Rare patient at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital survives two pet attacks

An eastern mole and a fox squirrel were among the 55 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 common barn owl, a loggerhead shrike, a common ground dove and a black racer.

The eastern mole arrived at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital alert, responsive and weakly attempting to dig in the shallow covering of pine shavings inside the transport box. The mole was seen in a feral cat’s mouth as a woman approached with her dog. The cat dropped the mole when it saw the dog; the dog then grabbed the mole before its owner could intervene.

Eastern mole admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A physical exam showed the mole sustained two puncture wounds along its left shoulder and both front legs were lying in an abnormal position. Staff provided subcutaneous electrolytes, an antibiotic and pain medication. When the mole was placed inside a large bin of dirt, the mole moved in circles, unable to use its front right leg. As the pain medication took effect, the mole calmed down and was seen resting comfortably.

Due to the open wounds caused by the cat attack, the mole required a course of antibiotics. Cats have numerous bacteria in their saliva that can cause severe infections and can prove fatal. Along with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, the mole also required pain medication for several days to address the full body trauma from the dog bite. Staff monitored the mole’s behavior noticing small improvements each day. Several days passed before the mole was no longer circling and able to use its right leg and ambulate in a straight line.

Our state and federal permits dictate that rehabilitated animals be released in the area where they were found. There can be extenuating circumstances that make this requirement impossible but overall, we have to release animals back where they were found.

The difficulty with this case is we knew a feral cat lived in the area where the mole was found making it unsafe for the mole to be returned to its exact home territory. Staff released the mole in a natural area near where the mole was rescued. Our hope was the mole was still close enough to its home territory that it wouldn’t be introduced to a space already occupied by another mole (moles are territorial, as are most animals) yet it was far enough away to keep it safe from the feral cat.

Releases typically bring a wonderful feeling of joy because an animal is getting a second chance at freedom and life in the wild yet, oftentimes there is also an undercurrent of worry when releasing an animal involved in a domestic pet attack.

Cats are an invasive species; feral cats and free roaming cats have devastating impacts on native wildlife populations. The good news is… injuries to wildlife caused by cat attacks are preventable. Do not allow cats to roam outdoors (even well fed cats have the instinct to hunt). Spread the word about the importance of keeping cats indoors. Keeping your cat indoors, and monitoring them if they are allowed outside ensures your beloved pet stays safe and keeps wildlife safe as well. Visit www.abcbirds.org for more information.

The adult fox squirrel was found late in the evening under a bush in eastern Golden Gate Estates. The rescuer mentioned the fox squirrel was favoring her front paw when he saw her in his yard and she was easily contained. The squirrel was anesthetized in order for hospital staff to perform a complete physical exam. A line of demarcation of singed fur ran the length of the squirrel’s body from her front left paw, crossing over her lower abdomen ending at her back right paw. The squirrel’s front left leg was swollen; the left paw was curled under, necrotic and beginning to slough and there was no deep pain response. The squirrel had singed whiskers and had a burnt odor; all signs indicated the fox squirrel had been electrocuted. Although the squirrel was not killed outright, her injuries would have proven fatal due to the extensive soft tissue damage and trauma. The only course of treatment was humane euthanasia.

If you suspect an animal is sick, injured or orphaned, take action; contain the animal and bring it to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for professional medical care. If you are unsure how to help an animal in distress, call wildlife hospital staff for information. If intervention is needed, photos and any observations of the animal will help staff determine the appropriate course of action.

Recent Releases

Two eastern cottontails, a magnificent frigatebird, two double-crested cormorants, a laughing gull, a Florida softshell turtle, a gopher tortoise, seven brown pelicans, two grey squirrels and a Virginia opossum were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the many ways you can support our work. Currently the 2021 Virtual Magic Under the Mangroves fundraiser is online and the silent auction and silent fund-a-need are now open. The fund-a-need items (www.event.gives/magic2021) are an opportunity for you to directly support the work done at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Every dollar raised is vital and helps 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, 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.