involved hoped for a different outcome but there is no doubt, administering medication, supportive care and providing the rabbit time to see if its condition would improve with treatment was worth the effort. Although the damage was too significant in this case, a similar situation in the future may have a different outcome. 

Please, if you find an animal you believe is injured and/or orphaned, do not delay in contacting the Wildlife Hospital for assistance. Staff can determine the appropriate course of action; any delay in reaching out for help further prolongs the animal’s pain and suffering and results in the animal becoming further debilitated thereby reducing the odds the animal will make a full recovery.

Bobcat Kitten Goes to Testing

Hospital staff received a call just before sunset from a woman stating she had an injured bobcat kitten and wanted to bring it to the wildlife hospital for help.

Staff was surprised because most people would not have the ability to capture and contain a bobcat (even young bobcats are defensive and will hiss, scratch and try to bite). The woman texted a photo to confirm it was a bobcat and she assured hospital staff she had experience with many species of animals, including a blind lynx, which is why she didn’t hesitate to contain the bobcat when she found it in distress on a golf course.

The bobcat kitten arrived in a small mesh pet carrier and didn’t attempt to move when staff removed it from the carrier. The bobcat kitten was emaciated and dull, yet had intermittent moments where he would react and growl; staff also noted the bobcat had a head tremor. Staff settled the bobcat in an animal intensive care unit to rest while gathering further information from the rescuer.

The rescuer had worn gloves while containing the kitten, but sustained a scratch on her hand. There was a human safety concern because bobcats, as well as several other species of wildlife, are high-risk rabies vector species meaning they are one of the most common species in our area that can transmit the rabies virus. 

When there is a possibility of rabies exposure to a member of the public (exposure most commonly occurs through a bite or scratch), the Collier County Department of Health assesses the risk and determines the appropriate course of action.

In this situation, the health department determined there was a risk of exposure and the bobcat needed to be sent for testing.  

Please, call the wildlife hospital if you find an animal in distress. Hospital staff can provide rescue information that will ensure your safety and the safety of the animal. Various capture techniques can be utilized which eliminate having any direct contact with the animal. If immediate action is required, take extra precautions before handling the animal to keep yourself safe. 

Recent Releases 

Two mourning doves, three eastern cottontails, three marsh rabbits, a diamondback terrapin, a red-bellied woodpecker, a yellow-bellied slider, a laughing gull and a black skimmer were released this past week.

Volunteers Needed

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital couldn’t accomplish all we do without the help of our amazingly dedicated volunteers. Every day we are grateful for our volunteers. Currently the wildlife hospital is incredibly busy and we need more volunteers, especially for our evening shift. Volunteering at the Conservancy is one way you can help native wildlife. Consider volunteering with a friend, co-worker, spouse or create a parent-child volunteer team. The evening shift starts at 5pm and involves diet prep, light laundry, organizing supplies for the following work-day and feeding orphans. Visit our website to fill out an online volunteer application and get involved; we’d love to have you join our team.

Nature Center Closure

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital will maintain regular business hours and be open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week even though the Conservancy Nature Center will be closed for buildings and grounds maintenance from September 4th through September 27th.  

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing work done at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Consider getting involved and supporting our efforts. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is 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