Last week’s tragic death of a young boy in Orlando from rabies is a sad reminder that we need to respect the dangers that wildlife can pose to people. In the past few days I’ve heard on-line, and at work, of people concerned about rabies and worried about bats. While bats can carry rabies, they are vitally important in our area. Bats can eat 600-1000 insects in just one hour. The respect for dangers from wildlife can often cause conflict when we see wild animals that we feel need our help because they may be sick or injured. So what should you do if you see a wild animal in need of help?
Many times, that answer is nothing. People often call the clinic concerned that they have found a nest of very young rabbits, with no sign of the mother. Or a young bird is on the ground. In both of those cases, the young are not actually in distress, and the parents are still caring for them.
Other times, an animal is in obvious distress. It is not uncommon for wild animals to be damaged by cars, caught up in plastic or other types of netting, etc. The recent unusually cold weather can also cause animals to venture into homes or other areas we don’t normally find them. In these cases, who should you call? If there has been a risk to any person (bite, scratch, bat is in the home), call Brevard County Sheriff’s Animal Services at (321) 633-2024.
If there is / has been no threat to people, here in Brevard county we have a great organization called Wild Florida Rescue (WFR). This is a non-profit wildlife rescue group that specializes in the safe capture and transport of injured wildlife so that those animals can get the care they need in order to be rehabilitated and released, when possible. If you need their help, call (321) 821-7881.
As a coastal community, we also deal with emergencies of marine wildlife. Florida is a prime nesting ground for several species of marine turtles. The recent cold weather is very hard on sea turtles, andd can result in what’s called “cold stunning”. Turtles don’t often float, but usually spend most of their time under water. If you see a floating turtle, or one that otherwise seems in distress from entanglement or possible boat strike, etc., you can call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society at (321) 206-0646. This non-profit group helps turtles in many ways, from beach
clean-ups to keep nesting sites safer, to assisting injured and ill turtles. Florida also has the privilege of being home to manatees, which are all too often injured by boat propellers, and are also susceptible to cold temperatures. If you find a sick, injured, or even dead manatee, please call FL Fish and Wildlife Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922)
If you have a friendly neighborhood alligator on your premise, call FL Fish and Wildlife Commission at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
While wildlife can pose health threats to people (see my previous blog “The Reality of Rabies” https://youngsanimalhospital.com/reality-rabies-dr-angela-bockelman/), it is vital that we recognize how important these animals are in our ecosystem. If you see an animal in need, please call the appropriate organization for help.
For more information or to donate to Wild Florida Rescue click http://www.wildfloridarescue.org/
For more information or to donate to the Sea Turtle Preservation Society click http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/
Angela Bockelman, DVM, PhD