Greenstein shares ‘behind the scenes’ look at CROW
More than 4,000 animals are treated at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) each year, but many people don’t realize what extraordinary efforts are being dedicated to the sick, injured or orphaned animals who come to the facility.
Delivering a program entitled “Why Animals Come To CROW,” executive director Steve Greenstein spoke not only about the many mammals, birds, retiles and critters who have made their way to the Sanibel animal care center, but to the dedicated staff and volunteers who have helped the facility continue to grow since it first began in 1968.
“For the past three years, and soon it’s gonna be four, we are seeing more than 4,000 patients every year,” said Greenstein, speaking in front of approximately a dozen guests at the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center last Thursday morning. “It’s all about getting our patients back out there in the wild. It’s all about release.”
Last year, CROW unveiled renovated sea turtle facilities and announced several new ventures to more effectively share news and success stories with supporters. In addition to introducing a new e-newsletter, the organization launched a new website that more fully highlights the range of educational programs and services offered.
In addition, CROW implemented wildlife partnerships — like the “Wonders Of Wildlife” series — to better educate the public about saving wildlife through compassion, care and education.
According to Greenstein, approximately 17 percent of all patients at the clinic come from Sanibel or Captiva. The remaining creatures came from a variety of locations throughout Southwest Florida, delivered to CROW every day by volunteers who drive an 82-mile loop, picking up animals in need of care.
But 82 miles seems like a modest distance when you consider a recent patient account. A woman from Pennsylvania drove all the way to Sanibel last year, Greenstein explained, because two alligators — purchased as newborns the previous year — had grown too large to care for any longer.
“The biggest problem was that these alligators were being hand-fed,” said Greenstein, who noted that CROW staffers were charged with rehabilitating both reptiles to the point that they would not view humans as a food source.
Following months of care at CROW, the alligators were released back into the wild — as approved by the Florida Fishing & Wildlife Conservation Commission — at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
The largest majority of patients that come to the facility (29 percent) are birds, most of which have fallen out of their nest as youngsters, orphaned by their mother or had an unfortunate encounter with another animal. However, CROW treats a wide variety of critters, including turtles, gopher tortoises, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, deer, opossum, otters and other wildlife.
Earlier this year, CROW received an American bald eagle which had been discovered with shotgun injuries in Lehigh Acres. X-rays showed that the eagle’s wing was broken in two places and that shot still remained inside the bird. Initial diagnosis was that it would be difficult for the eagle to recover from the wounds, so a return back into the wild seemed highly improbable.
“I didn’t think that it would ever fly again, let alone be released back into the wild,” said Greenstein. “But it did both.”
Following a surgery to repair the fractured right radius and remove the shot still lodged inside the body on March 8, the eagle recovered well over the next few weeks. A pin inserted into the wing was removed on April 1 before the bird was transported a small outdoor enclosure.
By May 20, the eagle was doing well enough to be moved to a larger flight cage. Finally, on June 12, the bird was transported by car to Lehigh Acres where it was released back into its natural habitat.
Florida Fish & Wildlife officials continue to investigate the shooting, and Greenstein asked that anyone with information about the incident can call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922 or report it online at www.myfwc.com/wildlifealert. Those reporting may remain anonymous and there is a reward for information leading to an arrest.
Additional information about CROW may be found online at www.crowclinic.org or by calling 395-0048.