t began with one lady and one injured bird.
In 1968, Sanibel resident Shirley Walter found an injured royal tern. After being unable to find it help, she carried the bird that had been struck by a car to her home. She shared the story with her friends and before long a group of volunteers rallied together for a common cause -- helping injured wildlife.
In the first year the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) was formed, more than 500 distress calls were taken with many of them received by the late Dr. Phyllis Douglass. By the 1970s, Walter, Douglass and many of the volunteers began to shape the emerging field of wildlife medicine. The clinic quickly outgrew Walter’s home and moved to the Captiva home of Adelaide Cherbonnier before relocating to 10 acres of the Sawbridge family property on Sanibel-Captiva Road.
By the early 1980s, CROW moved to a new building with staff apartments and the success continued throughout the decade. By the 1990s, CROW had built its Robert E. Schneider Education Pavilion and had educational programs in place. After being devastated by Hurricane Charlie in 2004, CROW quickly bounced back and celebrated its 40th anniversary five years later with the opening of a 4,800-square-foot veterinary hospital and Healing Winds Visitors Education Center. The 5,100-square-foot education center serves as a venue for innovative visitor displays, interactive exhibits and live patient videos, as well as other special events. The nearby hospital is complete with diet preparation areas, a laundry room, reptile room, pediatric ward and surgery room with a viewing area.
"CROW is about release," stated executive director Steve Greenstein.
Today it operates one of the country’s leading rehabilitation facilities on the 12.5-acre campus. CROW treats more than 4,000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife patients each year with the help of staff veterinarians, clinicians and volunteers, as well as students enrolled in CROW's wildlife medicine programs. Treatments and rehabilitation services employ both eastern and western approaches to care.
"Saving lives is a team effort," said Greenstein.
CROW currently has 459 animals with 265 of them being babies. To help raise awareness of CROW’s mission, it has instituted a picture show. Since "Ding" Darling Wildlife Drive is closed on Fridays the clinic has a devised a special weekly presentation to help bridge the gap. The CROW picture show offers an insiders look at why critters come to CROW and features photos of the wild animals who wind up there.
"Twenty-nine percent of animals come to us because they are orphaned," stated Claudia Burns, who volunteers with CROW in many capacities. "The largest category, aside from babies, is made up of birds with 54 percent."
Last year, Southwest Florida’s only wildlife hospital cared for 4,111 sick, injured or orphaned animals. Of the more than 200 different species, 34 percent were mammals and 8 percent were reptiles, amphibians or invertebrates. Due to restrictions imposed by governmental agencies, CROW cannot allow visitors to view patients in its hospital. But now the clinic offers the next best thing – a 30-minute presentation showing photos of current and past patients with a commentary by Burns.
"The goal is to create a tool to take to schools and other venues as an outreach tool," stated Greenstein about the picture show.
The CROW picture show is presented each Friday at 11 a.m. in the CROW Healing Winds Visitor Education Center, 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road, across from Sanibel School. Members are admitted free. The cost for non-members is $5; teens pay $3 and children 12 years of age or younger are admitted free of charge. Admission includes the presentation, plus the opportunity to explore CROW’s hands-on educational facility and become familiar with its efforts in saving wildlife through compassion, care and education. SHANNEN HAYES
For more information on CROW, call 472-3644 ext. 231 or visitwww.crowclinic.org.