Local wildlife and the people who care about them just got a double whammy.
Last week, an injured small bald duck found on Georgia Street in Tallahassee and then taken to the wildlife rehabilitation center in Quincy tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a highly contagious and untreatable disease. St. Francis Wildlife was forced to temporarily stop accepting wild birds in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.
This week, North Florida’s oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation center made the very difficult decision to temporarily stop admitting all animals except Rabies Vector Species (RVS) – raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats – because they are a potential public health and security concerns.
Our two veterinary partners in Tallahassee, Northwood Animal Hospital and Allied Emergency Veterinary Hospital, are temporarily not accepting wild birds or animals.
Baby Season Explodes in North Florida
Each year, St. Francis Wildlife rescues and rehabilitates more than 3,000 injured, orphaned and sick wildlife with the goal of returning them all to their natural wild home. About 2,000 of these are spring & summer babies.
Our wildlife hospital is currently caring for dozens of orphaned (some inadvertently kidnapped) baby gray and flying squirrels, as well as foxes, opossums, bunnies, tortoises, gopher tortoises, raccoons, red-shouldered hawks, barred owls, screech owls, and other birds.
Compared to the numbers that normally arrive later in April, this is just a drop in the ocean. But our small staff is already overwhelmed, so this spring we had to put the brakes on.
Five months ago, our director and wildlife rehabilitator decided to join her husband who works out of state. Her predecessor, Teresa Stevenson, agreed to return to St. Francis; she had taken a two-year hiatus to care for her mother in Mexico. Tragically, Teresa never made it; both she and her dog died in a car accident on the way to Florida.
In the wake of this shocking loss, St. Francis Wildlife has spent the past five months conducting a national search for experienced wildlife rehabilitators who qualify for the required federal and state wildlife permits and can operate a major wildlife hospital. to manage.
But like many businesses — including some of our favorite, local restaurants that have shortened their hours or closed completely — we still don’t have enough staff. There aren’t enough experienced wildlife professionals to treat zoonoses and concussions, heal broken wings and crushed turtles, and raise orphaned babies. In any case, not enough to properly care for more wild patients than we already have.
So while we continue to search and interview applicants, we will have to temporarily and sadly halt new admissions before the baby season flood kicks in.
When you find wild animals in need
St. Francis Wildlife continues to accept Rabies Vector Species (RVS) – raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats. If you find any of these animals, do not take it to Northwood or the Allied Animal Hospital. Call St. Francis 24/7 at 850-627-4151. If it is a displaced baby who can be reunited with its mother, we will help with that. If it is injured or sick, we will take care of it. Do not treat rabies vector, not even babies.
If you find other species such as squirrels, opossums, rabbits, deer, turtles or birds, or if you just need advice, go to stfranciswildlife.org, or call us at 850-627-4151. Again, Northwood and Allied do not currently accept wildlife. If we determine that the animal needs a wildlife rehabilitator, we will temporarily refer you to Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.
Noni Beck (no, we’re not related) quit her job at St. Francis Wildlife many years ago to run her own backyard wildlife rehabilitation center in Tallahassee. This good-hearted wildlife enthusiast agreed to postpone her planned retirement a little longer and allow St. Francis Wildlife to refer her some phone calls.
Goose Creek has cared for 300 to 500 wildlife each year. Since it would be logistically impossible for them to take all 2,000 animals that St. Francis Wildlife would normally allow this spring and summer, we are working hard to resolve our current staffing crisis. If you bring an animal to them, like most wildlife rehabilitators, Goose Creek is a non-profit organization and will be grateful for your donation.
how you can help
- Don’t try to raise a wild baby; reunite with his mother. Whatever you read on the internet, raising and releasing a healthy wild baby with the skills it needs to survive is an exact science and can be dangerous. It is also illegal to own most wildlife. But if you take the time to try and reunite a healthy, uninjured baby with its parents, nine times out of ten you will succeed. Learn how to reunite baby squirrels, bunnies, fawns, birds and more at www.stfranciswildlife.org/i-found-a-wild-animal or give us a call.
- It’s a myth that wildlife will reject their young if you touch it. Most birds have little or no sense of smell. All mammals and birds have a powerful instinct to reproduce and ensure the survival of their precious offspring. That wild mama just wants her baby to come back; she doesn’t care if some stinking human touched it.
- If you find a fawn or rabbit alone, its mother is probably nearby. She watches over her unscented baby from a safe distance so that her movement and smell don’t draw attention. She comes back a few times a day to nurse when the coast is clear.
- There is no such thing as an orphaned turtle. Female turtles lay their eggs and leave. Babies are on their own once they hatch. If you find a small, unharmed turtle, leave it alone. Don’t move it; its natural homing instinct will just redirect it back.
- Keep your beloved cats indoors, especially during baby season, and supervise dogs outdoors. Every year we receive hundreds of babies caught by pets. Learn how to keep your cat happy (and safer) indoors at abcbirds.org/catio-solutions-cats/†
Working together, our community of animal lovers will get through these temporary, hard times, and so will our wild neighbors.
Sandy Beck is the Education Director of St. Francis Wildlife. Contact her at [email protected]
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