Rare Patient Admitted to von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A gopher tortoise and a sandhill crane were among the 53 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a white-tailed deer fawn, a pine warbler, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, three anhingas and a red-shouldered hawk.

Several phone calls were placed to the wildlife hospital from concerned members of the public due to a large bird walking into traffic near 5th Avenue South. From the description, hospital staff thought it could possibly have been a great egret so they were surprised to pull up and see a sandhill crane.

The crane was alert and walking around but its behavior was definitely abnormal. People were standing within a foot of the crane, shielding it from walking into traffic, yet the crane seemed unphased. The crane was easily cornered and captured by wildlife hospital staff after it walked between two parked cars.

Wildlife Hospital staff observe a recently admitted sandhill crane to check its behavior. The injured crane was found near 5th Avenue South in downtown Naples.

Once admitted to the hospital, it became apparent the crane had suffered trauma, possibly from being struck by a car. The bird went into respiratory arrest and needed to be placed on oxygen in a large recovery enclosure within the bird room. After several hours the crane was quiet but standing and responsive. The crane immediately began to eat when hospital staff added food and water to its enclosure. As the crane became more active it was apparent the bird was favoring its right wing; this reinforced our thought that the crane had suffered some type of trauma.

On the third day at the hospital the crane was more active and it was decided the bird was ready to be moved to an outdoor enclosure. The crane continues to show improvement each day.

Finding a sandhill crane in downtown Naples was incredibly unusual. This crane is only the seventh crane admitted to our facility over the past twenty years. The six previous admissions were all from rural areas in Hendry, Lee and Collier Counties.

Hospital staff were grateful that many concerned members of the public called and stayed with the crane until we could arrive on scene. Please, if you see an animal in distress, or in an unusual situation, offer assistance. Do not wait for several hours before calling; as time passes the chance the animal will be further injured or disappear increases exponentially.

The gopher tortoise was admitted after being struck by a car at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. Thankfully, the motorist who struck the tortoise stopped to help the severely injured tortoise and a park ranger was able to immediately bring the tortoise to the wildlife hospital for medical care. Although the tortoise was still alert and active, the carapace and plastron were crushed leaving the tortoise’s internal organs exposed. The damage done was too significant, the only option was humane euthanasia.

Staff from Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park transported a gopher tortoise to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after the tortoise was struck by a vehicle at the park. Although severely injured, the tortoise was still attempting to escape from the transport crate.

Such a devastating loss of life, particularly since gopher tortoises are a keystone species and listed as threatened in the state of Florida. The tortoise was extremely large indicating he was quite old but, tragically, he ultimately lost out trying to survive in a highly visited state park where, ironically, all plants and animals are protected.

Please be aware, there is a sizable gopher tortoise population at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. Typically the gopher tortoises stay near their burrows or along the sand dunes but they may venture into the parking lots and can be seen crossing the road that runs the length of the state park.

When visiting Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park please, remember to watch out for the tortoises. Maintain the posted speed limit, be watchful while driving and always look under your car when you get set to leave the parking lot areas. Tortoises often seek refuge from the hot sun in the shade provided by parked cars.

Recent Releases

A peninsula cooter, a red-bellied woodpecker, a gopher tortoise, a Florida softshell turtle, a red-shouldered hawk and a herring gull were released this past week.

Recent Releases

A peninsula cooter, a red-bellied woodpecker, a gopher tortoise, a Florida softshell turtle, a red-shouldered hawk and a herring gull 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. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. Currently we need people to join our Critter Courier team, especially residents of Marco Island and Bonita Springs. As a Critter Courier you help rescue and transport injured animals to our facility when members of the public are unable to do so. Critter Couriers are essential to our work; they ensure injured, sick and orphaned wildlife receive prompt medical attention.

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.



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Conservancy of SWFL

Conservancy of SWFL


Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.