Eastern screech owl drenched in chemically treated water

February 8, 2024

An eastern screech owl was among the fifty-two animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a common loon, a purple martin, two gopher tortoises, a Florida box turtle and a hispid cotton rat.

It was late in the afternoon when homeowners noticed a screech owl in their garage.

When approached, the owl didn’t move. The rescuer used a glove and when she went to pick up the owl, the owl perched on the woman’s finger allowing her to carefully remove the glove and place the owl in a box.

Hospital staff opened the transport box and immediately noticed something was wrong. The owl was shocky, the right wing appeared painful when touched and the owl’s feathers were wet and had a blue tint. 

After an in depth conversation to understand the cause of the blue feather tint, it was revealed that the lot next door to the rescuers home is under construction and there is a portable toilet on the property. The theory for the owl’s debilitated condition was that the owl somehow came in contact with the blue water used in the portable toilet.

A photo taken during admission shows an eastern screech owl’s feathers covered in blue tint. It was theorized the owl came in contact with the chemically treated water from a portable toilet at a construction site.

Staff provided pain medication, placed the owl in a warmed animal intensive care unit on oxygen, provided a water bowl large enough for the owl to bathe in and let the owl rest. A check on the owl late in the evening showed the bird resting comfortably.

The following day, fluids, Chinese herbs and pain meds were administered prior to bathing the owl. The owl tolerated the bath well and staff successfully removed the chemicals from its feathers. The owl was returned to the warm intensive care unit to dry off.

Von Arx Hospital Staff bathe an eastern screech owl covered in chemicals from a portable toilet.

Supportive care continues – along with pain medication, antibiotic and herbs. On the third day in the hospital, the owl ate on its own. The owl continues to recover in the bird room.

Many common place items can pose threats to animals.

Over the years, hospital staff has seen:

  • Songbirds admitted after falling into buckets of paint.
  • A woodpecker arrived covered in spray foam insulation.
  • Bats and hummingbirds admitted stuck to sticky fly tape.

The extensive list goes on and on.

Homeowners and property managers aware of the possible threats that household items pose to native wildlife can help prevent injuries by employing safe usage practices. If you find an animal you believe is in need of assistance, call the wildlife hospital at 239-262-2273. Staff will provide guidance to ensure the animal receives the help it needs.

Recent Releases

Seven royal terns, a common barn owl, a red rat snake, a peninsula cooter, a laughing gull were released this past week. The consistent rain and colder temperatures make finding an optimal window for releasing wildlife challenging.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. 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 the 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.