Sick grey squirrel and a lost hermit crab

September 1, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is part of and located at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida – 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples FL. Open 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm. Call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance.

A grey squirrel and hermit crab were among the 69 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a limpkin, a white ibis, a red-headed woodpecker, two marsh rabbits and a Florida softshell turtle.

Critically Sick Grey Squirrel

A woman called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after her and her daughter found a grey squirrel under a tree. She texted a photo showing the squirrel was not a baby, it was an adult squirrel and it had climbed up a small tree and was lying on a low branch. The squirrel looked very unsteady and the woman feared it was going to fall. The photo she texted showed the squirrel was in severe distress; although it was on the tree limb, its eyes were closed and its body was limp. 

The woman wanted to help, but didn’t know how. Hospital staff suggested she could get a laundry basket, line it with a thick towel and use a broom to try and gently nudge the squirrel back down the tree and into the basket. While she went home to gather rescue gear, hospital staff contacted a nearby volunteer to see if he could bring a stepladder and offer assistance.

Before the volunteer could arrive, the woman called back and said she had the squirrel in the basket, but she was concerned it might come out from under the towel while she was driving to the Conservancy. Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff offered multiple suggestions that the woman could do to ensure the squirrel stayed securing contained in the basket. The woman and her daughter arrived at the wildlife hospital a half hour later with the squirrel.

A physical exam showed the squirrel was weak, his eyes were swollen shut with noticeable discharge, paresis of the hind legs was apparent and overall the squirrel was dull and minimally responsive when handled. Staff cleaned the squirrel’s eyes, provided electrolytes and placed the squirrel on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit. Later that evening, staff offered the squirrel a nutritional supplement made for critically ill animals. 

Critically ill grey squirrel

The following morning, staff checked on the squirrel and unfortunately his condition had deteriorated significantly and he did not survive. Although the outcome was not what anyone hoped for, the squirrel’s story is still incredibly positive. The mother and daughter who rescued the squirrel showed incredible kindness towards the squirrel. The duo deserves a shout out for successfully facing the challenge of rescuing the squirrel, from a tree no less, and ensuring he received professional care and didn’t suffer any more than he already had. 

The squirrel was one of six squirrels admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital last week and was the only adult squirrel; the other five were nestlings injured after falling from their nest trees.

Wild animal rescue can be daunting for those who are inexperienced, but that isn’t an excuse to ignore an animal in need of help. Please, if you see an animal in distress and are unsure of how to safely help, call the staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Staff will provide guidance and safety tips that will allow you to contain the animal for transport and help it get professional care. 

Be mindful, it is nesting season for grey squirrels and fox squirrels. Please make sure you check, or ask your landscaper to check, trees before trimming and clearing. If there is an active nest, avoid trimming until the babies no longer need the nest for protection.

Staff at the wildlife hospital has extensive knowledge about the nesting habits of squirrels and other native wildlife. Call before taking any action if you encounter an active nest so staff can ensure the safety of the animals involved.

Land Hermit Crab Found in Barn

The land hermit crab, different from a marine hermit crab, was brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after being found in a horse barn in northeast Naples. This was the first ever hermit crab admission to the wildlife hospital.

While hermit crabs live on land, they do require water; the property where the crab was found had no water source. It is unknown how the crab ended up in the horse barn. When admitted, the crab was quite active and there were no signs of injury to its body or shell. Hospital staff consulted with the Conservancy’s Animal Care Coordinator who had experience with hermit crabs; he provided detailed information on the proper habitat set up for the crab so staff could monitor the crab for any signs of injury. 

The following day the hermit crab was inactive. There was concern the habitat needed some modifications; staff moved the hermit crab to a larger recovery area with access to the outdoors and multiple areas to hide – the crab immediately started investigating its new surroundings and showed quite an appetite for the diet staff provided.

Land hermit crab

After three days of supportive care with no signs of injury noted, the crab was cleared for release. A natural wooded area with a freshwater marsh nearby was located within a half mile of where the crab was originally found; it provided the perfect release spot. 

Just as was the case with the injured squirrel, the woman who showed kindness and consideration for the hermit crab deserves our thanks. She cared about the well-being of another living creature and that consideration is inspiring. If you see an animal in distress or in a situation that seems odd, call the wildlife hospital. Staff has a wide breadth of knowledge regarding native wildlife; they will do all they can to ensure animals receive appropriate care.

Recent Releases

A common yellowthroat, a peninsula cooter, a marsh rabbit, a Florida box turtle, two eastern cottontails, a fish crow, four white ibises, a red-bellied woodpecker, a sandwich tern, two northern mockingbirds and an eastern screech owl.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website to view all of the amazing work done at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. If you read this article, you know the wildlife hospital is busy and we need your help. Please consider becoming a volunteer. One four-hour shift a week isn’t asking much yet the amount of help provided during that four-hour period is phenomenal and truly makes a difference. If you are unable to volunteer, support our efforts by making a donation or becoming a member. We receive no government funding; monetary support and memberships are vital in helping us continue our 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