Hurricane Ian brought much uncertainty to southwest Florida and the Sanibel Island community, but one thing is clear – the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is here to stay! Over two weeks ago, CROW staff jumped into action as soon as the projected track of the hurricane shifted. After watching the track for several days, on September 26, the decision to evacuate was made and staff members began preparations. The next day, critical care patients were transferred to East Coast wildlife facilities while students, animal ambassadors, and remaining patients were evacuated to safe, off-island locations.
CROW hospital staff brought owls, hawks, animal ambassadors, and other avian species into their apartments, garages, and guest bedrooms for continued care during the storm. Orphaned mammals such as raccoons, squirrels, and opossums resided temporarily with CROW students in their hotel rooms for scheduled feedings. Though unconventional, staff and students provided optimal care in the face of a historic natural disaster and challenging circumstances.
After the storm passed, damage to the Sanibel Causeway made it impossible to resume operations at the wildlife hospital on island. Hospital staff coordinated transfer and placement plans for patients and animal ambassadors in their care. All were transferred to a few of our partnering organizations: Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, and South Florida Wildlife Center.
“The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores even graciously offered to temporarily care for and house two of our animal ambassadors – Mina, the Great Horned Owl and Talon, the Red-tailed Hawk! Billy, the Nine-banded Armadillo, was permanently placed at the Central Florida Zoo where he will continue to educate the public with more space to dig and explore,” said Breanna Frankel, Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager at CROW.
“Although we will miss working with our ambassador animals, we made the decision to transfer them with their best interest at heart. We hope to see some of them back at CROW in the future,” says CROW Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Robin Bast.
Thanks to aerial photos and helicopter transport from the Lee County Mosquito Control District, CROW staff were able to see some of Hurricane Ian’s effects. Fallen trees damaged rehabilitation enclosures, storm surge breached the bottom floor of the hospital, and the hurricane force winds tore sections from the siding and rooftops, but CROW’s wildlife hospital, visitor education center, and student housing buildings are still standing.
Since the storm, CROW staff have been checking in with BluePearl Pet Hospital off Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers twice-a-day to triage any admitted wildlife patients. BluePearl has been a CROW partner and off-island, drop-off location for many years. CROW staff will continue to assess injured wildlife, treat, and transfer them to partnering wildlife centers for continued care until a temporary clinic off island is set up.
On October 13, a crew from the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) brought a few CROW staff members to the island on the Norma Campbell Research Vessel to collect much needed medical supplies. One of CROW’s Certified Wildlife Rehabbers, Katie Mueller even rescued an orphaned raccoon found on the property. CROW board members and executives have been working to secure a temporary, off-island location where the mission of saving southwest Florida’s wildlife can continue.
“The outpouring of support to continue CROW’s mission in spite of Hurricane Ian’s wrath is amazing,” said Alison Charney Hussey, CROW’s Executive Director. “Our partners, like the Animal Refuge Center (ARC) and BluePearl have opened their doors to us, and our donors and volunteers are providing the resources, both financial and sweat equity, to make sure we get back on our feet quickly. The team is so humbled and blessed to have the support of our community both here and from afar.”
To make donations towards Hurricane Ian recovery at CROW, please visit crowclinic.org/donate/donate-today or scan the QR code with your phone. Follow us on Facebook (CROW- Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) and Instagram (@crowclinic) for updates on clinic needs and ways to get involved!
If you find injured, orphaned, or sick wildlife, please bring them to BluePearl Pet Hospital located off Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers at 9500 Marketplace Road. If you have any wildlife or operational related inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.