Last week’s wildlife rescue class taught by some of Peace River Wildlife Center’s rescue volunteers was a rousing success and not a moment too soon. Life has indeed been a little wild lately at PRWC. We recently admitted an injured adult male bobcat that had been hit by a car. The gentleman traveling in the car behind the one that hit the wayward feline saw the cat fly six feet in the air. When it landed on the road, he knew it would get hit again if he didn’t act quickly. He scooped up the unconscious cat, loaded it into his trunk, and made a bee line to PRWC. Of course, the cat was awake by the time he arrived, so our intrepid rehabber, Cara Brown, had to wrestle the unhappy cat out of the trunk and into a large dog kennel.
While we applaud this rescuer’s bravado, we cannot condone his actions. He could have been seriously hurt. Any mammal should be considered a possible rabies vector species and handled only by trained and vaccinated personnel. This rule is for the protection of the people involved as well as the animal. Had this man been scratched or bitten, even inadvertently, the bobcat would have to have been euthanized so it could be tested for rabies. And the man would have had to get a painful and expensive series of injections.
If anyone sees an injured mammal and wants to remove it from its immediate environment due to concerns about its safety, the best course of action is to call Charlotte County Animal Control at 941-833-5690 or PRWC at 941-637-3830. Of course, it can take a while for either party to get to a remote location. The next best plan would be to use gloves or a towel to move the animal so that there is no direct contact with skin. Contain the animal if at all possible—place it into a box or put a laundry hamper or trash can over it. If you cannot load it into your car and bring it to PRWC (or your nearest wildlife rehabilitator), place it in a dark, quiet location with a moderate temperature—not too hot or too cold, until assistance arrives. It is our hope that with many more rescue volunteers, PRWC’s response time can be dramatically reduced.
Now that the public service portion of this article is over—how cool was that!?! Esso (Exxon) used to promise to put a tiger in your tank if you used their gas. This guy took that a bit literally when he put a bobcat in his trunk. I don’t know if it had much of an effect on his car’s acceleration, but it sure increased the responsiveness of the staff at PRWC and energized everyone who has been following the story on our Facebook page. The bobcat ended up with some superficial scrapes and bruises. He had minor head trauma that resolved fairly quickly—hence the attempt to leap out of the car trunk. He does have a broken jaw that had an external fixation appliance applied at a local veterinarian’s office and the cat is recovering off exhibit at the Wildlife Center of Venice, a facility with better caging for a large, strong mammal like a bobcat. The cat’s mental state appears to be completely normal now—he snarls and lunges at his caretakers.
As soon as his jaw has healed the bobcat will be released back into the area where he was found, near the site of his capture. Just not back into the middle of the road. If cats really do have nine lives, this guy has eight left and we would like to see him live them out calmly and quietly, well away from traffic.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM
Bobcat under anesthesia
Cara and bobcat 10.14
As the snowbirds start to stream down south for the winter, so do the snow birds. Here at Peace River Wildlife Center we have noticed an increase in migrating avian species. We are starting to see wood storks, hawks, and songbirds that pass into and through our area of southwest Florida because of our mild winter weather. It is also hard to miss the longer lines at the grocery stores and increased traffic on the roads as the seasonal residents return. Yes, all of our friends (people and birds) are heading back to town, and unfortunately sometimes they run into and over each other.
That is where PRWC comes in. We rehabilitate the injured bird and try to get it back out into the wild as quickly as possible so that it can resume its migrator flight or not miss breeding season. Many of our year round resident raptors are getting ready to start building or repairing nests and breeding—great horned owls, eagles, etc. But we can’t rehab these injured birds until they are delivered into our capable hands. And that is where our heroes come in—the rescuers.
PRWC treats over 2,000 birds, mammals, and reptiles each year and we care for over 120 residents that cannot be released due to their injuries. With a paid staff of only three full-time people and six part-timers, we rely on hundreds of volunteers to keep our doors open, the habitats clean, and the donations rolling in to pay for food and medications for all of our patients and residents. When a call comes in regarding an injured animal, we can rarely spare anyone that is on duty to leave the facility to go on a rescue. Charlotte County Animal Control officers help out whenever they can, but their primary duty is to domestic animals and public safety. Over the years we have had many stalwart volunteer rescuers that were ready, willing, and able to pick up an injured eagle, bobcat, or snapping turtle, but now we find ourselves relying on just a few individuals to pick up all of our injured animals.
And that is where you come in. PRWC is looking for a few good men. Or women! This coming Saturday, October 18, 2014 from 10a.m. to 12p.m. PRWC will present a Basic Wildlife Rescue Class for anyone interested in learning the basics on how to handle injured wildlife to transport it to a licensed rehab facility. The class will be at the Riverside RV Resort Activities Center, 9770 Kings Highway, Arcadia, FL. That is a mere 4 ½ miles northeast of I-75 on Kings Highway or CR 769.
Admission is free and all donations will benefit PRWC. Reservations are not necessary, but interested parties can call Sam at 406-690-8151 for more information and to confirm attendance so enough equipment and supplies are available. Ideally we would love to have at least one person from each of the areas we serve, from Desoto, Charlotte, Lee, and southern Sarasota counties. She and Bill will present hands-on training and handouts. You will learn how to approach and contain injured wildlife while keeping both yourself and the animal safe. If you have can’t make the deadline for this class, call PRWC at 941-637-3830 to inquire about constantly forming new classes.
No experience is required. A love of nature and empathy for all of her creatures is mandatory. A strong sense of adventure and a weak sense of smell are highly recommended.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM
Torn pelican pouch.
Phoenix, a bald eagle badly burned by a power line.
Fishing tackle in pelican bill.
A big shout out to Josh Olive, the esteemed publisher of WaterLine, for looking out for me. I don’t always have time to write an article for the Charlotte Sun insert every week. Sometimes I’m just too busy taking care of babies, patients, and residents of Peace River Wildlife Center, not to mention staff, volunteers, and board members (oh, no she di’ent). It’s not like I’m just sitting around playing Candy Crush. There are also times, and this will come as some surprise to anyone who knows me at all, I simply run out of things to say.
During just such a time recently, Josh reran one of my older articles. How sweet that he presumed I was busy being overrun by baby squirrels and not that I was trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle on my iPad. He picked that particular article, by his own admission, because he liked the picture of the cute little kitties that accompanied it. Careful there, Josh, you will blow your macho cover. Don’t worry, you’re secret is safe with me. I would never reveal to anyone how much time you spend watching cat videos on YouTube. (It’s okay, no one really reads this stuff, do they?)
I know for a fact most people don’t read everything in its entirety. I got a lot of grief after the article about the bobcat kittens reran from people wanting to see them, not believing that we had bobcats, or wondering why I would lie about something like that. Even though Josh had printed a disclaimer at the beginning of the article that it was a reprint. My faithful WaterLine readers (yes, both of you!) aren’t the only ones who look at the picture, skim the headline, and make up their own story to fit their preconceived notion of what’s not right with the world.
PRWC has an active and very engaged following on Facebook. While we love our followers, they need to carefully read a post before heatedly replying to it. Noting International Raccoon Appreciation Day this past October 1st, we posted a few fun facts about that rascally species. One of the things we mentioned was:
-Seeing a raccoon during the day doesn’t automatically mean it’s rabid. Healthy moms and juveniles can be seen during the day searching for food.
To which the following reply was made:
I really wish you would not have said ALL raccoon seen during daylight hours have rabies…I know the word ALL was not used, but it was implied by the post.
Really? Because that’s not how I read it. To repeat—just because a raccoon is out during the day does not mean it has rabies. Quite the contrary, most raccoons will forage during daylight hours, particularly a mother and youngsters and especially if there is a source of food in the area. Sources of food include food left out for cats or birds, unsecured trash receptacles, and tourists. You all know who to whom I am referring. The people that delight in feeding French fries to the “seagulls”, hot dogs to great blue herons, and marshmallows to raccoons and alligators. I think indigenous peoples just told visitors that animals had bad diseases so they would leave them alone. Like a mother telling a child the mother bird will smell if a human touched her baby. Other than vultures, very few birds have any sense of smell at all.
Whoa, I kind of got off on a tangent there. My point was… Wait. What was my point? I think it was a really good one too. Maybe I’ll remember by next week. In the meantime, don’t believe everything you think you read. Especially if I wrote it.
by–Robin Jenkins, DVM
A recent raccoon patient with a pale coat.
Once upon a time there was a sweet, innocent wildlife rehabilitation center that loved nothing more than to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured and orphaned wildlife. Representatives of this magical facility skipped through the forest, scooping up hurt animals, and made them all better. This facility never had any needs unmet. They had all the volunteers, supplies, food, medications, staff, and money they could possibly desire. I wish I could write that story, but Walt has the market cornered on singing mice and sewing birds in the land of plenty.
Then there is the tale about the villainous condo developer who steals the land right out from under the well-meaning volunteers who only want to help the very animals that this heinous scoundrel and his cronies have caused harm. The developers come in and cut down trees, uproot dens, destroy nests, causing havoc and mayhem at every turn for the unsuspecting animals that were the original inhabitants of the areas designated for “improvement.” But as heartrending as a new chapter in the never-ending FernGully saga might be, I can’t write that story either.
How about the one where the corrupt government officials take money from the highest bidder and close the orphanage so they can turn it into a parking garage? Brokerage office? Private men-only smoking club? I’m not really sure where that one goes at all. Someone with an intense conspiracy theory bent suggested the beginnings of that one, but never really got to the point of where it was leading. No money was exchanged and no favours were granted, so that story is out as well.
Let’s begin at the beginning. On June 5, 1996 Peace River Wildlife Center moved from its founder’s overcrowded back porch to an unused area at the far west end of Marion Avenue in Punta Gorda. The city gave PRWC a 20-year lease and the entire fee was paid by an anonymous benefactor. The property boundaries were determined at that time by an aerial GIS map and were undisputed by the then owner of the adjacent land, PGI Incorporated. Cages were built, prefab buildings were brought in, and the volunteers that had started PRWC in 1982 were able to assist many more animals than ever before. Birds that were unable to be released were kept on educational display to the public instead of having to be euthanized.
In March 2005 PRWC asked the city if we could expand our back fence line by a few feet. When we were granted the additional 1,045 square feet, Habitat for Humanity came in and helped us build some new pre-release cages. Grande Harbor Group closed on a warranty deed in April 2005 to purchase the (buildable) land at the corner of Ponce de Leon Parkway and West Marian Avenue. Although a survey had to have been obtained for this transaction, PRWC was not informed that our facilities were on private property at that time.
Early in 2014 PRWC approached the city of Punta Gorda about the possibility of building a new hospital and surgical facility. Our current buildings are old and not in very good shape. We were also considering shrinking the footprint of the buildings, combining the separate hospital, surgery, and laundry shed, so we could have more room for habitats and cages for the animals. It was at this time that we were informed that part of our facility “may” be on private property. The initial inclination that the back corner of a walkway, about 2% of our facility, may have to be reconfigured turned into the realization that over 90% of the entire compound is on private property.
We immediately halted expansion plans. We have been idling while waiting for a resolution to this conundrum. The city has been very supportive. They are trying to help us resolve the issue with the developer, but also looking at other city owned property to which they could help us relocate if that becomes a necessity. The developer has been respectful and helpful. He is trying to work with us also, but he is a businessman and rightfully has to do what is in the best interests of his assets, investors, and eventual condo purchasers.
So where does that leave PRWC? Right where we have been for almost 20 years. Our current lease is good through June 2016 and the developer has stated that he will honour that contract. We are still working with him and the city to find an arrangement that will be in the best interests of all parties involved, including the innocent animals caught up in this mistake. PRWC is still taking in injured and orphaned wildlife. We are still rehabilitating over 2,000 animals each year. We still play host to over 75,000 people each year who come to visit the over 100 unreleasable birds on display to the public seven days a week from 11a.m. to 4p.m. We are still in need of support to continue our mission, and continue it we will.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014 Opus restaurant at 201 West Marian Avenue in downtown Punta Gorda will host our first fundraiser of the season starting at 5:30. Our first annual Fall Fur and Feathers Fat Tuesday will include hors d’eouvres, entertainment, auctions, resident “adoptions”, an open bar, and a chance to get your photo taken with the star of our show, Luna, the leucistic screech owl. Call PRWC for information at 941-637-3830, but please hurry because tickets are limited and going fast.
–by Robin Jenkins, DVM
Party ’til you drop like this squirrel
An alert Arcadia Florida resident picked up a hitchhiker last May. While we do not generally encourage this sort of reckless behaviour, we are happy to report a positive outcome for this incident. She found a fuzzy little “sandpiper” chick along the side of a busy road and attempted to hand raise it. After three months she decided she should let the professionals take over and brought the fledgling to Peace River Wildlife Center. The bird turned out to be a black-necked stilt, a species we do not often see here along the coastal waterways of Southwest Florida. They are much more common around the Lake Okeechobee area.
We routinely see a plethora of the “usual suspects” in rehab here at PRWC. Of the approximately 2,000 patients we admit annually, over 60% (1200) of them are in the most common eight species: raccoons, eastern cottontails, eastern grey squirrels, Virginia opossums, mourning doves, northern mockingbirds, common grackles, and gopher tortoises. The remaining 800 individuals are an eclectic collection of over 120 other species.
While we are grateful that we are able to provide care for this unusual youngster, it would have been best for the rescuer to get it to us immediately after having found it. PRWC is much more capable of providing proper nutrition and habitat for a growing bird or mammal to ensure his or her successful eventual release back into the wild. We are also raising two juvenile opossums right now that presented with metabolic bone disease because people found them as infants and were trying to raise them at home on inappropriate diets. The internet is a wonderful source of information. Unfortunately not all of it is accurate. If you want to help raise baby birds and mammals, please do so under the guidance of a trained and licensed rehabilitator.
The black-necked stilt is found in marshy areas and flooded pastures. It is a relatively small bird with very long slender legs which allows it to find select morsels in deeper waters than other wading bird species. It normally eats aquatic invertebrates and fish. The female usually lays up to four eggs in her nest. Nests have been found to contain more than four eggs and it is presumed that more than one female is sharing the nest because of the difference in patterns on the egg shells.
When the last of the eggs in a clutch hatches after an approximate 25 day incubation period, the entire brood will move away from the nest. The precocial hatchling is capable of walking within one to two hours of birth. After only 22 days the baby can make short hopping flights and sustained flight when a mere 30 days old. These amazing birds have a ten year life span in the wild.
Hopefully our little stilt, “Wilt”, will be releasable. He shows signs of delayed progress in his ability to fly, but no obvious physical pathology. Like fellow hitchhiker Arthur Dent, he has already had many adventures and has at least another 42 to look forward to.
by–Robin Jenkins, DVM
Young Virginia opossum trying to overcome metabolic bone disease.