Mourning dove mistreated after car strike

June 8, 2023

A mourning dove and a marsh rabbit were among the 102 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a swallow-tailed kite, a tri-colored heron, a barred owl, a bald eagle, a roseate spoonbill, an evening bat and a striped mud turtle.

Mourning Dove Car Strike

The mourning dove was the victim of a vehicle strike. The dove was alert, responsive, in fair body condition and had no obvious external injuries when admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Sadly, the people who rescued the dove caused more damage than the vehicle.

Before bringing the dove to the Conservancy, they cut the dove’s flight feathers on both wings and all of its tail feathers leaving the dove unable to fly. 

The dove required pain medication for the first several days of care at the Wildlife Hospital.

With proper pain management, the dove felt well enough to eat on its own meaning staff kept handling to a minimum. A conversation with the people who found the dove left hospital staff perplexed. Their reasoning for cutting all of the dove’s feathers was unclear.

Since birds only molt once a year, this dove will be in captivity (possibly for another twelve months) until it molts and new feathers replace the cut feathers. This dove will miss an entire breeding season and will lose its mate and territory. In comparison, its injuries from the car strike were minor and it is likely the dove would have made a full recovery and been released in under a month.

Please, if you care enough to rescue an animal, bring it to licensed professionals. Injured and sick animals deserve care from professionals who possess skills, knowledge and have access to medications and treatments to provide appropriate care. Do not attempt to feed or offer medical attention; the majority of cases involving home care have disastrous results for the animal. If you find an injured, sick or orphaned animal, place it in a quiet, dark, ventilated box and bring it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center as quickly as possible, doing so will greatly increase the animal’s chance of survival.

Marsh Rabbit Stuck in Fence

The marsh rabbit was found in a yard stuck between two wooden fences by a woman doing yard work. The rabbit was a young nestling and its eyes had not yet opened.

A physical exam showed the rabbit had an increased respiratory effort and it was moving low on its legs. Staff provided electrolytes, pain medication and settled the nestling in an animal intensive care unit. After two hours, the nestling looked less painful and was nuzzling, looking for food. Due to its young age, the nestling required formula feedings several times throughout the day and night. 

A nestling marsh rabbit settles in an animal intensive care unit after being hand fed by staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

A second marsh rabbit, two hatchling peninsula cooters and a hatchling striped mud turtle were also admitted last week after being found by people working in their yards. Summer breeding season means an increase in wildlife activity.

Check yards, trees, and flowerbeds before mowing, trimming, clearing and digging to ensure there are no active nests. If you find an active nest, it is important to keep your distance and keep pets and people away from young wildlife. The best hope for survival is allowing a baby wild animal to be raised by its parents in the wild. 

Special Thanks

Thanks to Bill Bowser of Captain Bill’s Bait & Tackle. Von Arx staff called to see if Bill could help keep us stocked with night crawlers while we raise two orphaned nine-banded armadillos. Captain Bill offered a weekly night crawler donation! His generosity and support of our work is sincerely appreciated.

Staffer Garrett Alvarez from the Heritage Greens Community was a terrific help this week with renesting a young Cooper’s hawk. The nestling required several weeks of care during which Garrett monitored the nest and activity of the adult Cooper’s hawks and the nestling’s four siblings. Once the nestling was healthy and ready to return to its family unit, Garrett provided an update on the hawk family’s activities resulting in a successful reunion.

So much of the work done at the wildlife hospital requires cooperation and collaboration from members in the community. From rescues to releases to in kind donations, we are truly fortunate to have such wonderful supporters!

Recent Releases

A swallow-tailed kite, a gopher tortoise, two magnificent frigatebirds, three brown thrashers, a common yellowthroat, a Cooper’s hawk, three northern mockingbirds, four mourning doves, a Florida softshell turtle, a broad-winged hawk, three Virginia opossums, an eastern screech owl and two marsh rabbits were released this past week.

Baby Shower

Support the Conservancy’s mission to protect native wildlife. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital hosted a virtual Wildlife Hospital Baby Shower on June 3rd raising awareness and support for the hospital’s youngest patients. Hospital staff is incredibly grateful to everyone who has already donated items in support of our work. Donate gifts online through the Conservancy’s Amazon Wish List through the month of June. Visit Every donation supports the Conservancy’s work to protect Southwest Florida’s wildlife.

You’re Invited!

Make sure to head to Ankrolab Brewing Co. in Naples on June 17th. Ankrolab is providing support for the Conservancy’s Baby Shower by hosting an all-day family-friendly event Saturday, June 17th. See you there!

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