Multiple hawks admitted suffering from toxicosis

October 20, 2022

Animal admissions to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital continue to be three times as high compared to what we would typically see this time of year because of Hurricane Ian. There are so many rescue stories from the week Hurricane Ian hit and all show the resiliency of the animals affected by the storm, despite the significant injuries sustained.

It has been impactful seeing the kindness of the people who helped them, even in the midst of having no electricity/water and having sustained damage to their own homes and lives.

When the hurricane hit, storm damage knocked out power and the phone system at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, so we could not receive incoming calls. Many people did not know the hospital was open and accepting patients. Keep in mind that after any storm event the von Arx Wildlife Hospital will always resume operations as soon as threats posed by dangerous weather have passed. In the case of Hurricane Ian, hospital staff was onsite at the hospital at 7 am that Thursday.

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is open 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm. Please call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance.

Forty-Five Grey Squirrels

There are 45 grey squirrel patients currently at the wildlife hospital.

One grey squirrel was brought to the wildlife hospital by a homeowner two days after Hurricane Ian passed through. The woman was clearing debris and could hear the nestling squirrel vocalizing, but could not locate the squirrel. After hearing the baby for three days, the young squirrel finally made his way out of the debris; the woman contained the squirrel and immediately transported him to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for care. 

Baby grey squirrel receiving treatment

The squirrel was thin, dehydrated and weak yet was still trying to nurse on hospital staff’s fingers during the admission exam. Staff provided oral electrolytes after which the squirrel curled in a ball and immediately fell asleep. The young squirrel was settled in a warmed animal intensive care unit and started on a five times a day feeding schedule.

This squirrel is just one of a multitude of orphans admitted after Hurricane Ian.

Ground dwelling mammal nests were flooded and squirrel nests were blown from trees. The rain and high water meant animals were wet, in shock and hypothermic when they arrived at our facility.

Opossum Mother Injured

** Warning: Graphic Image Below **

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff received a call late one afternoon regarding an injured opossum in a garbage can in someone’s home. While it was difficult to understand the situation due to a language barrier, hospital staff dispatched a volunteer Critter Courier to retrieve the opossum and transport it to our facility.

When the volunteer arrived on scene, the opossum was in a garbage can outside the home. Although the opossum had a fresh wound on her head, no one at the residence provided any information as to how the animal was injured. 

Opossum head injury

The opossum was a female with small joeys in her pouch. She was defensive and responsive during her physical exam. The opossum had a one-inch laceration on the top of her head, along with two puncture wounds; the wounds were deep leaving the opossum’s skull exposed.

Aside from the head wounds, the opossum did not have any other signs of injury.

Staff administered pain medication and an antibiotic, disinfected and dressed the head wounds and placed the opossum in a warm, dark recovery enclosure to rest.

The following day, the opossum underwent surgery to suture her head wounds. Hospital staff added a second antibiotic to her daily treatment plan due to the severity of the wounds. The opossum began eating as soon as staff offered a diet and is tolerating the minimal daily handling required to clean her wounds and administer medications.

Opossum recovering in the wildlife hospital after surgery

With most wildlife situations, it is difficult to ascertain the exact cause of trauma an animal has endured prior to being rescued and brought in for treatment. Hospital staff must assess an animal’s condition and behavior upon arrival while asking the rescuer multiple questions to glean any details and observations of where and how the animal was found. 

If you find an injured, sick or orphaned animal, take note of its location and be sure to pass along details of the situation. Any information we can gather can help us piece together a history of what the animal endured. 

Four Red-Shouldered Hawks Suffer From Toxicosis

This red-shouldered hawk is one of four red-shouldered hawks admitted, all suffering from toxicosis.

The four red-shouldered hawks were rescued from various locations in Naples and Marco Island. All four hawks presented with similar symptoms; they were all found on the ground not moving, heads and wings drooping, eyes closed and all were fairly unresponsive when handled. 

Red-shouldered hawk suffering from toxicosis

This malady affecting the hawks is common in our area.

Our treatment protocol include providing supplemental oxygen, an antibiotic, electrolytes, vitamin supplements and Chinese herbs to support liver function.  

One of the four hawks was in critical condition when admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital and passed away within several hours of admission.

The other three hawks responded well to treatment and rebounded after several days of intensive care; one hawk is continuing to recover and regain strength in an outdoor recovery flight enclosure. The other two hawks continue to receive daily supportive care while recovering in the bird room at the wildlife hospital.

Moving Forward

Animals continue to be transferred from the location in Ft. Myers, where CROW Wildlife Hospital has set up temporary operations, since their facility on Sanibel is not operational at this time. See link to help CROW recover from the storm.

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital will continue to do all we can to support other organizations affected by the storm. Von Arx Hospital staff sincerely appreciate all the support we have received from the public. We have received many donations from our wish lists. These donations support our wildlife rehab efforts and have enabled us to replace items damaged in the hurricane. We sincerely appreciate every donation. It is inspiring to receive support locally and from around the U.S.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us through the difficulties presented by Hurricane Ian. So many of you have volunteered your time and donated food and supplies that helped us handle the influx of patients we are admitting. Naples is a wonderful community. It is so inspiring to see how many of you stepped up to help our native wildlife and the entire hospital staff is incredibly grateful. Thank you for helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Other Admissions

Other admissions include a short-tailed hawk, a common tern, a sanderling, a brown-headed nuthatch, a chicken turtle, a striped mud turtle, a northern flicker, a black-crowned night-heron, two black skimmers, and a marsh rabbit. Here are many other recent admissions:

Recent Releases

A magnificent frigatebird, a red-eyed vireo, twelve eastern cottontails, five brown pelicans, two mourning doves, six grey squirrels, four marsh rabbits, four yellow-bellied sliders, an osprey, a worm-eating warbler, three laughing gulls, two gopher tortoises, and a Florida softshell turtle have recently been released.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website to learn about volunteer opportunities at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Many of our volunteers, both year-round and seasonal, were affected by Hurricane Ian and are unable to work their weekly volunteer shifts.

If you can give four hours a week, sign up and become a volunteer, we desperately need your help. If you are unable to give your time as a volunteer, you can become a member or donate.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 or see