Wildlife Hospital helps critters great and small

A fledgling gets TLC until he is old enough to be returned to the wild. As baby bird season ends, the baby squirrels begin to arrive.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Florida Wildlife Hospital

Brother, can you spare a mealworm?

Florida Wildlife Hospital & Sanctuary, which cares for injured and orphaned wild critters great and small, could use mealworms, thanks to the voracious appetite of songbirds, which are frequent patients at the nonprofit Palm Shores wildlife rehabilitation facility at this time of year.

“Songbirds eat a lot of live insects,” director Tracy Frampton said.

“We could really use gift certificates for our mealworm supplier: Donations for that need are very helpful. Each order is about 100,000 mealworms!”

It’s always some sort of baby season at the hospital, where approximately 5,000 mammals, birds and reptiles are admitted each year. Patient count already will soon surpass 3,000 patients this year and baby squirrel season — a time when as many as 100 of the little guys need the hospital’s help on any given day — is just around the corner.

A large volunteer corps helps the small staff perform the daunting task of feeding and caring for everything from baby woodpeckers to gopher tortoises.

“We have a great volunteer program,” Frampton said.

Baby bunnies are common patients at the Florida Wildlife Hospital. Stress often kills the little hoppers, so staff and volunteers are extra careful. <i>  | Photo by SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Florida Wildlife Hospital  <i/> The hospital’s eclectic wish list, in addition to meal worms and volunteers, includes wild bird seed, a new or used self-propelled lawn mower, 33-gallon or larger trash bags and laundry bleach and soap for the never-ending cleaning that is part of the hospital’s day. The hospital receives no government funding, so individual and corporate donations of time, talent and treasure are critical for its existence.

Patients are admitted for various reasons. Many end up on the losing side of an encounter with a dog, cat or car. Pelicans run afoul of fishing lines and hooks. Would-be Good Samaritans sometimes make the job harder when they scoop perfectly healthy baby animals and whisk them to the hospital. In most of these cases, the babies and their parents were doing just what Mother Nature intended, but when people intervene, the circle of care is broken and the hospital must then become surrogate parents to the babies until they’re old enough to be released into the wild. Frampton and her staff are on a mission to raise awareness of the issue, and it seems to be working.

“We are seeing a decline in the number of patients coming to the hospital that would have been better off left alone, such as fledgling songbirds and baby rabbits,” Frampton said.

“We are really trying to share this message about when to intervene and when to leave them be.”

However, when a native wild creature is injured or truly orphaned, the hospital is quick to step in with help.

“We are here 24/7 to help native wildlife,” Frampton said.

Florida Wildlife Hospital & Sanctuary, 4560 N. U.S. Highway 1, Palm Shores, welcomes donations. The sanctuary is in special need of gift certificates for its mealworm supplier (see rainbowmealworms.net/giftcertificates.php).

Financial contributions also are welcome. All gifts are tax-deductible.

For more information, call 321-254-8843 or go to floridawildlifehospital.org.