Help Us Protect Animals During Breeding Season

March 29, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is located at and part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples FL. Please call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance. Open 365 days a year from 8 am – 8 pm.

A gray fox and a black racer were among the sixty-seven animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include an eastern mole, a fox squirrel, a gopher tortoise, a red knot, four brown pelicans, a mother opossum and her three joeys.

Pregnant Grey Fox Found in Grave Condition

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff received a call regarding a gray fox in distress in a yard in northeast Naples. A staff member happened to be releasing an animal in the general area where the fox was located and was able to respond and rescue the fox.

The fox was in grave condition upon admission to the hospital.

She was non-responsive and in lateral recumbency (unable to rise from lying on her side), had labored breathing and an abnormally slow heart rate. Two well-developed fetuses were palpated during the physical exam. Our staff vet immediately began emergency medical treatment, but the fox went into cardiac arrest and passed away shortly after admission. A post mortem exam showed the fox had suffered internal injuries; the cause of her injuries is unknown.

Black Racer Mother Pulled From Garage Door

The gray fox wasn’t the only pregnant animal admitted to our facility last week.

An injured black racer was admitted from Cape Coral. The snake suffered a two-inch laceration on the left side of her body after being pulled out from under a garage door where she had been wedged.

The racer was alert, responsive and trying to strike when admitted and had increased respiratory effort.

A radiograph showed the snake was gravid (pregnant) carrying eight eggs.

Black racer carrying eight eggs

Staff placed the racer in a quiet animal intensive care unit to rest; working with the snake when she was highly agitated could have led to further health complications. Once the racer was calm, staff administered pain medication and a sedative enabling the vet to suture her wound.

To reduce stress on the snake, handling is being kept to an absolute minimum.

Our goal is to release the snake as soon as her wound is healed with the hope that she won’t lay her eggs until she is returned to the wild.

How to Prevent Wildlife Injuries, Especially During Breeding Season

These admissions highlight the fact that it is breeding season for a multitude of species of wild animals. Please take actions that prevent injuries to wildlife and their young.

Keep cats indoors and always monitor your pets when they are outside to ensure no wild animal or their babies falls victim to a cat or dog attack.

Check trees and yards before trimming, mowing or performing landscaping activities. Adult wild animals can move away from lawn mowers and chainsaws, but baby animals in the nest are helpless and unable to flee approaching danger. Weed whackers, lawn mowers, chainsaws and shovels typically inflict fatal injuries to nestling birds, rabbits and squirrels.

Pay attention to wildlife in your yard – if you see an animal constantly coming and going from the same tree, bush or shrub – it could be that is where its nest is located. Check the area and if you find an active nest – leave it alone! Avoid the area until the nest is no longer occupied.

If you have any questions, call the staff at the wildlife hospital for detailed information about the species involved. Many wild animal babies mature quickly and leave the nest within a couple of weeks of hatching/being born.

Plant native plants to provide natural food sources and to create a safe environment for nesting birds and small mammals.

Please keep in mind that many wild animals leave their babies alone for extended periods of time; this makes it difficult to know if a baby animal is truly orphaned and needs help. If you believe you have found an orphaned animal, call the hospital before taking action to ensure there is an actual need for human intervention.

Recent Releases

A gopher tortoise, two eastern screech owls, a red-bellied woodpecker, an eastern cottontail, a marsh rabbit, a turkey vulture, a grey squirrel, a burrowing owl and two raccoons were released this past week. Along with the releases, two nestling bald eagles were re-nested on a golf course at Quail West after their nest tree broke causing the nest and two eaglets to fall to the ground.

When the downed nest was discovered, staff at Quail West contacted Brian Beckner, owner of Native Bird Boxes, Inc. Brian is also a Conservancy wildlife hospital volunteer and alerted us to the situation that was unfolding. Brian searched through the remains of the nest, located both eaglets and brought them to our facility for care.

The eaglets sustained minor injuries in the fall and required pain medication and supportive care. While the eaglets were recovering, Brian, fellow Conservancy volunteer Tim Thompson, and Nathan Gingrich, Director of Courses and Grounds at Quail West Golf and Country Club coordinated all the details needed to ensure the eaglets could be re-nested once cleared for release. See release video below!

A nest platform was constructed and after five days of care, the eagles were ready to go – the re-nesting team took action. Quail West leased a bucket truck to attach the nest platform fifty feet up in a tree near where the original nest tree had stood. Using sticks from the fallen nest, the platform was prepared for the eaglets return. The coordinated effort was a success; an adult eagle was seen at the nest with its offspring within hours of the two nestlings’ return. Nest observations over the next few days showed both adult eagles tending to their young.

The cooperation and coordination involved in this re-nesting was unprecedented. The commitment of the Quail West staff and the entire Quail West community to native wildlife and environmental stewardship serves as a model for other gated communities to aspire. Brian and Tim’s time, expertise and skill verified what we already knew – our volunteers are the best!

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing work done at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Get involved; your volunteer time, donations, and memberships 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