By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital
Three raccoons were among the 137 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.
A large building in Bonita was under construction and it was apparent there was a raccoon living in the attic. The construction workers set a live trap, caught the mother and relocated her to a wild area several miles away. Seven days later, people in the building heard cries and whimpering. An inspection of the attic revealed three orphaned baby raccoons, weak from starvation and dehydration, barely responsive.
The three raccoons were quite young and obviously still dependent on their mother’s milk. Once admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, oral electrolytes were provided in very small amounts several times throughout the day and night. Once certain the baby raccoon’s kidneys were functioning properly, a milk replacement formula specifically made for raccoons was slowly introduced over the course of several days. Currently, the babies are in the nursery at the hospital receiving five feedings throughout the day and night.
Please, if you feel you have a nuisance wildlife situation call the staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for information prior to taking action. There are many options to encourage wildlife to move on from an area that don’t involve trapping. At the very least, humane measures should be taken that won’t leave young wildlife orphaned and in a situation where they will die slowly from starvation and dehydration.
If hospital staff had been consulted in this situation we would have talked with the workers to fully understand the situation. The first point to keep in mind is that most raccoons only occupy an attic when raising their young. Many times a mother raccoon has a second nest site available if her nest and babies are disturbed. There are various humane methods which can be utilized to encourage a mother raccoon to move her babies on her own. Trying these methods provides the opportunity for the family unit to stay intact and allows the babies to grow up with their mother in the wild.
Coexisting with wildlife is possible and often starts with showing a bit of patience and empathy for other living creatures. A thorough understanding of a species’ natural history behavior can lead to effective solutions to many “nuisance” situations.
A Word of Thanks
Special thanks to the staff from the Collier County Sherriff’s Office and the Greater Naples Fire Department who responded to a call for help at Golden Gate Community Park involving a common nighthawk entangled in line suspended between two trees. Watching the nighthawk struggle to free itself was sickening. Although the fire crew couldn’t reach the tree with their truck, they were determined to help the bird.
One fireman climbed the tree, cut the wire, then climbed on the Sherriff’s vehicle to reach the other end of the line. As soon as the line was cut, the bird was scooped up in a towel and transported to the Conservancy. The ordeal took two hours. The compassion showed by each and every one of the people involved in this rescue is inspiring. To see a video clip of the rescue visit the Conservancy’s Facebook page.
Six eastern cottontails, a purple gallinule, eight common grackles, four mourning doves, three Virginia opossums, two red-bellied woodpeckers, three brown pelicans, a royal tern, a double-crested cormorant, an eastern screech owl, a banded watersnake, a yellow-billed cuckoo, a Florida red-bellied turtle, a downy woodpecker, two northern mockingbirds, a common barn owl, a prairie warbler, and a Florida box turtle were released this past week.
Opportunities to Help
Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. As many of our volunteers head north for the summer we are left with coverage gaps in our schedule at our busiest time of year. Please get involved if you think you could commit to one four hour shift a week. Your volunteer time, as well as your membership and donations, are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.