In an effort to spread the word about what we do, we have decided to publish our first ad in the Herald Tribune. If you saw our ad in the Tribune, and are visiting us for the first time, then you have our gratitude. If you ever come across a wild animal in need please keep us in mind. It is the caring members of our community that make our work possible and rewarding.
By Pam De Fouw
Over the past several years, our population of striped skunks has been diminishing. As growth and development continues, the skunk has less and less adequate habitat in which to live and traverse. The extension and widening of roads makes it truly difficult to pass from one boundary to the next. Striped skunks are relatively slow moving mammals with poor eyesight, relying on their acute sense of smell and hearing to detect both predator and prey, leaving them ill equipped to deal with modern vehicular traffic. Ironically, many of our neighborhoods’ last interactions with skunks involved road kill incidents, as all but the smell is forgotten.
Thanks to our valued supporters, the Wildlife Center of Venice was able to rescue and raise 8 striped skunks last year, for their eventual return to the wild. Our long term goal is to help species like the striped skunk retain its historic foothold in our community, and hopefully someday to reconnect small isolated pocket populations within our rescue range through the use of a wildlife corridor system. The majority of our striped skunks, and spotted skunks for that matter, come from either the Englewood area or the Myakka City region, with very limited connectivity between these small populations. In addition to loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation, skunks are often persecuted due to their inherent odor, for fear of their defensive spray, or their reputation as a rabies vector species (a rare carrier in Florida). As someone that has worked with many skunks, both young and adult, I’d say this reputation is undeserved, as they tend to keep their distance when allowed and spray only as a last resort in most cases. Even co-founder, Kevin Barton, has only been sprayed a couple times in 18 years of capturing, handling and examining them, and neither case required a tomato bath.
So yes, skunks can and do spray but only as a means of protection. They are mostly nocturnal, but also may be crepuscular (meaning active in early mornings and evenings). As with most mammals, the females are very protective of their young and do not usually venture far from them. This is one major reason the WCV is usually against the trapping and relocation of such species, as it leaves young to starve and adults to unfamiliar turf.
The beneficial fact about skunks is that they eat large quantities of insects and grubs, rodents and moles and even snakes, which I know are so popular in residential developments. Remember, these little critters, unlikely to cause conflict, will wage war on these other pests, free of charge. Also one should remember that many species’ populations have dramatically declined, like the striped skunk, with little notice, not having the protections afforded more notable species through the endangered species act. With your help, we continue to fight for our patients, our community and our biodiversity.
by Peg Magee
The call came to the Wildlife Center dispatcher on a Friday, from Susanne, in Gran Paradiso, reporting an adult osprey with a broken wing. While it could not y, it had made its way from the location where it was rst spotted, to a mound of dirt several unpaved streets over in an area under construction in the new development. Amazing that the injured bird was discovered!
When I arrived at the community to rescue the bird, Susanne and her husband met me at the entrance, and escorted me to the spot where they had last seen the injured bird. No osprey on the mound! Looking around the area, I noticed a construction trench, with a conduit pipe in it, the deepest part being square, and about 2 1⁄2 feet deep. And there was our osprey, trapped, and unable to y or climb out.
At this point, we had attracted a small gathering of interested parties, encouraging and wanting to help. I believed my best option was to climb down into the trench with a short-handled net to contain and secure the bird, and a towel to then wrap around his head and wings when I could remove the net. It worked! My only problem was how to get myself out; holding the animal, I could not use my hands to bolster myself up.
At that moment a construction engineer walked over, and immediately, seeing the predicament, instructed me to “ just turn around, ma’am, with your back to me, and I will lift you right up by your elbows.” “Really?” “Yup. Just turn around.” I did, and he did— right up and out—me and osprey together! I told him triumphantly that he made my day! My helpful hero was both clever, and strong!
Yes, the wing was broken, osprey transported to our faithful vet Dr. Don Swerida, wing pinned, and hope for the best. He thanks all of you who cared!
By Michael Cecil
When I was out at the Wildlife Center on a Sunday in July, Pam DeFouw asked me when I might be returning to the Keys. Turned out they had a black masked booby that needed to be released near the Dry Tortugas. Several months earlier, he had been found washed up on the shore in Venice in very poor health. After many months he was nursed back to health and the nearest colony was determined to be near the Dry Tortugas. I thought about it for a minute and suggested I email some charter boats that operate near that area and went home and did just that, not really expecting to get any replies. Well, did I get a surprise; I sent seven emails and each one responded with a willingness to help. Capt. Greg Mercurio of the Yankee Capts Charters out of Key West responded within ve minutes! He was not only willing to take the bird, but me as well free of charge. I was to call the o ce when I was ready and I would be able to go on the next available trip. I contacted Pam the next morning; all the paperwork was in order. At 11:00 AM that morning I called to set up the trip and
low and behold, they had a ship leaving that night at 8:00 PM! They commented the only problem was that it was a three day trip; though this was certainly NOT a problem for me. I picked up “Bobby” the booby and headed for Key West arriving around 6:00 PM that evening. Although I had a sh in Bobby’s crate all day Monday, he didn’t eat. When I awoke before daylight the next morning and checked on him the sh was gone. I gave him four more sh and he ate them right up; I felt he knew he was going on a journey. As soon as it was daylight I got him ready for release and he gave me a nice bite on the hand as if to say goodbye. I tossed him o the top deck and watched as he ew to the east in search of freedom; then he made a sharp turn to the south and was headed to his destination, it was absolutely incredible. While watching him with binoculars until I couldn’t see him anymore I couldn’t help but feel great joy as he disappeared. This bird was near death and after great care and work by the rehab sta and all the volunteers at the Wildlife Center of Venice, he was given a second chance to once again become a free bird. I spent the next three days on the boat with a big smile and loads of satisfaction for being able to have helped in this birds’ journey back to the wild.