Banded Watersnake Dehydrated After Hurricane

November 3, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is located and part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance. Our address is 1495 Smith Preserve Way in Naples, Florida.

A banded watersnake and a pied-billed grebe were among the eighty-seven animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a cattle egret, a black skimmer, a great horned owl, a pileated woodpecker, a brown thrasher, a big brown bat and a Florida softshell turtle.

Dehydrated Banded Watersnake

A staff member from Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) found the banded watersnake on Sanibel Island. The watersnake was transferred to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital from CROW staff working in Ft. Myers. CROW’s intake form stated the snake was severely dehydrated due to the lack of fresh water on Sanibel. The watersnake’s left eye was protruding and the snake had multiple puncture wounds on its body. Despite its condition, the snake was active and responsive when handled.

Banded water snake receiving a soak

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff started the snake on an antibiotic and placed the snake in a reptarium with a shallow bowl of water to rest. Staff offered the snake a smelt, but the snake showed no interest in eating.

When the snake was placed in a warm water soak the following day, staff observed the snake taking multiple drinks of water and saw the snake rubbing the right side of its body along the edge of the bowl. On the second day in the hospital, the snake ate one smelt.

Full snake skin shed

By the fourth day at the hospital, the snake had completed a full shed and its eye was no longer protruding. The snake looked like a completely different animal after it shed. The snake continues to recover, has a strong appetite and is quite active in its reptarium.

Snake with a smelt meal

Unfortunately, many people have a fear of snakes and that makes them a rare admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital; less than one percent of our annual admissions are snakes.

Snakes deserve the same care and consideration as any other sick or injured animal admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. 

Native snakes are a vital part of a healthy ecosystem and are an amazing, natural form of pest control.

Common prey items for snakes include rodents and insects which are considered pests by most people. Natural predator prey relationships are required for ecological balance. Please, if you encounter a snake that is injured or sick and are too afraid to help, call the wildlife hospital; while the von Arx Wildlife Hospital doesn’t have an official rescue service, staff can offer guidance and do their best to assist. 

Pied-Billed Grebe Struggles on Land

The pied-billed grebe was found on the sidewalk adjacent to a busy road in eastern Collier County.

Grebe’s legs are set far back on their bodies so they can’t walk, leaving them quite helpless on land. Their unique body structure makes it impossible to take flight from land hence grebes spend almost all of their life in water. Oftentimes, grebes will land on paved roads thinking it is a body of water (i.e a mirage). Once on land, they are stuck. Hospital staff believe the grebe mistook the road for a body of water and was able to make it to the sidewalk where it was eventually rescued. 

Aside from abrasions on its feet and toes, the grebe was in good body condition when admitted.

Due to their inability to stand, grebes have special husbandry requirements.

A special raised net provides soft support and keeps pressure off the grebes’ keel. The grebe is receiving supportive care while spending extensive time in the water therapy tub that also contains a net covered haul out.

If you see an animal in an unusual location or situation, take immediate action to help the animal. An injured or sick animal is debilitated and weak making it easy to cover it with a towel and place it in a ventilated box or pet carrier. If you are unsure if an animal needs assistance, call the wildlife hospital staff for information. Staff can assess the situation and determine if intervention is required. The longer an animal goes without care, the less likely it is to make a full recovery. 

Recent Releases

Four gopher tortoises, a big brown bat, a pied-billed grebe, seven eastern cottontails, a gray catbird, two palm warblers, a merlin, three laughing gulls, two red-shouldered hawks, a Florida softshell turtle, a burrowing owl, four grey squirrels, a Virginia opossum, a Florida red-bellied turtle and a Florida box turtle were released this past week.

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 – Wildlife Hospital, Discovery Center Docent, Dock Master, Boat Captain. Volunteers are essential to our success; 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 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