Lightning Strikes and Multiple Bunnies

September 28, 2021

A glossy ibis and a nestling eastern cottontail and marsh rabbit were 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 red-eyed vireo, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a green heron, an evening bat, two striped mud turtles and a Florida snapping turtle.

Lightning Strikes a Flock of Glossy Ibis

A resident in North Naples called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital late in the evening after seeing a flock of glossy ibis struck by lightning as they were flying over his yard. Seven birds died outright with only one surviving. The ibis was alert and responsive upon arrival to the wildlife hospital. A physical exam revealed the bird was well muscled and aside from a few lacerations on its feet, legs and back – the ibis was in good condition. The ibis was placed on oxygen in a recovery enclosure to rest.

The following morning the ibis was aware of its surroundings yet was ataxic (lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements). Staff provided pain medications and vitamin supplements. Each status check showed the ibis was slowly gaining strength and exhibiting less abnormal behaviors. Chinese herbs were added to the treatment plan as was a liquid nutritional supplement designed for critically ill and debilitated fish-eating birds since the ibis would not self-feed.

After administering the liquid dietary supplement to the ibis for several days, hospital staff began hand feeding the ibis shrimp and small fish. The ibis was released after seven days of care.

A Call for Multiple Bunnies

The nestling eastern cottontail and marsh rabbit were admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital on the same day, but their situations exemplified how being proactive can mitigating the amount of pain and suffering wild animals endure.

The nestling eastern cottontail was heard squealing when found by a dog. The dog’s owner took the baby rabbit and put it back in the bushes. The woman checked on the baby cottontail for three days. Although the rabbit never moved from the spot where she had set it, she believed the rabbit was ok. On the third day, the rabbit was out from under the bush lying in the mulch. The woman brought the baby rabbit to the wildlife hospital because the rabbit “wouldn’t stay under the bush.” The rabbit was emaciated and dying when it arrived at the hospital; three days of no care after being injured by a dog was too much for the nestling rabbit to withstand.

Shortly after the cottontail was admitted, a call was received at the wildlife hospital from a woman who had just witnessed a nestling marsh rabbit rolling in mulch under some shrubs. As she described the situation, hospital staff knew the baby needed care. Staff asked the woman to contain the rabbit and transport it to our facility. A physical exam showed the rabbit had blood on its back and hips and its head was swollen. Cause of injury was unknown, but the wounds and neurologic damage proved too severe, unfortunately the baby marsh rabbit required humane euthanasia. While the outcome was not what we hoped, thankfully, the rescuer called and her actions minimized the marsh rabbit’s suffering. A humane death, free of suffering is equally important as caring for an animal through rehabilitation to release. 

Please, if you see an animal you believe is in distress, call your nearest wildlife rehabilitator and ask for guidance. Think about the situation in terms of your own pets. If your dog or cat didn’t move from the same spot for an entire day or two, would you be concerned? If your pet had open wounds and was bleeding, would you seek medical attention? Most likely, you would be concerned and call your vet. The same is true for wildlife.

The staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital is the professional resource you can call when you find and injured, sick or orphaned wild animal. There’s no harm done if you call, ask a question and find out the animal is perfectly fine. The benefit from calling occurs when the situation requires intervention – your actions result in an animal receiving the medical care it requires. The wildlife hospital is open seven days a week, even on holidays. 

Recent Releases

A ruddy turnstone, three eastern cottontails, a laughing gull, a gopher tortoise, two mottled ducks, a striped mud turtle, eight grey squirrels, a Florida red-bellied turtle, three mourning doves, a brown pelican and a northern cardinal were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website at and learn about opportunities to get involved. If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. No matter how you choose to become involved, be assured your support allows the Conservancy to continue 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