A Virginia opossum was among the seventy animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a black-crowned night-heron, a common gallinule, a limpkin, four hatchling Florida softshell turtles and two raccoons.
Juvenile Opossum Found in Decor Jar
A homeowner called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after returning home from a month long trip to find a juvenile opossum trapped in a large decorative glass yard jar. The opening to the jar was too small to reach in and remove the opossum. We asked her to bring the jar to the wildlife hospital, so animal care staff could assist.
The first attempt to extricate the opossum was to put the jar on its side and slightly tip downward with several pieces of food at the opening. We wanted the opossum to make his way out on its own. After two hours, the opossum still wouldn’t budge.
The next thought was to get a glasscutter and try to cut the top of the jar. The opossum slipped into the neck of the jar just as staff was evaluating the idea. We were able to gently work the opossum’s tail out of the jar while managing to keep both hind feet and legs flattened to his body. Slowly and gently, staff freed the opossum from the jar.
We settled the opossum in a recovery enclosure with food and water and allowed the opossum time to rest. A check on the opossum later that evening showed he had eaten his diet and was resting peacefully.
After three days in the mammal room in the hospital, the opossum was moved to an outdoor recovery space to encourage natural foraging behavior, build muscle strength and acclimate to the outdoor temperatures.
Reconsider the Items in Your Yard
This isn’t the only example of a commonplace item causing an injury to a wild animal last week. A black racer arrived after becoming stuck to a piece of packing tape in a garage. The snake was in the garage when the homeowner tried to chase it outside with a broom. He realized a section of the snake’s body and tail were stuck to a piece of tape hanging off a storage box. The snake was agitated and defensive, so the homeowner was unsure how to safely contain the snake and transport it to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Volunteer Critter Courier, Tim Thompson, was able to respond and help.
We used an organic solvent to remove the tape from the lower six inches of the snake’s body and tail. A few of the snake’s scale were missing, but otherwise damage to the snake was minimal. The snake was then settled in a reptarium in the reptile room. The following morning, the snake was alert, reactive and cleared for release.
The simplest items can pose threats to wild animals trying to live in a world dominated by humans.
Examples over the years include owls entangled in soccer nets, a woodpecker incapacitated after being sprayed with foam insulation, sewing thread and twine causing constriction injuries on various species of songbird nestlings and small mammals trapped in garbage cans and dumpsters – the list is endless.
Consider your actions when working around the house and be aware of the dangers that household items can pose to native wildlife. Help prevent injuries to wildlife by minimizing debris and obstacles in your yard. Please call the wildlife hospital if you find an animal in need of assistance. Staff will provide guidance to ensure the animal receives the help it needs.
Our state and federal permits dictate that as long as an area is safe and provides appropriate habitat, animals must to be released where they were found. Gaining access to gated communities can be difficult to say the least.
The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is incredibly fortunate that Brian Beckner, owner of Native Bird Boxes, Inc. is on our volunteer team. Through his work installing and monitoring bird boxes on local golf courses, Brian has connections with many golf course superintendents. This week required access to West Bay Club in Estero for an osprey release. Staff texted Brian (not realizing he was on vacation), but he didn’t mind. Brian provided contact info for staff at West Bay who were eager to help. After a few quick texts, a plan was set enabling the osprey to be released near where it was found. Thanks to everyone involved for their assistance.
A Florida snapping turtle, seven northern mockingbirds, three blue jays, a fish crow, a burrowing owl, a Florida softshell turtle and two Virginia opossums 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.