Pine Island, Fort Myers
& Surrounding Areas
Important Notice Regarding Finding Injured Animals
Please do not call The Wildlife Whisperer, Inc. in regards to injured and orphaned bird or wildlife situations unless the animal is IN your building, crawl space or attic. The information found on this page can help you in virtually every circumstance regardless of where you are located in the United States. Please read through the below information or visit animalhelpnow.org
Understanding The Rescue And Rehabilitation Process
If you've found an injured bird on the ground, a nest of abandoned baby rabbits, a goose in your parking lot, baby ducks in a storm drain, or any other injured or orphaned wildlife, or if your pet has injured a wild critter you may be wondering what to do and might be considering taking the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator. We have information on how to take care of these issues on your own or with the help of a rehabber, along with a resource for a list of cat and dog rescue groups. We have created this page to try to assist you so you do not have to spend 3 hours on the phone calling countless people, while the animal dies in your presence.
Most rescue situations have been covered below, including information on how to help determine if the animal even needs to be "rescued" to start with, where to take them, and related numbers and addresses.
Important: when you find an animal, do not attempt to give the animal any food or water. If you are in need of a cat rescue, dog rescue, TNR program information and other cat and dog rescue information, please check www.petfinder.com for contacts who may be able to assist you.
Potential Legal Limitations
In many cases wildlife control professionals cannot legally help with many injured and orphaned bird or wildlife situations. Federally protected animals are often times taken care of by those with federal permits which wildlife trappers and wildlife control professionals are not allowed to have. This is because in many states, there are established legal distinctions between rehabber, non-professionals and a trappers, including what they can each do and how.
Because legal limitations can complicate our ability to rescue wildlife in some situations, we recommend contacting a wildlife rehabber as soon as possible - and they can guide you from there.
Finding And Contacting A Wildlife Rehabber Or Rescue
Wildlife Rehabbers have their hands full with daily responsibilities, please remember how valuable their time is and do what you can to determine if you need their help before you call.
Also, for the reasons discussed below it will typically be up to the individual that found the animal to capture and transport it to the rehabber.
We have information here to help you determine if a rehabber is needed to help the animal. For a list of rehabbers in your area, please select from the links found in our Additional Resources section.
If you try to make contact, and you cannot reach the wildlife rehabber immediately, leave them a message. If you have a wildlife emergency, continue to call. If it is truly not an emergency situation, email them, but understand they may not check email often or daily when busy.
Getting The Animal To The Rehabber
Rehabbers do not typically do the actual retrieval or transportation part of a wildlife rescue. This is not due to a lack of interest, but rather it has to do with a lack of time and resources. Rarely do busy, non-profit rehabbers have the time, money or staff to pick up and transport animals. In other words, they have their hands full as it is, there are not enough hours in the day for rehabbers to rehabilitate and do pick ups and transfers too.
This means that rehabbers do not typically go the site of discovery or into attics to retrieve wildlife. If your pet killed the mother, the right thing to do is deliver the injured and orphaned animal(s) to the rehabber's door.
Rehabbers spend sleepless nights feeding your animal every three hours or so, and tend to wounds as well; they are happy to do the work and try to find the funds to care for the wildlife that comes their way, all you have to do is deliver the wild animal. In short, rehabbers rehabilitate, and the public typically takes care of the delivery process themselves.
Donations To Wildlife Rehabilitators And Rescues
Rehabbers are the most selfless people you will ever meet, yet wildlife rehabilitation is one of the most expensive and least supported forms of animal rescue. The state and Federal government does NOT pay for these services! Every year, tens of thousands of dollars are spent caring for animals that were injured or orphaned by a family dog or cat.
These animals rarely come with donations and we ask that pet owners who's animals hunt, consider providing funds for the would be prey.
For example, a fawn can cost in excess of $1,000 to raise, a baby raccoon around $300 and much less for a bird or rabbit.
If every animal was brought to a rehabber with a donation, they would worry less about funding and focus on the animals they care for.
Please help them avoid ever turning anything away because of funding. They sacrifice their bank accounts, sleep, friends and everything else to save lives every day. If you do not have a particular rescue to focus on, please consider making a donation to our friends at Wild Heart Ranch.
Wildlife rehabilitators are our heroes, and our hats are off to them. Donations to rehabbers such as blankets, old fur coats, laundry supplies, food and money are always welcome and helpful too.
Be aware that if you are leaving an animal at a drop off point, you may want to make a donation via their website or a check in the mail so that you are certain that it gets to the right place. Thank you for your support!
What To Do When You Find An
Injured Or Orphaned Animal
One of the most often asked questions is "What should I do if I find an injured or orphaned animal?". If you have found an infant mammal, bird or fawn, find a way to keep the baby calm and warm.
Handling a wild animal creates stress. Use a small box, container or pet carrier with appropriate bedding, on a heat pad on low or under indirect light (baby is covered). Do not let children or pets have contact with the animal, it can spread germs and parasites both ways.
As shown above, do not give milk, formula or water to an infant unless you know what you are doing. Giving improper milk or feeding anything to an animal who is not in stable physical condition to digest it (cold, stressed, dehydrated) can be fatal. Help rehabbers do their non-profit job properly by not creating a worse situation for the animal.
Determine If The Animal
Really Needs Your Help
Spotting a baby animal by itself does not necessarily mean it is an orphan. Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day, sometimes for long periods. The mother is usually nearby and quite conscious of her young. In some cases, the mother may be keeping her distance on purpose, as to avoid attracting attention from predators. Also, keep in mind that despite their small size, many young animals are actually independent enough to fend for themselves.
Please read this incredible article on wildlife reunion methods published by the IWRC. All wildlife rehabilitators and volunteers who answer clinic phones should read this article. The best mom is the real mom.
Each year, thousands of animals are taken to rehabbers that should have been left alone. This takes money and time away from orphans that really do need help. Those three fawns you see may be cute, but it will cost a rehabber about $3,000 to raise them. Those young raccoons you've come across may be darling, but they will cost about $900 to raise!
We have a guide below with info on specific things to look for depending on the kind of animal you've discovered. Hopefully, this will help you determine if the animal really needs help before you call the rehabber - remember they have their hands full with respect to available time.
If still in doubt, make contact with a rehabberr directly to see if you can figure out together if the animal really does need to be rescued.
Finding The Best Release Location
As shown by relocation studies, wildlife often has trouble adapting to new environments, however, being able to choose from a variety of relocation sites allows newly rehabilitated animals a better chance for survival.
If you have a suitable environment for relocation after rehabilitation please visit our section on how to become a release site and fill out our site release application and send it in for future consideration.
Domestic Animal Rescue
Most rehabbers do not assist with domestic animals. In Oklahoma, the most comprehensive domestic rescue list can be found here: www.petfinder.com . The Wildlife Whisperer, Inc. does offer feral cat control services, but we are not a cat rescue, rehab or adoption service.
How To Know If An Animal Needs Your Help
Many young animals may appear to be orphaned, but actually may be doing just fine on their own. Determining whether or not an animal is an orphan depends on the animal's age and species, and how you may perceive their natural behaviors.
Here are some things to look for in general:
- Animals that are bleeding
- Have an obvious broken limb
- A wild animal brought to you by a cat or dog
- A shivering animal
- Young found with a dead parent nearby
- A fawn with its face covered in ticks
- A raptor, such as an owl or hawk, laying on its side or stuck in a fence
- A goose or duck with fishing twine on its leg so tight that the foot is swelling.
To help you further in your decision regarding whether or not the animal you've find really needs to be helped or rescued, we've included specific information below as it pertains to the young of specific species.
- Wild Deer
- Birds, Hawks, Owls & Raptors
- Baby Bats
- Ducks In Swimming Pools
- Ducks In Bushes & Yards
- Ducks In Storm Drains
- Geese In Parking Lots
- Injured Geese
Baby Deer (Fawns)
People frequently assume that a baby deer, (a fawn) is orphaned just because it was found alone. The mother deer, (the doe) is probably nearby and does not want to let predators know where her fawns are so she will only visit her fawn a few times a day.
Unless know the mother is dead, leave a fawn alone. Does are sensitive to human smells ... do not touch the fawns!
If you have already or if you do accidentally touch a fawn at some point, rub a towel or rag in dirt and grass and rub the fawn with it to try and get rid of human scent. Be certain to leave the fawn exactly where you found it.
How to visually check by sight to see if a fawn is a true orphan:
A fawn's ears provide a clue as to whether or not the fawn is suffering from malnutrition. If they are strait across the top toward the point, this is an indicator that the fawn is properly nourished, if they are curved, or bent, on top toward the tip, then this is a sign of malnourishment and an indicator that they do not have a mother feeding them.
Note the difference in the two photos seen below. You can click on them for a larger and better view. The first one shows a fawn with straight ears, and the second one with "bent" ears. See how the ear tips are bent in the second photo and have a curve, or bend, on top toward the point?
You can click on either of the above photos for larger and closer view.
The bent tips on a fawn's ears are the easiest way to identify an orphan. For wildlife rehabbers, it takes twice as long to straighten them via proper nourishment as it does for them to bend due to lack of nourishment. The ears bend after missing 2 days of feedings, or about 8 feedings.
Just remember this saying ...
"ears are straight, fawn is great ... ears are curled, he's alone in the world"
If you decide a deer needs to go to the rehabber, you will likely need to transport it there yourself, many people cut a sleeve off of a sweatshirt and place the animal's face/head into the sleeve in order to help calm it.
Birds, Hawks, Owls & Raptors
If a featherless or nearly featherless bird (nestling) is on the ground and is alert, or baby birds have fallen from their nest, you can put them back. It's a wives tale that birds abandon their young if a person touches them. Some kinds of wildlife are sensitive to human scent, but birds are not.
If the mother bird can hear and see its young, they will typically continue to feed it/them. If you do not see the mother visiting it on the ground and if the nest is too high to reach, hang a small basket close to where the original nest was. You can pick up a cheap, shallow, woven basket at the store. You can also cut the top off a plastic gallon jug and tie it to the shady side of the tree with a rope.
Be certain to cut many holes in the bottom of the jug or else it may fill up with rain! If mom does not return, take it to a rehabber.
Fledglings are the adolescent birds that are fully feathered with short tail feathers flopping on the ground and not flying well... it is part of nature. They are learning to fly. The fledglings may remain on the ground for a few days and the parent birds, will feed their fledglings a few times an hour. Do not rescue these birds if they do not need to be.
Do not "rescue" them from your pet - but instead - bring your pet indoors!
One method of capturing an injured hawk, owl, eagle and other raptors is to simply throw a blanket over them and placing them in a pet carrier.
In 2011 and 2012, when we were located in Oklahoma, we received hundreds of calls about supposed hawks, falcons and other raptors that mostly ended up being Because of the horrible heat, mother kites may die trying to feed their young enough food or are abandoning their nests in order to save their own lives. "Friendly" and totally docile fledgling kites showing up in yards and on front porches may look to humans for help.
It is important to remember these are federally protected birds. In a few cases, the mother may still be healthy enough and feeding the young on the ground. If no mother is seen, capture it by throwing a towel over it.
Place it in an uncovered box or carrier with a towel or rag forming a nest shape. Like most other animals, you can place a shallow jar lid or measuring cup filled with water - do not try to directly feed it or give it water - leave that up to the rehabbers, please.
If a baby squirrel is uninjured, leave it where it is; leave, keep people and pets away and monitor from a distance. Squirrels are sensitive to human scent. Do not touch an uninjured baby squirrel with human scent if you have not waited for mom to return. If the baby is not taken by mom in several hours, contact a rehabber. A jumping and climbing squirrel with a full, fluffy tail is able to be on its own in most cases.
If you find a nest of uninjured baby rabbits, leave them alone. The mother will only visit their young 2-3 times a day to avoid attracting predators.
To see if they truly are orphans, make an "X" with small sticks or thread over the nest to assess if the mother is returning. If the "X" is moved the next morning, the mother has returned. If the "X" remains undisturbed for 24 hours contact a wildlife rehabber.
If you have a nest in your yard, keep all pets out of the area or expect to be taking ½ dead bunnies to a rehabber. Don't touch the nest, or bunnies, or get your human scent anywhere near it. A 4" rabbit with erect ears, open eyes and very little white on its head is able to be on its own.
Skunks have horrible eyesight, so if you see a skunk running towards you, it does not mean it is rabid. Because of this, mom may lose sight of one or more babies (called kittens, AKA, little stinkers). From a distance, monitor the situation for an hour or so to see if their mother shows up. You can also try the milk crate and laundry basket method - place one over the kittens to see if mom comes back. If not, call a wildlife rehabilitator.
Mother raccoons are quite protective and they supervise their young, so if you see one on its own, it may be an orphan. If it appears to be healthy, put a milk crate or laundry basket over it. If mom does not come within a few hours, take it to a rehabber. If you have raccoons in your attic or crawl space, you can leave them there, in the shade, and see if mom takes them overnight. Before doing this, talk to your rehabber - waiting may save that rehab clinic $300. If you need assistance with raccoons living in your attic, basement or crawl space, call us.
Baby opossums are born as embryos, crawl into their mother's pouch and spend about two months attached to her nipples. When they are about 3" to 4" long, they start to ride around on their mother's back. Mother opossums do not easily notice if one falls off or gets left behind. Typically, if the opossum is less than 7" nose to rump, not including the tail, he is an orphan. When they are over 7", they are old enough to be on their own.
Do not touch a bat with bare hands or thin gloves. If you have found bats inside your living quarters, it is best to call a Wildlife Management Professional to help you with the proper removal and safety procedures for bats in the house or bats in the attic. If you want to get a bat out of the house on your own, do not wave brooms, tennis racquets or your arms around in the air at a bat. Bats are not aggressive, they are only curious when flying towards you. If you open all of your doors and windows, they will eventually follow the airflow and fly outdoors.
If you find a baby bat, (called a pup) on the ground or on your floor that is not able to fly, you can put it back where it came from if you know where that is, or call a bat rehabilitator. Not all rehabbers take care of bats. If the bat is an adult, you can set it at the base of a large tree in your yard and allow it to crawl up into the tree top.
You can also launch a bat outdoors with a garden spade. When you "launch" it, be careful with it because its wings are two thin layers of skin that can be damaged very easily. Gently sweep the bat up into the shovel with a broom, and while standing on grass, gently but quickly launch the bat. Bats like to have at least fifteen feet of airspace to fly in most cases. If the bat is injured, it will usually not fly. If injured, the bat must be taken to a bat rehabilitator or be properly euthanized - without the use of CO2.
If the bat has several babies clinging to it and has a reddish tint to it, like the ones shown above, it will usually not be able to fly. The red tint may indicate that it is a Red Tree Bat. They live in trees. Mom simply could not fly with all the young pups and fell to the ground. Place it on a larger horizontal tree branch together with its young and they should be ok.
Sunbathing foxes are common. Just because they are out in the daylight does not mean something is wrong. Leave them alone if they seem energetic and healthy. It is totally normal to be able to get within a few feet of them - don't. Leave them alone. Even though all foxes look scrawny and skinny, they do not typically eat small children!
It is not uncommon for homeowner's to discover ducks in their swimming pool, yard or even their flower beds. Baby ducks have even been known to fall into storm drains. Domestic ducks can usually be relocated but many wild ducks such as Mallards are federally protected and cannot be harassed or moved. Please find some helpful suggestions below.
Ducks In Swimming Pools
The most common species of ducks that love to soil your swimming pool are Mallards. It is important to know that these ducks are federally protected. You can barely look at them without breaking the law.
Consequently, you cannot relocate the ducks that are in your swimming pool, we cannot and the state or federal agencies will not either.
However, if you have a domestic species of ducks in your pool, they may be relocated to a private pond that wants them.
To get the ducks out of your pool, do not waste time trying to net them and place them on the pool deck, they will simply just jump back in. Take all of your chaise lounge chairs, lay them flat at the edge of the pool deck by the stairs. Set them half in the water and half out to form a ramp. Take the cushions off and do the same, using a weight to hold them on the edge of the pool deck. If you do not have cushions or chaise lounges, find a long board and make a ramp out of the board.
The ducks should move on in a few days.
You can also give this a try ... If you have a pool cover, put it on to deter the ducks. If you have a pool cleaner with the arms that flail around, plug it in and turn it on. Do not feed the ducks; if you do, they will stay longer. Another method to deter them from using your pool is below.
Ducks In Flower Beds, Bushes And Yards
Ducks like to nest in bushes, around pool and in raised flower beds. Once they start making the nest, there is nothing that can legally be done to the nest. It cannot be destroyed or relocated. You are legally stuck with them until they hatch and walk off. Be aware that next year, they will likely return. Trim the bushes and be prepared. No state or federal agency will relocate or remove the nest or eggs. No company or wildlife rehabilitator can legally remove or relocate the nest, young, mother or eggs.
Check with your state wildlife department to see if it is legal to repel wild animals in the following manner: Purchase a Havahart Spray Away water spray and set it up. This infrared, motion-detecting water sprayer will shoot water up to 30' in a strong stream when hooked up to a charged garden hose. Have children put on a bathing suit and set up the perimeter that you want protected with it. This is a non-chemical solution for unwanted ducks and geese causing problems in your yard or swimming pool. If snakes, frogs, toads, ducklings and other animals are getting into your swimming pool, a Frog Log may also be helpful.
Baby Ducks In Storm Drains
If a duck or goose is in the street quacking or honking into a storm drain, their goslings or ducklings may have fallen into the storm drain. As ridiculous as it sounds, private companies cannot assist with this type of situation because the street and storm drain is city, county or state owned. The last time Ned Bruha did this type of rescue was on film - after getting the city water works to remove the grate, in order to not get charged with trespassing, Bruha called the non-emergency police department number until they got tired of it and they gave him permission to jump into the drain. You will need the city, state or county to remove the drain cover. Simply jump in, place them all in a bucket and lay the bucket on its side letting them all go at once next to their mother. If mom is not around, take them to the nearest federally permitted rehabilitation center. If you cannot get into the drain to help the young, call the police or animal control.
Canada Geese In Parking Lots
Canada geese, sometimes incorrectly called Canadian geese, love taking up residence in parking lots, it is not uncommon to find one right in the middle of a busy shopping center or office complex, or right next to a busy street or intersection. This creates problems, geese are killed, people are attacked or fender benders occur because of where they make their nests. Resident Canada geese love grassy parking lot areas because they get the three things they are looking for there - food, water and shelter, and they can see predators coming from a long distance away.
Sadly, store patrons and store owners typically inadvertently make the problem worse by ignoring the problem until a goose gets run over by a vehicle or attacks a human. We can assist with these situations, but, we will only speak with the property owner or store owner. We will not call them, they must call us. Every year, we receive hundreds upon hundreds of calls about geese in parking lots from the concerned public. We will help, if you have the store owner or property owner call us. Please have the owner look at our page on geese in parking lots for more information.
If a goose is in the street, it is often because there is a nest nearby. Simply call the police or animal control and ask them to walk it back to the parking lot. Private companies cannot assist with this type of situation because the street is city, county or state owned.
Injured Or Constricted Geese
We could spend all day, every day, every spring assisting with geese with fishing line or string attached to their legs, broken wings and other injuries. We will not get involved with wild goose chases until you have accomplished several things. First, the goose must be in the same place at the same time during normal business hours every day to allow for an easy capture. This can be accomplished by feeding corn or grain to them in the same place at the same time every day. Second, you must have the property owner, business, home owner association, state or county place it in writing that we have permission to access the property. Third, if it is a park or community pond, we insist that a no feeding waterfowl sign is erected. Fourth, we appreciate being able to take a donation to the wildlife rehabilitator who receives the animal.
You can often capture the goose yourself. Some methods include throwing a blanket or net over the goose and placing it in a pet carrier. The videos below feature capturing an injured Canada Goose:
Please find below some information to help you locate a wildlife rehabber in your area, animalhelpnow.org is a nationwide website for finding the best help for wildlife and pets immediately.
We've also included names and contact information for you on some of the wildlife rehabbers that can be found within the Florida area.
Florida Wildlife Sancutaries, Rescues and Rehabbers
Lions, Tigers & Bears, Inc.
Lynn Wittmeier, Founder
9801 N.E. Bahia Ct.
Arcadia, FL 34265
Mission: To provide a permanent loving home to unwanted exotic pets, non-releaseable wildlife, and endangered species.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
3400 W. Marion Ave. (GPS)
3400 Ponce De Leon Pkwy. (Mailing)
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned Florida native wildlife and public education through outreach programs and tours; permanent wildlife residents with non-lifethreatening disabilities are on display seven days a week 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers needed for gift shop clerk, tour guides, home care, cleaners, hospital workers, and fundraising. Main event each year is the capital campaign to raise funds for the new center, donations accepted via website, in person and by mail.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Protection, Education And Awareness
Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife
Protection, Education And Awareness
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Inc
Red Bird Rescue
Mammal And Songbird Rehabilitation
Fort Myers Beach
Education & Rehabilitation Center
Arnold's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center Inc
Wildlife Center of Venice Inc
Genesis Zoological & Wildlife Rescue
Education And Rehabilitation
Peace River Wildlife Center
Wildlife Preservation And Rescue
South Florida Wildlife Center
Rescue, Rehabilitation & Preservation
You can also find a lot of helpful information on Florida rehabilitators and varous wildlife safety and preservation concerns on the Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association website. The also have a helpful list of wildlife related emergency hotlines.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has compiled a comprehensive list of wildlife rehabbers found in the Florida area.
We also want to invite you to visit the wildheartranch.org website to find answers to frequently asked questions about rescue scenarios. Wild Heart Ranch is not located in Florida, however the valuable information you will find there can be helpful in Florida situations as well.
Wild Heart Ranch was founded by Ned Bruha's hero and hero for the animals, Annette King (seen in the photo below with Ned Bruha) and Sandy Brooks back in 1996 as a state licensed rehab center for all wildlife.
Wildlife Rehabilitation is one of the most expensive of all rescue efforts for animals. The animals you see on the Wild Heart Ranch website would have died had it not been for the hard work of rehabbers at Wild Heart Ranch. Your donations can help them keep up the good work!
If you are thinking about being a wildlife rehabber, you must read the book The Road to Release by Annette King from Wild Heart Ranch in Oklahoma. This is a must read for all current and future rehabbers.
Too many folks think that it would be "neat" and "fun", but forget that their lives, and the lives of animals are at risk if their new "hobby" fails.
Being a rehabber is NOT for everybody.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wildlife Rehab
The info on wildlife rehab topics is extensive at wildheartranch.org, if you are looking for answers, it is a good place to start.
All wild animals can be dangerous, but the wild animal that is the most dangerous is one that is not afraid of people.
If you currently have a pet wild animal that is getting out of hand or want to legally obtain one, talk to your local rehabbers. Many people dump unwanted wildlife pets on rehabbers because they did not do their research first. Instead of having a wild animal as a pet - how about volunteering at your local rehabilitation facility?
The Wildlife Whisperer, Inc., Inc. cannot operate without the assistance of wildlife rehabbers, but we also believe that if we have to bring orphaned wildlife to a rehabber, we have failed to keep wildlife in their best surroundings - the ecosystem that they are currently in.
1242 SW Pine Island Rd., Suite 310
Cape Coral, Florida 33991-2126