Owl rescues and a successful renesting

March 25, 2024

Two eastern screech owls were among the ninety-six animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a sanderling, a killdeer, a bald eagle, three limpkins, a great blue heron, a white-tailed deer, and a Florida softshell turtle.

Eastern Screech Owlets Fall from Nest

One of the eastern screech owlets was admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after it was found on the ground under a tree in Bonita Bay.

The owlet was too young to be out of the nest and showed signs of internal injuries. Staff provided pain medication and supportive care; each day the young owl showed signs of improvement. Two days later, the owl’s sibling was found on the ground and was brought in for care. The second owlet fared better than its sibling did. It was uninjured, strong and alert, so a plan was developed to work with staff at Bonita Bay to renest the owlet.

Hospital staff met with Bonita Bay staff who installed a screech owl nest box on the original nest tree and the one healthy baby owl was settled in the nest box. A check on the box the next morning showed the parents had not returned.

By this time, the injured owl was strong, healthy and alert after three days of care and was cleared for renesting. Even though the parents hadn’t returned the first night, it was determined it was worthwhile to try both owlets in the nest box for a second night. Our hope was the two owlets would vocalize and that would draw the parents to the nest box. Unfortunately, the parents never returned, so the two owlets were brought back to the wildlife hospital where they will receive care until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Great Horned Owl Renested

While this renesting wasn’t successful, hospital staff recently successfully renested a great horned owl with its parents with the help of multiple homeowners, Wildlife Hospital Volunteers Ron and Gaylene Vasturo and Ian Orlikoff.

Naples Live Edge Wood comes to help with the renesting

The young great horned owl was found on the ground uninjured. Hospital Volunteers, Ron and Gaylene, searched the property, but could not locate the nest although both of the owl’s parents were seen in trees near where their baby had been found. Hospital staff contacted Ian Orlikoff, arborist and owner of Naples Live Edge Wood, to use his skills as a tree climber to renest the owl.

Orlikoff climbs tree
Orlikoff climbs tree

Hospital staff, the Vasaturos and Ian all met at the property where the owl was found. Hospital staff spoke with residents who provided access to their yard and trees to use for the renesting.

Using ropes, Ian climbed a large pine, attached a wicker laundry basket to serve as the owl’s new nest and placed the owlet in the basket; all the while one of the adult owls was perched in a tree nearby.

Adult owl perched near nest

The residents in the community promised to keep an eye on the owlet. It didn’t take long to confirm that both parent owls knew their baby owl was back and they quickly resumed care. Three days after the renesting, the owlet was seen making short flights from the nest to nearby trees. Thank you to everyone involved in this renesting – everyone was so positive and eager to help. The renesting wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of the property owners.

Each renesting situation is different and while some may not be successful, one fact that can’t be disputed is that wildlife are invested in taking care of their offspring, even when a disruption occurs. Much of the work done at the wildlife hospital during the spring and summer breeding season is to ensure healthy wild animal babies stay with their parents so they can be raised in the wild. We understand the many dangers young wild animals face as they grow and become independent, but their best chance at learning how to survive is being raised in the wild by their parents.

You can help wild animal babies thrive in the wild by keeping cats indoors, don’t allow dogs to roam unattended, plant native plants to provide food and shelter, and check trees and lawns before doing any trimming and yard work. Please, if you see a young animal you believe is injured or orphaned, call the wildlife hospital before taking action. Hospital staff will assess the situation and decide the appropriate course of action needed.

Recent Releases

A chuck-will’s-widow, a Florida softshell turtle, five eastern cottontails, a belted kingfisher, a gray catbird, a Florida box turtle, a sandwich tern, eleven diamondback terrapins, two mourning doves, and two grey squirrels were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website to learn about opportunities to get involved. As many species of wildlife are breeding and raising their young, the hospital gets very busy, we desperately need additional volunteer help. If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. Your support will help the Conservancy continue 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.