CROW experiencing influx of animals second week after Hurricane Irma impacted area
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife started to see an influx of patients the second week post Hurricane Irma as more people made their way home and their drop-off locations reopened, providing CROW with the opportunity to make daily pickups.
“It started a little slow. I don’t think a lot of people were here. We were only getting a few a day,” CROW Veterinary Intern Dr. Julia Hill said. “Even the first since Specialized Veterinary Services was still open through the whole event, they had taken in many patients for us. We got in a bunch, mostly baby animals from them.”
As of Wednesday, Sept. 20, they had 24 ICU patients. The day before they had seven patients.
“It is growing very quickly,” Hill said.
Although the animals are coming from all over the county, she said they have had quite a few people walk-in to the clinic to drop off a patient.
“We had three or four yesterday and a couple today,” Hill said Wednesday afternoon. “They are finding things on Sanibel, but not Sanibel specifically.”
Birds that seem to be weak and emaciated are a large amount of the patients.
“We think that a lot of that has to do with them not being able to eat very well, or got blown off course. They might have had illnesses and infections beforehand that weren’t hurting them, but just present. But then they had to face a few days of hardship and those things could have definitely caused a problem,” Hill said.
A large amount of the patients are shorebirds such as sanderlings and ruddy turnstones, which Hill said is abnormal for them to receive. She said it usually indicates that something is going on the beaches and in the water that is affecting the birds.
“I don’t know what specifically that is. We don’t know if there is a red tide coming, or toxins. We don’t know what the cause is, but they are coming in in unusual numbers,” Hill said.
A fair number of turtles that have been hit by cars is another good percentage of the patients CROW has received since staff returned back to the island after Hurricane Irma.
“I think maybe when there is flooding the turtles get caught in places they don’t normally go and are trying to get back home. So, they are crossing roads more frequently,” Hill said.
Baby squirrels are another patient they continue to see a lot of at the hospital.
“I think people have found a lot of them blown out of their nests. Even if they fell to the ground during the storm, if there is any chance of reuniting them with their parents we want to encourage that. The mom and dads are usually near by and will tend to the babies if they find them,” Hill said.
The influx of patients also coincides with CROW’s busy time of year because of the approach of red tide season.
“We do see an upswing in the number of patients we get in, so it is approaching that time. We were kind of slow before the hurricane, which was good for us because we didn’t have to evacuate as many patients,” Hill said.
During the mandatory evacuation, she joined Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron, and other staff, at the Downtown Fort Myers Holiday Inn to take care of the patients that had to be evacuated.
“It definitely had its challenges, just feeding the babies without power. Everyone did a really great job. We all kind of pulled together to do that. It could have been so much worse. It was only a few days. It was great that we were able to move them out quickly and get them back quickly,” Hill said. “The hotel did amazing in accommodating us and helping us with whatever they could. They were willing to get us an extra room where we could keep the babies in. It was very helpful to have them support us.”
Although it was a stressful situation to care for all of the animals, their own families and homes, she said she was really proud of the staff for handling the situation so maturely.
“It really showed how much they loved CROW and cared about their work,” Hill said.
Now post Hurricane Irma, the biggest challenge Hill said is they have a lot of patients to take care of during a time of year when students and volunteers are sparse.
“We still have some work to do with the outside enclosures that were damaged in the storm. We do have to repair those. We troubleshooted a lot during this storm of things we may need,” Hill said. “We have determined some things that we are going to need in the future, such as a new van. We are going to need to put effort into getting it to make our lives run smoother in the long run, or even for normal operations.”
On Friday, Sept. 15, a group of 14 volunteers arrived at CROW to help clean up the debris from Hurricane Irma. In addition, many individuals have also purchased items off of their Amazon wish list.
“We had a huge outreach from the community, which we really appreciated,” Hill said. “The cleanup happened so quickly because people were willing to help.”
For more information, or to donate, visit www.crowclinic.org.