Littering: More dangerous than you think

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

This barn owl was among the 55 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

The barn owl was rescued by a member of the public who saw the bird on the side of the road, lying with its wings and legs extended, near the entrance to the Gordon River Greenway.

Upon admission to the von Arx Wildlife hospital, it was noted the bird was unresponsive and slightly dehydrated. The owl was favoring its left leg but was otherwise in good body condition.

The owl was given subcutaneous electrolytes and placed in an animal intensive care unit to rest. Staff monitored the owl’s condition regularly throughout the day and adjusted the treatment plan as needed. Staff suspected the owl had been hit by a car and suffered neurological injuries. The owl’s condition fluctuated over a 48-hour period.

The damage the owl suffered proved too severe and, unfortunately, the owl did not survive.

Help prevent injuries like these

Hit by car is a common cause of injury for many of the animals admitted to the wildlife hospital. Wildlife habitats are so fragmented that many animals are forced to cross roads as they search for food, water and appropriate nesting sites. People can reduce the chance of hitting animals by being more attentive when driving. Driving at a slower speed, especially at dawn and dusk when many species of wildlife are more active, may provide the time needed to avoid hitting an animal.

And never litter, even if the item is biodegradable like an apple core or a half-eaten sandwich.

Food items on the side of the road can attract animals such as rats and mice which are prey for hawks, owls, foxes, bobcats, etc. Drawing prey near the road can bring predators closer to roads and increases the likelihood they may be struck by a car. Always dispose of trash in appropriate receptacles.

Recent Releases

Two Eastern cottontails, a Virginia opossum, a raccoon, a least bittern, a red-shouldered hawk and a blue jay were released last week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, donations, 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. Call 239–262–2273 or see