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CROW begins cleaning up Hurricane Irma damage

By Staff | Sep 14, 2017

The stff at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife has begun cleanup efforts after Hurricane Irma left itys mark on the hospital property.

CROW Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron said before evacuation took place for Hurricane Irma, they had about 150 patients.

About three dozen animals baby squirrels, doves and raccoons were taken to the Downtown Holiday Inn by Barron and her staff, others including animal ambassadors went home with some of the rehabilitators, and others stayed at the clinic during the storm.

“We did evacuate to the mainland. We stayed in the Holiday Inn, in downtown Fort Myers. They were amazing. They let us bring all of the animals and had a special room that they let us use. They didn’t charge us for it,” Barron said of the rooms. “We stacked them up in crates in one room. We had six rooms all together up on the third floor. We were safe from storm surge and flooding.”

The animals that were evacuated needed round the clock care and medication.

With CROW having a huge generator, they were able to leave some animals behind that they knew would be OK for a while. Barron said they loaded their cages up with food and water.

“We left the air on, so it would be comfortable inside the hospital,” she said. “Those animals were all fine.”

Other animals that could be released were, such as the four river otters that had called CROW home since the beginning of the year. Barron said they did a soft release, and when she returned to the island, they were hanging out around the hospital property.

“They did great during the storm. They are good about finding shelter. It was much safer than keeping them in a building that might blow down,” Barron said. “They can go to the river if they want to. They are perfectly happy. We see all four of them . . . they are back there hunting.”

Barron and the staff that stayed at the hotel with her were back on the island by 8 a.m., Monday, Sept. 11.

“We were very fortunate that the city was so great about working with us and letting us have the yellow first responder-type passes, so we were able to get on through the barricades as soon as curfew was up,” Barron said. “Our animals were really only here by themselves for a day.”

One of the common questions that Barron has received about Hurricane Irma is “Where do all of the animals go?” She said the birds are good about flying away from the storm, while other animals hunker down and do well with the storm.

Unfortunately, other animals did not fare as well, and ended up injured during the storm. From Monday, through Wednesday afternoon, Barron said they took in more than 50 animals. Some were healthy, but a lot of them were also injured.

“Monday morning when we were coming back over, so many animals on the Causeway were battered by the storm,” Barron said. “We stopped, and those that could be helped, we picked them up and brought them back with us.”

Throughout the storm, Specialized Veterinarian Services was up and running with a generator. She said they had been amazing in helping them throughout the latest weather event.

“They had people caring for the animals pretty much throughout the entire storm,” Barron said.

Although the patients fared well, the property had some damage. The outside cages and structures were damaged.

“There’s a ton of trees and tree branches down. It’s going to take a while to get up to fully running,” she said.

Half of Barron’s staff has not returned from evacuating, and she only had two volunteers on the island as of Wednesday helping with the hurricane aftermath.

“We are struggling to get our feet under us,” she said.

Although the hospital is not functioning like it normally does, they started taking calls Wednesday. All of the drop-off locations in Lee County are still pretty much closed, making it difficult for anyone to get injured animals to CROW.

The only location accepting animals on CROW’s behalf is Specialized Veterinarian Services. Barron said although they are transporting animals from them once a day, that too is a struggle because of the lack of gas.

“Nobody has gas. I can’t be sending people out,” she said.

Barron strongly encourages people to leave healthy animals in the wild. On Wednesday she said they were receiving healthy abducted turtles that most likely only needed to be moved to the other side of the road.

If an injured animal is found, Barron encourages people to bring them directly to CROW because the closure of its locations off island.

Another way the community can help as CROW dives into the cleanup effort is through donations, which can be made through the website www.crowclinic.org.

“That would be tremendously helpful because it will take a lot to clean up,” Barron said.

She added that her staff and students have been wonderful throughout the entire process.

“All of my staff and students are here helping rather than getting their own lives together,” Barron said. “They are struggling to get their own houses in order. That’s been the other challenging thing. I have a skeleton crew. Our whole team has been amazing. There is no power at the dorms and the students are sleeping in incredibly hot conditions to be here to help the wildlife.”