Veterinary hospital assists with late-night wildlife emergency

July 8, 2015

By Joanna Fitzgerald

Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

262 animals admitted this week

A common grackle and 178 Brazilian free-tailed bats were among the 262 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida last week. Other admissions include three Carolina wrens, a gray kingbird, a snowy egret, three gopher tortoises and four opossums.

Veterinary hospital helps injured grackle

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff examine the damage done to the wing feathers of a young grackle that was kept by its “rescuers” for two weeks before being brought to the wildlife Hospital. The damage caused by being kept in improper conditions for two weeks is apparent when compared to the healthy grackle in the follow photo.

The common grackle was admitted after it had been found as a baby by a local veterinary hospital who then attempted to care for it for two weeks.

The vet brought the young bird to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital because the grackle had begun banging itself around the space it was being kept in and had damaged its feathers. The feathers on both the grackle’s wings and tail were broken mid shaft and the bird showed no fear of people.

After being given a physical exam the grackle was moved to a large enclosure in the nursery.

Unexpected (but very cute) behavior

Since the grackle had only been interacting with people for two weeks, we needed to try and break its attachment to humans and see if it would associate with other grackles.

The following day, we moved the grackle to a cage with two other grackles that were slightly younger in age. The two younger grackles were incredibly frightened of people since they had just been admitted.

The older wasn’t interested in the two babies until they began to vocalize and beg for food.

At that point, the older grackle began feeding the two babies. Hourly checks by hospital staff showed the older grackle continued to respond to the begging calls and was caring for both youngsters.

Currently, the grackles have been moved to a large enclosure in the bird room at the hospital.

Veterinary hospital vs. wildlife hospital

It isn’t unusual for members of the public to take an injured or orphaned animal they have found to their veterinarian and, in fact, over the past few weeks we have encountered three situations, including the one involving the young grackle, where local veterinarians offered assistance to wildlife in need.

The other two cases involved members of the public finding wild animals in distress late at night after the Conservancy Wildlife Hospital was closed. These people took the animals to local domestic pet emergency animal hospitals that are open 24 hours a day.

These two hospitals provided temporary care to the injured animals and called us to arrange transfer of care once our facility opened the following morning.

Permits are required from the state and federal government to rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned wild animals. Domestic vets are not exempt from needing these permits and are legally only allowed twenty-four hours to transfer a wild animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

We appreciate that the vets at both of the domestic pet animal hospitals worked with us to ensure the wild animals received the care they required.

Get involved

Please visit our website at and learn about the many opportunities there are to get involved.

Volunteers are vital in our efforts to assist native wildlife.

If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate.

However you choose to become involved, your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.