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CROW offers ongoing activities to save wildlife with education

By Staff | Jul 4, 2018

TIFFANY REPECKI CROW Development and Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt explains how patient exams and treatments work outside of the hospital's intake room during a guided tour.

When things slow down on the islands in the off-season months, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife continues to provide educational programs and up-close encounters worth checking out.

While some programming is only available from January through April, CROW offers a daily presentation on Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. on a variety of topics, from the different animals admitted and a patient of the week, to wildlife rescue basics and why animals come to CROW.

In addition, a guided tour of the hospital and the rehabilitation grounds is available on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 11 a.m., with a presentation on CROW’s medical and rehabilitation methods.

Comprised of a teaching hospital and visitor education center, its mission is to save wildlife through veterinary care, research, conservation medicine and education – where the programs play a role.

“To teach people how to have sustainable relationships with our wildlife neighbors,” CROW Development and Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt said on the ongoing activities.

PHOTO PROVIDED Bashful, one of CROW's Animal Ambassadors, takes part in a daily presentation.


The Wildlife Walk with Rehabilitators & Staff consists of the 45-minute presentation, followed by the 45-minute tour. Open to all but not recommended for children under 13, the cost is $25 per person.

Participants get an in-depth look into the inner workings of the hospital and treatment process.

During a recent walk, Rainbolt shared CROW’s history from its early beginning to today.

She reported that the idea for it came to fruition after islander Shirley Walter found an injured royal tern in 1968 that had been struck by a vehicle. In its first year, it received 500 calls about animals.

TIFFANY REPECKI CROW Development and Education Coordinator Rachel Rainbolt shares the story of Shelldon, one of CROW's Animal Ambassadors, with a tour group in the outside rehabilitation grounds.

Currently, CROW responds to approximately 4,000 calls annually.

“Only about 20 percent are from the island,” Rainbolt said.

The staff of about 17 is supported by volunteers and students. She explained that CROW offers fellowships and programs for undergraduates, plus internship programs for veterinarian graduates.

Participants learned about dorm living for the students and how $3 million in funding was raised to construct the existing vet hospital and Visitor Education Center, which officially opened in 2009.

Stepping inside of the clinic, Rainbolt showed samples of some of the patients’ records.

TIFFANY REPECKI Amanda Earley, of North Fort Myers, examines a bird of prey foot during a daily presentation.

She noted that the hospital is open 365 days a year.

So far, more than 2,530 patients patients have been admitted for 2018.

Participants peaked into the intake room, where each new rescue is given a full examination to determine a diagnosis and prognosis. Rainbolt noted that a live camera feed can be found online.

The group also viewed the isolation area, where the more stressed patients are placed.

On the first floor of the hospital, the tour comprised of the “husbandry” area – where the animals’ linens and even stuffed animals are washed and kept – kitchen and prep area, and reptile room. She noted that the reptiles are kept separate, and the room stays at about 80 degrees to 83 degrees daily.

TIFFANY REPECKI Tour participants meet and grab a quick photo of Mina, one of CROW's Animal Ambassadors.

Along the way, participants got to meet several of CROW’s Animal Ambassadors.

The tour wrapped up outside of the clinic on the rehabilitation grounds.


During the off-season, CROW offers a variety of educational presentations. Some of the topics include Patient Profiles, CROW Case of the Week, Wildlife Rescue 101 and Why Animals Come to CROW.

The programs typically cost $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 4-12.

Depending on the subject, a staff member, student or volunteer will be the presenter.

For some of them, a CROW Animal Ambassadors is on hand.

Each of the presentations are about 45 minutes.

“Patient Profiles are species we would provide medical care to,” Rainbolt said.

The information provided in each presentation will focus on just one species, like Birds of Prey, Gopher Tortoises, Owls of Southwest Florida, Snakes of Southwest Florida or Virginia Opossums.

She explained that the presenter will cover the science and anatomy of the species, its ecological importance, why the species is typically brought to CROW and how staff treats these patients.

The CROW Case of the Week is presented by the students.

“We function as a teaching hospital,” Rainbolt said.

She explained that the student will talk about a specific patient case assigned to him and her. The program serves to educate the public and provide the students with interaction with the public.

“They get to share what they learn,” Rainbolt said.

For Wildlife Rescue 101, the presenter will talk about how to identify an animal in distress or in need of assistance, as compared to one that does not need aid. It also covers what to do if help is required.

“We teach basic handling and restraint,” she said.

The program Why Animals Come to CROW aims to curb patient numbers.

“A lot of our animals come in due to negative human interaction,” Rainbolt said.

She explained that the presentation examines the reasons wildlife is admitted to the hospital – a pelican with a swallowed fishing hook or a sea turtle with a boat injury to its shell – and what humans can do in their day-to-day life to help prevent or reduce such incidents from happening to others.

Rainbolt noted that in the majority of the cases, the negative interaction is unintentional.


For those on their own schedule, the Visitor Education Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. now through Dec. 31. From Jan. 1 to April 30, the center opens on Saturdays, as well.

The facility houses a series of exhibits for all ages, including displays, interactive exhibits and video. It also features live animal exhibits, special children’s areas and live camera feeds from on the grounds.

Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 4-12.

For more information about CROW, call 239-472-3644 or visit www.CROWClinic.org.

CROW is at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel.