baby squirrels

WaterLine file photo

While PRWC is known mostly for birds, the facility also treats a lot of mammals, including orphaned gray squirrel kits.

While we are occasionally blindsided by people who don’t appreciate or understand what we do, we are more often delighted by the people who get it. Because of those wonderfully enlightened people, PRWC is one step closer to finding a permanent home.

Our temporary rehab facility at the MLK location should be up and running within the next few weeks. As soon as we get the outdoor caging finished and a fence up, we will get inspected by FWC. Barring any unforeseen complications, the medical aspect of our facility will take a huge step forward. Official notification, along with the hours and address, will be forthcoming. In the meantime, our Ponce de Leon Park location will continue to operate as it has for more than 30 years.

The wonderful Punta Gorda City Council and staff have agreed to allow us to use a portion of the Henry Street Park for our exhibits. We should have a lease in place this month and will begin creating the state-of-the-art facility that will wow residents and visitors alike. While that endeavor may take a few years to design and build, we finally know where our resident animals will call home for the next 50 years.

The only question remaining is where our permanent rehab facility will be located. There isn’t enough room on the Henry Street parcel for both aspects of our organization, and an urban locale isn’t ideal for rehabbing wildlife — but it’s essential for the exhibits. One of our biggest delays in finding a location was in trying to keep both the exhibits and rehab combined. Now we are free to search for at least 10 acres in a rural area where we can build the rehab facility for the future.

• • • • • • • • •

The tabulations are in and the winner is … Don’t worry, I’m not going to start razzing people about what they were wearing, if their joke was cutting edge or tasteless, or how this film or that song is somehow better than another. The sheer volume of awards ceremonies at the beginning of the year can make your head spin.

You know what else makes my head spin? Well, besides too much Jose Cuervo. Filing our end-of-year reports with the USFWS and FWC. Peace River Wildlife Center must report every patient and resident we have seen in the previous 12 months, along with their diagnoses, dispositions, and various other computations.

While these computations are fresh in my mind, I want to share them with those of you who are interested. The rest of you can flip the page to find out how to bait a hook with your finger, cook trash (fish?), or how to back a 50-foot RV into a parking space built for a VW. Spoiler alert — don’t do any of those things. I’ve tried them all, and it doesn’t end well.

PRWC saw a total of 2,810 patients in 2019. Since PRWC’s educational exhibits include mostly birds, many people think we treat only avian species, so it may come as some surprise that more than half of our patients are mammals. Our 2019 statistics show our patient load was comprised of 51 percent mammals (1,438 individuals), 41 percent birds (1,150), and 8 percent reptiles (222.)

We saw a total of 107 different bird species, 24 different mammals, and 20 different reptiles. The top four types of birds were mourning doves (177), northern mockingbirds (128), common grackles (93), and eastern screech owls (38.) These four species alone accounted for 436 patients: 38 percent of all avian patients, or 16 percent of our total intakes.

The four most common mammals seen were eastern cottontails (599), raccoons (262), Virginia opossums (302), and eastern gray squirrels (168.) Those four species comprised 1232 patients: 86 percent of all the mammals, or 44 percent of our total patient load.

Most of those mammals are admitted as infants and juveniles, and require months of intensive care — including around-the clock feeding of the infants — before they are ready to be released. The 599 eastern cottontails alone accounted for more than 20 percent of our total patient load.

Gopher tortoises (140) comprise the majority of reptiles we see: 63 percent of all reptiles, but still fewer than 10 percent of total patients. Considering the time it takes for this species to heal after an injury or illness (months to a full year), they spend a great deal of time and rehabber effort in our facility.

One of the most important figures at year’s end is patient outcome. Overall, PRWC had a positive outcome for 38 percent of our patients, and a negative outcome for 62 percent. A positive outcome includes patients that recovered well enough to be released or were transferred to another facility for continued care or to become an educational resident.

It is an unfortunate fact that some patients are dead on arrival, or very nearly so. After removing patients that do not survive the first 24 hours of care, our positive outcome increases to 83 percent, and the negative drops to 17 percent.

Thanks to the community that supports us both financially and by volunteering their time, PRWC is able to help the injured, ill, and orphaned wild animals in and around Charlotte County and all of Southwest Florida. A huge thanks to our employees who, while being paid to do the job, could be making much more money if employed by a for-profit company. Wildlife rehabilitation is a labor of love and we all love the animals we are able to help and all the other people who assist us in that endeavor.

So, the winner is … PRWC. The people of the community that support us and our mission are the champions that make it all possible. Their support and donations keep us striving toward excellence. And the ultimate victors are the local wildlife that we are able to help, by maintaining a diverse and safe place for people and animals to live in harmony in our little corner of paradise.

Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. They are open seven days a week year-round, including holidays. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.

Peace River Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the care, preservation and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife since 1978. They are open seven days a week year-round, including holidays. Tours are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PRWC receives no government funding and relies entirely on private donations. For more info, visit PRWildlife.org, email PeaceRiverWildlife@yahoo.com or call 941-637-3830.

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