Rare admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

August 21, 2023

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is part of and located at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Our address is 1495 Smith Preserve Way in Naples, FL. Please call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance. Our wildlife hospital is open everyday from 8am to 7pm.

A gray kingbird and a Florida red-bellied turtle were among the fifty-nine animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a striped mud turtle hatchling, two loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings, a red-bellied woodpecker, and eastern screech owl, a little blue heron and a Brazilian free-tailed bat.

Rare Admission

The gray kingbird was admitted after being found on the ground at a local school. Gray kingbirds are a rare admission with only 25 admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital over the past 20 years. While the nestling had no visible injuries, the nestling was still in poor body condition. Its feathers were bedraggled and although vocal, making a constant contact call, the nestling was obviously weak. 

Staff settled the nestling in a warmed animal intensive care unit and offered oral electrolytes. After a full examination, our staff vet started the kingbird on an antibiotic and Chinese herbs.

Gray kingbird in von Arx Wildlife Hospital care

Due to the gray kingbird’s young age, it required hand feeding every hour. Each day the kingbird’s strength has improved and after five days, it started to eat on its own. A recent check at the school showed the adult kingbirds were caring for “our” kingbird’s sibling, so the goal is to reunite the kingbird with its family once it is strong enough to fly.

The gray kingbird is one of a few nestling songbirds still being admitted to the wildlife hospital. Mid to late August is when songbird breeding season winds down which is helpful because grey squirrel breeding season is just ramping up.

The first grey squirrel nestling this season was admitted last week. Be aware when trimming trees and monitor pets when they are allowed outdoors since several species of wildlife are still breeding and nesting. 

When assisting wildlife it is important to seek immediate professional assistance, especially when it comes to baby wild animals. Neonates are incredibly delicate as was the case with the gray kingbird and the nestling squirrel. A delay in appropriate care can determine whether a baby animal lives or dies. If you find an animal you believe is injured, sick or orphaned, do not attempt to care for it yourself. Call our wildlife hospital. We will do everything we possibly can and keep the animal’s well-being our top priority.

Turtle Suffers from Car Strike

The situation with the Florida red-bellied turtle was absolutely heartbreaking and horrifying. A woman traveling on Immokalee road saw the turtle attempt to cross the road when a low riding car struck the turtle and dragged it along for over a mile. The woman stopped and rescued the turtle when it finally broke free from the vehicle’s undercarriage.

The injuries the turtle sustained were significant. The turtle’s plastron was raw, bloody and the road rash was so severe that the turtle had a burning smell. The shell was fractured the entire length of the right side of the turtle’s body. The damage proved fatal. 

There are no words to describe the pain and suffering the turtle endured while being dragged along for over a mile. It is incomprehensible that the motorist continued driving knowing the turtle was wedged under the car. Thankfully, the woman who witnessed the situation was compassionate and concerned. Her quick action and rescue efforts meant the turtle got immediate medical attention and her kindness is worth recognizing and acknowledging. 

Please, if you hit a turtle or see a turtle that’s been hit by a car, safely pull over and offer assistance. Bring the turtle directly to the wildlife hospital for assistance. It is inhumane to leave an animal to die slowly on the side of the road. If you see a turtle that isn’t injured, help it to safety by placing it out of harm’s way in the direction it was headed.

Recent Releases

Two loggerhead sea turtles, three gopher tortoises, two eastern cottontails, two blue jays, a snowy egret, two Virginia opossums, a laughing gull, two killdeer, a brown pelican and a fish crow were released this past week. 

Opportunities to Help

Visit our website to learn about opportunities to get involved. Pease consider volunteering, 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 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.