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An inside look at CROW

By Staff | Jul 20, 2016

The CROW Wildlife Walk with Rehabilitators and Staff program began in the Visitor Education Center by Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt, who explained an in-depth overview of CROW. MEGHAN MCCOY

Interested individuals gathered at CROW’s Visitor Education Center to learn more about what the clinic does for wildlife, before being led on a tour showcasing the dorms, hospital and a few of their animal ambassadors.

The Wildlife Walk with Rehabilitators and Staff is offered to the public for $20 per person for an hour and a half. The money raised from the admission fee allows CROW to continue to help the animals in need. Those interested in registering can contact Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt at 239-472-3644, or “mailto:rrainbolt@crowclinic.org”>rrainbolt@crowclinic.org.

The Friday, July 1 tour began with Rainbolt providing a presentation inside the Visitor Education Center that shared information about the 12-acre campus and its operation.

When guests walk the Visitor Education Center they are able to get a full glimpse of how wildlife is taken care of at CROW through a self-guided tour. The center showcases admission, diagnosis, daily care, extended care and release. The center also has three monitors that show live feed of animals at the hospital, or in one of the outside rehabilitation enclosures.

“When animals arrive to us they are going to arrive to us in one of three ways – either sick, hurt, or orphaned. It is our job, not just at the hospital, but at the education center to tell you about why they come in, so we can hopefully prevent some of the illnesses and injuries from happening in the future,” Rainbolt told the crowd.

CROW Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt explained how individuals can help protect wildlife by throwing their monofilament fishing line into special containers located throughout the island. MEGHAN MCCOY

CROW takes care of anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 animals a year, resulting in about 200 different species that are either native or migratory. She said the patient breakdown is about 60 percent birds, 30 percent mammals and 10 percent reptiles and amphibians.

In addition, CROW is the only licensed sea turtle hospital facility between Sarasota and the Florida Keys, which affords them the opportunity to treat up to 25 sea turtles a year.

Rainbolt’s presentation also touched upon why CROW does not take in anything that is classified by Florida Fish & Wildlife as exotic, or invasive.

“Regardless of whether or not these animals were purposely brought over here, or accidentally brought here. They don’t have the same limiting factors that they would in their indigenous areas, such as diseases and predator and prey relationships. They are essentially out ranking our native animals for things like their food, their resources. Some of them are even being eaten and hybridized by some of these animals,” she said.

If one of these animals are brought to CROW, they are able to give it care, but are not legally allowed to release it back into the environment.

Talon was brought outside during the tour as individuals had an opportunity to watch him snack on a rat. MEGHAN MCCOY

The presentation also touched upon the importance of volunteers for the organization because CROW only has 13 paid full-time and part-time hospital and administration employees. Between 200 and 300 active volunteers help CROW on an annual basis to keep the operation flowing, which are in the form of either residential volunteers, or students doing internships while living in the dorms.

Rainbolt also shared information about CROW’s hotline that individuals can call should the find an injured, sick or orphaned animal. She said a first-responder answers the phone and goes through a consultation to assess the animal, as well as talk them through what they should do.

The orphaned animals that come into the hospital, Rainbolt said are often times raccoons and opossums because when the mom is out looking for food they often get hit by a car leaving their babies motherless.

“We end up getting a bunch of orphaned babies that we essentially have to hand rear from infancy to make them contributing members of society. In wildlife terms that means taking care of themselves and not approaching people for food,” she said.

Rainbolt said before 2012, 80 percent of their patients in house were babies. Since sharing information of when a human should interfere with a baby, the public helped in decreasing the abduction of a little more than 2,500 babies since 2012.

The tour concluded with an opportunity to visit Lola, an American kestrel, in her enclosure. MEGHAN MCCOY

“We have successfully re-nested over 95 percent of them,” Rainbolt said.

After an almost 40-minute presentation, attendees were then treated to a personal tour of the grounds of CROW. Each participant was given an ear piece, so they could hear Rainbolt continue to share information about the organization as they walked the grounds.

The outdoors tour began by stopping near the dorms, which consists of 13 rooms, before continuing to the hospital. The group was broken into two groups, one toured the bottom of the hospital, while the other toured the second floor from outside looking into windows.

The attendees had an opportunity to see some of the baby possums that are currently calling CROW home, as well as Sneezy, the ambassador, while touring the bottom half of the hospital. They also had an opportunity to see where the food is prepared for the animals.

The tour upstairs, took attendees around the outside of the hospital where they had the opportunity to see a few animals receiving their initial examination through a glass window.

A portion of the CROW Wildlife Walk with Rehabilitators and Staff tour stopped in front of the dorms located on the campus. MEGHAN MCCOY

The tour concluded with an opportunity to see some of CROW’s animal ambassadors – Lola, an American kestrel and Shelldon, a gopher tortoise. They also had the opportunity to see Talon snack on a rat.

For more information about the Wildlife Walk with Rehabilitators and Staff tour, visit www.crowclinic.org.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.