The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is thrilled to announce the groundbreaking for its new outdoor enclosures. The event marks a significant milestone in CROW’s recovery from the devasting effects of Hurricane Ian.
CROW’s hospital, visitor center, and student housing all sustained damage, but staff were able to return in the months following the storm. The visitor and gift shop reopened at the first of the year and renewed tours and programs in July. Student programs resumed in recent months and the dorms were again home to CROW’s interns, sharing space with interns from partner SCCF’s turtle program.
The hospital and rehabilitation team never stopped treating patients. Operating at an off-site in North Fort Myers, they returned to the Sanibel Campus on March 16. While the team resumed regular hours in the newly renovated hospital space, they are unable to operate at full capacity due to the destruction Hurricane Ian wrought on the rehabilitation enclosures.
Prior to Ian, CROW patients enjoyed eighteen (18) outdoor enclosures designed specifically for the over 200 native and migratory wildlife species that receive care and treatment each year. Staff and volunteers worked diligently to repair and clean the enclosures lucky enough to survive the storm. However, post storm only six outdoor enclosures are fully functional.
“CROW sees over 6,000 patients annually. The loss of one cage is significant but the loss we sustained has been beyond anything we could have imagined,” says Rehabilitation Manager, Breanna Frankel.
On September 5, CROW broke ground on six new enclosures to replace ones completely lost in the storm. On September 26, CROW held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the milestone in recovery. Pelicans, shorebirds, songbirds and large raptors will again be able to recover on the Sanibel campus before being released to the wild.
“These cages are designed specifically for the type of patients that will be in them. Every aspect of these cages will ensure safety and offer appropriate environmental enrichment to help our patients recover quickly. From the perches to the substrate, we know what our patients need and how best to provide it to them.” says Frankel.
Liberty Aluminum is serving as general contractor for the new enclosures. They have a history of building enclosures for CROW. In Spring of 2022, Liberty finished four new enclosures to replace ones previously designed for ospreys, burrowing owls, and squirrels, and a small flight enclosure that has hosted numerous animals including growing owlets. All four of those newly built enclosures were still standing post Hurricane Ian.
“During design and construction, it seemed like we were really overdoing it but when we were able to return to the island the week after the storm – to see those enclosures still standing literally brought tears to my eyes.” said Alison Charney Hussey, CROW’s Executive Director. “I phoned Jim Lowndes, president of Liberty Aluminum, to tell him they were still standing and worth every penny! And that we were going to have some more work for him.”
Three of the new enclosures will have fully filtering outdoor pools for water birds. The CROW rehabilitation team worked with Siesta Pebble Pools to make sure the birds’ recovery will be enhanced by their time in the pools. “A filtered pool will ensure clean water and help our birds to remain appropriately waterproofed for their return to the wild.” says Frankel.
The six new enclosures will cost CROW over $1.25 million. Unfortunately, the prior enclosures were not able to be covered by insurance, so a capital campaign is underway to fund the replacements. “Hurricane Ian gave us the opportunity to rebuild and future proof our campus where we can. These enclosures are a good start and allowing us to focus on the importance of rehabilitation for the wildlife we love.” says Hussey. “Knowing they can withstand the wind and surge of a major hurricane gives us peace of mind for the future of our mission.”
If interested in funding opportunities, please reach out to CROW’s Executive Director for more information at [email protected] or 239-395-0031.