The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is part of and located at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. We are open 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm. Call 239.262.2273 for wildlife assistance.
Three common barn owls were among the seventy-five animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a pileated woodpecker, a snowy egret, four eastern screech owlets, a palm warbler, a fox squirrel and a gopher tortoise.
Karyn Allman, a staff member from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), brought the three common barn owls to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The owls were found at an abandoned orange grove facility in Hendry County. The adult owl and her two nestlings were found in an old ice machine. The adult owl seemed lethargic, so the work crew contained the owl family and brought all three to the hospital for care.
The two nestlings were vocal, alert and using their talons to defend themselves when handled. The adult owl was dull, but responsive to handling. All three owls were settled together in a recovery enclosure to rest.
A diet of small rats and mice was offered ad lib. None of the owls ate the first night at the hospital but by the second day, some of the mice and rats were consumed. The two nestlings stayed close to each other in their nest box while the adult owl separated herself from her babies and was typically perched on top of the nest box.
The owls appeared in good health, so while they were being cared for at the hospital a renesting plan was being developed.
The plan required help from multiple people (SFWMD staff, von Arx Hospital staff and volunteers and Brian Beckner, owner of Native Bird Boxes, who was recruited due to his expertise regarding raptor nesting habits).
Knowing the original location where the owls were found (an old icebox) was not available since the property was being cleared, it was decided to attach a nest box to the wall of a building next to the spot the icebox had been located prior to removal.
Hospital volunteer, Tim Thompson, constructed the owl box. Tim enlisted the help of Chase Galligan, a local Scout working on his Bird Study Merit Badge.
The owls were cleared for release four days after being admitted.
The renesting crew convened early in the morning, installed the box, placed the three owls in the box and left the site so the owls could settle in with minimal disturbance. Staff from SFWMD monitored the situation; a night camera recorded hundreds of photos of the owl bringing mice, rats, and rabbits that she caught back to her babies in the nest box.
Everyone involved in this rescue and renesting deserves kudos for their conservation ethic and willingness to go above and beyond to ensure this owl family could return to life in the wild. The distance traveled and needed to coordinate so many schedules made this situation a bit challenging, but it was absolutely worth the time and effort.
Several species of owls are breeding and raising their young right now. Please check trees before trimming to ensure there are no active nests. If you find and active nest avoid trimming until the owlets fledge. Call the wildlife hospital for information on nesting habits of local wildlife.
Two eastern screech owls, a monarch butterfly, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, a Florida softshell turtle, an eastern cottontail, a northern mockingbird, a pied-billed grebe, three marsh rabbits, a peninsula cooter, a red-bellied turtle, an American white pelican, five raccoons and two gopher tortoises were released this past week.
The longest time spent in rehab was one of the gopher tortoises. He was admitted in November 2022. The shortest stay at the hospital this past week were two eastern screech owlets; uninjured when they fell from their nest allowed for re-nesting the day after they were admitted.
Opportunities to Help
There are many ways to get involved and support the Conservancy. Please, if you are a year round Naples resident and believe in the work done at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, become a volunteer. If you can’t volunteer, become a member, donate and visit our website at www.conservancy.org to learn about 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 conservancy.org.