Pest control methods harm non-target species

May 6, 2024

An American redstart and a southern flying squirrel were among the one hundred twenty-four animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a great blue heron, three ospreys, a great crested flycatcher, a fish crow, a peninsula cooter, an eastern mole, and a Brazilian free-tailed bat.

The redstart sustained injuries after becoming stuck in a sticky tape insect trap.

The redstart had pulled all of his tail feathers out and many of the feathers on his left wing in the struggle to free himself. The redstart was agitated and showed an increased respiratory effort during admission. Once removed from the tape, hospital staff placed the small warbler in a dark enclosure on supplemental oxygen to rest.   

A check on the redstart later in the afternoon showed his condition had stabilized. Staff set up a special soft-sided netted recovery enclosure for the redstart and offered water and an insect diet along with a vitamin supplement to promote feather growth. The redstart’s feathers must be in prime condition for the possible two thousand mile migration he may embark on and male American redstarts flash the bright orange patches on their tails and wings to startle insect prey, so growing in his tail feathers before release is essential for foraging.

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff remove an American Redstart from a sticky tape insect trap. The redstart struggled to free himself from the tape and pulled out all of his tail feathers and many wing feathers. The loss of feathers left this migratory bird unable to continue on his migration north for the summer breeding season.

The American redstart was only one of several neotropical migratory birds admitted last week.

Other migratory species admitted include an ovenbird, a painted bunting and a black and white warbler – all injured in window strikes. The dangers these beautiful birds encounter during migration are many and varied.

Sticky tape insect traps are just as harmful as sticky glue traps. These types of traps are inhumane and are indiscriminate killers meaning they can harm and kill non-target species, therefore, we never recommend these pest control methods.

If you have a pest issue, identify the problem. Remember, prevention is the best solution. Consult a reputable pest control company that can develop a pest-management plan that isn’t harmful and deadly to wildlife.

As we celebrate World Migratory Bird Day on May 12, 2024, consider adopting bird friendly practices that prevent injury and promote conservation. Keep cats indoors and monitor cats if you allow them outdoors, help reduce window strikes by using decals or screens to break the reflective quality of window glass. Buy bird friendly products like shade grown coffee and plant native plants in your yard.

There are many terrific websites with detailed information, contact the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at 239-262-2273 with any questions.

Southern Flying Squirrel Admitted

A staff member from a pest control company arrived at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital with a southern flying squirrel.

Flying squirrels are a rare admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital with only eighteen admitted over the past twenty-five years.

Flying squirrels are interesting creatures. They are nocturnal, live in family units and tend to live in natural tree cavities or in woodpecker holes. Some will utilize screech owl nest boxes as well.

The flying squirrel was found in a rat snap trap. The worker wanted to ensure the squirrel wasn’t possibly still alive. Sadly, the flying squirrel was deceased, so there was nothing to be done except to speak with the worker and see if there were alternative rodent control methods that could be considered. While the worker was sympathetic and felt terrible, his company had to follow the orders for pest control established by the community where he was working.

Residents in gated communities that have HOAs have the ability to encourage changes to pest control practices within their communities. If members don’t speak out against utilizing dangerous pest control methods, nothing will change and damaging pest control methods will continue to be utilized. 

Please, be proactive and encourage community involvement. Prevent problems and employ methods of rodent control that ensure exclusion – rodent-proof your home by sealing cracks and small openings and routinely check your home for any areas that may allow rodents access inside your house or garage. Minimize plantings and debris close to your home, so pests don’t have suitable habitat to live in right next to your house. Don’t feed birds in close proximity to your house, birdseed will attract all kinds of creatures, not just rats. Ensure birdseed and/or pet food is securely contained and stored in bins and encourage natural predation by installing owl boxes in your yard and community.

If you find an animal you believe is injured, ill or orphaned, please call the wildlife hospital for guidance. The hospital is open seven days a week from 8am to 7pm.

Recent Releases

Five mourning doves, a wild turkey, four eastern cottontail, a boat-tailed grackle, a common ground dove, three northern mockingbirds, a double-crested cormorant, a mottled duck, an osprey, a common grackle, a loggerhead shrike, five Virginia opossums and two grey squirrels were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website to learn about opportunities to get involved. The wildlife hospital is in dire need of volunteer help this summer since many seasonal residents are gone for the summer; please consider volunteering for a four-hour shift once a week. 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