The von Arx Wildlife Hospital treats over 4,000 injured, sick, and orphaned patients each year. See below for answers to some of the common questions we get about our facility and our work, along with ways that you can help protect our native wildlife.
frequently asked questions
We see over 4,000 animals a year.
The Conservancy’s von Arx Wildlife Hospital is open 365 days a year. We are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The most common animal admitted in the past two years is the eastern cottontail. They face many pressures including dog and cat attacks, displacement by landscaping activities, and vehicle collisions. Shorebirds (pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns) as a group are common admissions due to fishing hook and line injuries. Bats also arrive in large numbers, often after their roost is knocked down during landscaping.
We treat all species native to southwest Florida except for sea turtles. Mammal patients include raccoons, opossums, rabbits, and squirrels. Reptile patients include gopher tortoises, rat snakes, and freshwater turtles. Bird patients include raptors such as bald eagles, ospreys, owls, and hawks, shorebirds such as herons, pelicans, and gulls, and a wide variety of songbirds. The hospital does not treat pets or exotic or invasive species. Injured panthers are transferred to Gainesville for specialized medical treatment.
There are six full-time staff members, including our full-time veterinarian, Dr. PJ Deitschel. We also have one seasonal staff member, five to seven interns (college graduates) depending on the season, and hundreds of volunteers - including Critter Couriers, who are on call for pickup of injured wildlife.
The hospital relies on the public to bring in sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. If they are unwilling or unable, the hospital will try to find a volunteer Critter Courier to help with transport. The public should NEVER attempt to treat the animal on their own – including giving the animal food or water. Call our hospital at 239-262-CARE (2273).
Common injuries include vehicle collisions, dog or cat attacks, fishing line entanglement, landscaping causing destruction of nest, and getting caught in or ingesting litter. Some animals are also found orphaned or are brought in after a storm.
The diet is specific to each animal’s needs and reflects their natural food items. For example, gopher tortoises are fed grasses and vegetables, pelicans are fed small fish, and squirrels will be fed a mix of acorns and other natural parts of their diet.
The cages are covered to reduce the animals’ stress, as stress inhibits the immune system. It is also important to keep wild animals from becoming familiar with humans. It is important for their survival that wild animals retain their fear of people.
This is dependent on a variety of factors including the animal’s age and injury. The animal will be thoroughly assessed and will not be released until it can successfully thrive out in the wild. Wild animals must be perfect before being released. Evaluations may include flight ability, strength, foraging behavior, hunting behavior, vision, grasping, and climbing.