Caught on camera: Bullied bird rescued

August 11, 2023

By Joanna Fitzgerald, Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A snowy egret and two eastern cottontail rabbits were among the fifty-six animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a black skimmer, an eastern bluebird, a Cooper’s hawk, a red knot, an American redstart, two Virginia opossums and a Florida red-bellied turtle.

Hospital staff received a call from homeowners concerned about a snowy egret they had seen at their pond. The egret had been on the edge of the pond for four days, during which it had been confronted by a great blue heron and did not attempt to fly off. The homeowners called to report the situation after witnessing the confrontation. They could not assist further due to prior commitments, so Wildlife Hospital volunteer Tim Thompson was able to check the situation and ultimately netted and rescued the snowy egret. A physical exam upon arrival at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital revealed the egret was alert, responsive, yet underweight with neurological deficits. The egret was unable to stand and support itself without assistance as the right leg was weaker than the left. Staff suspected we were dealing with a toxicosis situation due to the symptoms the egret presented with.

Staff placed the egret in an animal intensive care unit on oxygen after providing pain medication and electrolytes and monitored the bird throughout the afternoon and evening. The following day the egret continued to receive electrolytes and several Chinese herbs and vitamin supplements were added to the treatment plan. Staff hand-fed a limited number of whole fish at each scheduled treatment. The egret showed signs of improvement every day and was able to stand tall for short intervals by the evening of its third day, and spend time in a shallow water therapy tub by its fifth day. Although the egret’s strength and condition were improving, it would not eat on its own and required staff to hand-feed whole fish several times throughout the day.

In an effort to evaluate the egret’s mentation, staff offered the egret a few live fish and the egret ate immediately. At the same time that the egret started eating on its own, the egret began to make small flights around its indoor recovery space indicating it was strong and ready to be evaluated for release. After a successful test flight in a large outside flight recovery enclosure, the egret was cleared for release.

This egret was incredibly fortunate to have survived being debilitated and unable to move for four days, especially considering the current extreme heat. Please do not delay seeking professional help if you encounter an injured, sick or orphaned animal or you witness a situation with an animal that seems unusual. Immediate medical attention allows trained professionals to evaluate and address animals’ needs and provide treatment. An animal’s condition will continue to deteriorate the longer it goes without care thereby extending the animal’s recovery time. If too much time passes without receiving assistance, the animal may not survive.

Baby Bunnies Found After Possible Pet Attack

A homeowner found two nestling eastern cottontails huddled in the corner of an entryway early one morning. Their rescuer found remnants of an adult rabbit nearby. The nestlings’ mentation was dull and were showing signs of pain, such as increased respiratory effort and squinty eyes. The rescuer’s report indicated a predator had attacked and killed the mother rabbit while she was at the nest, injuring the babies who fled to the corner of the entryway.

The nestlings received pain medication and were settled in an animal intensive care unit to rest. After several hours, hospital staff moved the rabbits to a quiet recovery enclosure. Due to their young age, they required multiple formula feedings during the day and night.

The situation surrounding these nestlings’ admission is a common scenario reported to hospital staff at least once a week. Sadly, the predator in question is usually a dog. In one recent admission, the dog’s owner witnessed the attack and death of the mother rabbit and two nestlings when she let her dog out in her yard one morning.

Please, if you have pets, monitor them when they are outdoors and be aware of wildlife that may be frequenting your yard. Over the past two weeks, I have been seeing a marsh rabbit in the same area of my yard every evening when I took my dogs out for a walk. I then started seeing her in the same place in the morning. Since I hadn’t been seeing the rabbit in that spot previously, it made me think she probably has a nest in the yard so now I’m avoiding that area when I’m out with the dogs. One of my dogs would kill any small creature he could find so I’m not taking any chances that he will sniff out the nest. It may take a little extra effort and awareness on my part for a few weeks but it’s worth it knowing I’m giving the mother rabbit a chance to safely raise her babies.

Ensure the safety of local wildlife by keeping an eye on your pets when they are outside and please call the wildlife hospital if you believe you have an active nest in your yard. Our staff is incredibly knowledgeable regarding local wildlife and can offer information on how to prevent injuries to wildlife without too much disruption to your pet’s outdoor routine.

Recent Releases

A loggerhead sea turtle, five Florida softshell turtles, three eastern cottontails, five chimney swifts, three northern mockingbirds, four mourning doves, and two osprey were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

The Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing work done at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. If you read this article, you know the von Arx Wildlife Hospital is busy and we need your help. Please consider becoming a volunteer. One four-hour shift a week isn’t a huge time commitment yet the amount of help provided during that four-hour period truly makes an astounding difference. If you are unable to volunteer, support our efforts by making a donation or becoming a member. We receive no government funding; monetary support and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.