By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital
An eastern coachwhip was among the 87 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.
A staff member at an education center in Bonita Springs brought the juvenile eastern coachwhip to the hospital after finding the snake with tape stuck to a portion of its body. The people who found the snake attempted to remove the tape but their attempt tore the snake’s skin causing an open wound. Had the rescuers called first, hospital staff would have advised them to leave the tape and bring the snake to the hospital as is. Home care typically goes poorly and causes more harm than good. Hospital staff always recommends people seek professional medical attention to eliminate further injury, pain and excessive stress on the animal.
Coachwhips are a rare admission to the wildlife hospital even though they are common throughout most of Florida. Coachwhips are fast and avoid people but will strike in defense if cornered. Wildlife Hospital staff was very careful when restraining the snake knowing the high stress of the situation may prompt it to act defensively. While the snake was active in the transport container, it did not attempt to strike.
Hospital staff used mineral oil and a cotton swab to loosen and remove the tape from the snake’s body. Once the tape was removed, staff then cleaned the mineral oil off the snake and applied a disinfectant to the wound. The snake was placed in a soft-sided reptarium in the reptile room to rest.
We are incredibly thankful to the people involved with the snake rescue. Sadly, snakes are often senselessly and needlessly killed because so many people have an irrational fear of snakes. Please keep in mind that the vast majority of snakes will flee from humans if given the chance. If you encounter a snake, slowly back away and give the snake the space needed to retreat. In our area, almost all snakebites occur when people intentionally harass snakes.
Snakes are truly amazing and an important part of a healthy ecosystem; they are a natural form of pest control, keeping rodent and insect populations in check. The wildlife hospital accepts native snakes that are injured or sick. Snakes deserve the same care and consideration as any other animal admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. If you encounter a snake that is injured, cover the snake with a towel to help calm the snake. If you are afraid to pick up the injured snake, place a ventilated box on its side with the opening next to the snake. Using a broom, shovel or dustpan, gently slide the snake into the box. Close the box securely and transport the snake to the Wildlife Hospital for treatment. Call the wildlife hospital if you have questions or need guidance.
A gopher tortoise, a burrowing owl, two brown pelicans, a mourning dove, a black skimmer, six northern mockingbirds, a blue jay, four eastern cottontails, a royal tern, a striped mud turtle and a black-necked stilt were released this past week.
The black-necked stilt release was particularly rewarding. The nestling stilt was admitted two months ago when it was found in a driveway with no parents around. Hospital staff consulted Brian Beckner, owner of Native Bird Boxes, Inc. for his expertise regarding the marsh area in Bonita Bay near where the stilt was originally found. Brian assured us it was an appropriate release site and he has observed black-necked stilts every time he is at that marsh. Brian put us in touch with Dustin Free and Eddy Tetlak at Bonita Bay, both of whom were incredibly helpful. Dustin provided access to Bonita Bay and Eddy Tetlak arranged for our volunteers to use a golf cart then guided them to the release location. Everyone’s help was sincerely appreciated. Visit the Conservancy’s Facebook page to view a video clip of the black-necked stilt release.
Opportunities to Help
Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing work done by staff and volunteers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital and help 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. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org.