Rabbit suffers from a missing hind leg

May 5, 2023

An eastern cottontail and a rose-breasted grosbeak were among the ninety animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a red-shouldered hawk, a great egret, two osprey, a brown thrasher, a yellow rat snake and two nine-banded armadillo orphans.

Rabbit Missing a Hind Leg

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff received a phone call at 5:30pm regarding an injured rabbit. The caller knew the rabbit was severely injured because it was missing a hind leg. Staff asked if he could transport the rabbit to our facility for care and the caller agreed he could do so. It was 8 pm and the rabbit still hadn’t arrived at the hospital; staff called and texted the rabbit’s rescuer, but the person did not answer and did not respond to our text. 

The following morning hospital staff called to inquire about the rabbit.

The person was glad we followed up, said he hadn’t been able to bring it in the previous day after all so was going to see when he might have time. Keep in mind, while the “rescuer” was lackadaisical, hospital staff was incredibly concerned knowing the rabbit experienced extreme trauma when its leg was torn from its body.

The rabbit’s rescuer stated they had offered it food, water and the rabbit looked better than it did the previous night.

It became apparent he didn’t understand the severity of the situation and really didn’t comprehend the suffering and needed medical assistance. Staff found a volunteer to retrieve the rabbit and brought it to the hospital for care.

Hospital staff never got a chance to assist the rabbit, as she passed away during transport to the hospital.

A post mortem exam is performed on an eastern cottontail. Lack of immediate medical care caused the rabbit to suffer while slowly dying from her injuries.

We understand that the people who don’t work with animals may not be able to interpret when an animal is unwell and suffering, but here’s a simple rule – err on the side of caution and get the animal professional medical attention.

Another thought to consider, if your dog or cat suffered an injury (hit by car, attacked by a predator, head trauma, gunshot, fishing line and hook entanglement, etc.), you’d seek veterinary attention right away. A wild animal deserves that same consideration and medical attention. 

Wild animals can appear stoic even after sustaining significant trauma because hiding their pain is a survival strategy animals have developed in the evolutionary process. Hiding their pain when injured or sick is necessary to protect themselves from predators.

Unfortunately, the ability to mask pain can cause humans to underestimate the pain and suffering animals are experiencing. Many people, as was the case with this rabbit, may disregard pain and suffering altogether. Professionals caring for animals commonly recommend that if an injury would cause human suffering, it would cause an animal to suffer as well. 

Please, do not delay seeking professional help if you encounter an injured, sick or orphaned animal. Immediate medical attention by trained professionals is always first action.

Grosbeak Runs into a Window

The rose-breasted grosbeak was admitted early evening after it was found injured from a window strike. The grosbeak suffered head trauma, was favoring his right wing, was alert but dazed and disoriented upon arrival. Staff provided pain medication and placed the bird on supplemental oxygen in an animal intensive care unit to rest for the night.

Von Arx Hospital staff evaluate a rose-breasted grosbeak’s mentation after the bird was injured in a window strike.

The following morning, staff checked on the grosbeak, while the grosbeak was alert and eating his insect diet, he was still disoriented and calm when handled. Staff administered pain medication and moved the grosbeak to a slightly larger recovery enclosure; since the grosbeak is eating on his own, handling is being kept to an absolute minimum. Each day the grosbeak’s mentation is improving, but the bird is still favoring its right wing.

Along with the grosbeak, two yellow-billed cuckoos, a scarlet tanager, a blue jay and a gray catbird were victims of window collisions this past week. Several of the birds involved in these window strikes are neotropical migrants.

Neoptropical migratory birds breed in the United States and Canada and winter in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many bird species are passing through our area as they head north on their annual spring migration.

Window Collisions

Colliding with windows is a leading cause of bird mortality in the United States. Conservative estimates state that in the United States, up to 975 million birds die annually from collisions with buildings and windows. Collisions can occur both at night and during the day. At night, lights on condominiums and office buildings draw migratory birds in close to buildings where they can become disoriented and exhausted which then causes them to collide with buildings. 

Many cities across the United States are working to save migratory birds by initiating “lights out” programs during peak migration time.

The “lights out” program is similar to sea turtle protection regulations for beach properties in our area. If you work in an office building, or live in a high rise along the coast, please shut the curtains/shades and turn off lights at night to minimize the dangers night migrants face.

Collisions during the day occur because birds can’t perceive clear or reflective glass. Windows reflect the sky and trees so birds perceive the reflection as an open flyway and collide with the glass. The key to preventing window strikes is to make birds aware of expanses of glass. There are many ways to prevent birds from colliding with both residential and commercial windows. For information on proven solutions to prevent bird strikes, visit www.abcbirds.org.

Recent Releases

A Florida box turtle, four eastern cottontails, three eastern screech owls, a Florida softshell turtle, six gopher tortoises, a striped mud turtle, a common grackle, three double-crested cormorants, five brown pelicans and a peninsula cooter were release this past week.

Opportunities to Help

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is very understaffed while seeing a large influx of animals each week due to breeding season. Please know we are doing our best with every phone call we receive; we appreciate your understanding and patience when seeking assistance. Consider volunteering as a Critter Courier, it doesn’t take a large time commitment but is truly vital in saving animals’ lives.

There are many ways to get involved and support the Conservancy. Become a member, volunteer, donate and visit our website at www.conservancy.org. Learn about the Conservancy’s 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, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org