CROW, SCCF work to keep wildlife warm during cold spell
Area wildlife care agencies are scrambling to rescue and warm stranded animals stunned and hurting from the recent cold spell.
Since the beginning of the new year, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (CROW), the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge have been scooping out floating turtles too cold and lethargic to move or function normally.
As most people know, the last two weeks have felt a bit like living in a refrigerator. The cold front that has hovered over Southwest Florida has brought the area a full-blown winter, with temperatures at times dropping into the low 30s.
Even though we have shivered and have resorted to wearing gloves, scarves, jackets and other cold weather gear usually worn by our cousins in the northern parts of the country, still we sustain and go about the daily routine.
But it’s a whole different story for the area wildlife who are not acclimated to such a drastic temperature drop. The mammals, reptiles and birds in this subtropical climate do not have homes with electric heaters or insulated coats and footwear to protect them from the cold.
Though the cold is hard on many animals, cold-blooded animals are effected the
most by the lower temperatures, according to Dr. PJ Deitschel, Clinic Director
and Staff Veterinarian for CROW.
So far, CROW is treating nearly a half dozen different species of sea turtles, including green sea turtles, a Kemp?s Ridley – a particularly rare sea turtle – and a Hawksbill sea turtle for being cold stunned. Aside from the turtles, the clinic is also treating a number of small mammals such as juvenile raccoons and birds.
“Already, CROW’s patient? load is up by 20 animals this year compared to last,” Deitschel said. “?That’s a fair increase.”
Last week, SCCF and other rescuers delivered a number of turtles to CROW. Deitschel said the turtles an other animals are being transported to the clinic
in relatively good condition. a fact that will help in their recovery.
“Rehabilitating the stunned reptiles is labor intensive,” Deitschel said. “The turtles must be warmed slowly, usually in increments of five degrees a day and they are given fluids and monitored closely. Some of the rescued turtles will warm up in shallow pools.”
Before they can be released back into the wild, they must coordinate with neighboring agencies and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Deitschel added.
The FWC, working with the Sea Turtle Stranding & Salvage Network, recovered more than 250 cold-stunned sea turtles in Mosquito Lagoon in Brevard County this past week. Sea turtle rehabilitation facilities throughout the state will house these animals until they can be released when temperatures warm, according to the FWC Web site, www.myfwc.com.
“And right now, folks at agencies like SCCF are glad to have CROW. Most of the
rehabilitation agencies in Florida are getting filled up with cold-stunned
turtles,” said Amanda Bryant, coordinator of the turtle program at SCCF.
Bryant, who said that CROW’s new clinic is a great help in housing the turtles until the weather warms up, urges people who notice turtles floating to call CROW or SCCF to get help. And if even if they’re not moving, the turtles might still be alive.
But time is of the essence.
- “If it goes for a long period of time, (cold temperatures) will kill the sea turtles,” Bryant said.
Deitschel also urges to people to recognize the danger floating turtles are in if they are not rescued aside from the cold temperatures. Floating turtles – too tired to move from the cold – risk drowning, being hit by a boat or killed by a predator.
What’s needed to help the animals?
Vigilance and community support. Cold-stunned animals need to be taken out of the elements and placed in a garage or somewhere safe until they can be brought
to CROW or picked up.
And though we are heading towards a warming trend, more cold weather could hit the area before the winter season is over.
Anyone who spots injured or cold-stunned wildlife may call CROW at 472-3644. Bryant can be reached for help in rescuing a floating turtle at 470-3360.
For anyone who wants to help support CROW’s medical efforts with a donation,
“We certainly need people to join in the rescue efforts,” Deitschel added.