“One came in from Arcadia, and it was in pretty bad shape,” said Barton. “The retired vet who brought it in knew that there was a dead mother nearby, so we are sure that it was a genuine orphan. Adult deer will leave their fawns in a safe place for the day, and visit at dawn and dusk. So a baby deer that is alone isn’t necessarily orphaned.”
Thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea, the center was flooded with injured and displaced wildlife, many of which are still there being treated.
“Most of what we see from storms are baby squirrels and birds,” said Kevin Barton, one of the founders of the center. “They get knocked out of the nest. We try to re-nest them, but sometimes the nest is gone, and honestly, with such an influx, we can’t get out to all of them.”
The center has an overabundance of baby squirrels, doves, blue jays, mocking birds and grackles. Those are pretty common for the rescue, though.
“What we also have now are a few king birds and flycatchers,” said Barton. “Those are much more rare for us.”
And with the high waves, the center has been seeing shore birds.
“The Turtle Patrol on the island is so important out there,” he said. “They are the first to see things on the beach, they are not just for sea turtles. They have helped us many times. They certainly are often the first responders on the beach.”
And the storm put all of the rescue crew on double time, since this is bird of prey fledging season already.
“From late winter through early summer, we have a lot of them come in,” explained Barton. “Right now, we have around 50 screech owls, which actually isn’t that large of a number. I hate to see them come in, but we usually have a good outcome. We also have a lot of barn owls right now, and sandhill cranes that have been hit by golf balls and cars. The problem with baby birds is that they are so time-intensive.
They have to be fed around every 20 minutes or so in some cases. It makes for long days.”
It isn’t all just intake for the birds, though.
“We actually just released an osprey out on the island after the storm,” said Burton.
On the mammal front, there are raccoons and opossums aplenty.
“We get them in all the time,” said Barton. “We also have baby bats, and they can be pretty demanding on our time.”
While the official hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., the day starts bright and early in the hospital and the nursery. Medication, food and water are dispensed, and the condition of the animals is observed for any changes.
Cage cleaning isn’t a fun chore, but it has to be done if the animals are going to heal and remain healthy. Handling the animals during cage cleaning can also reveal injuries or behaviors that are not easily observed while the animals are confined.
Then, it’s on to the outside recovery areas where another round of feeding and hydration takes place, along with any medical care necessary for the animals.
“Right now, we have two rare birds-of-prey in the outside enclosure that we are working with,” said Barton. “One is a crested caracara that was impaled on barbed wire. The other is a peregrine falcon with a broken wing.”
The birds are both able to fly again, and it is hoped that they will be released soon.
All the while, there are ongoing projects. Building and repair of habitats, cleaning the outside habitats and other improvements are just part of the work needed to keep the center going. There is also a constant stream of washing to do, from the bedding that the animals use to food dishes.
Later in the afternoon, the feeding starts over. In the heat of Florida, hydration is important, so the staff pays constant attention to make sure that each animal has plenty of water throughout the day.
Finally, there is a last round of medications and evaluation of the patients to make sure they are in a safe place for the night.
“We are treating up to 4,000 animals a year,” said Barton. “About half of them are birds, with 1,500 mammals and around 500 reptiles.”
The center is looking for volunteers, especially with the post-storm flood of baby animals that they are dealing with.
“We are always in need of people to help with transport and rescue, and people to help with in-house care,” said Barton.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact the Wildlife Center of Venice at (941) 484-9657.View More images >>
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