South Florida's Wild Side - Spring 2022

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Spring 2022

South Florida Wildlife Center’s Quarterly Newsletter | Education | Patient Updates | Events


international partnership Read more about


all of our upcoming events

(954) 524 - 4302 • Hours: 9:00AM - 5:00PM


Director of Development Anne Marie Taglienti


Director of Outreach Carolina Montano


Executive Director Alessandra Medri

Medical Director Antonia Gardner, DVM Office Manager JoAnne Mayz Nursery Supervisor Jessica Sayre Sonzogni Clinic Supervisor Shelby Whitebread Rehabilitation Supervisor Jessie-Eileen Cottone




SFWC announces international partnership


2021 Wrap-up


Wild Lecture Series

Release Supervisor Mariangelique Diaz Fallick

09 | Interested in Wildlife Rehab?

Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Khrystyne Jamerson

10 | Quarter in Review

Lead Community Service Coordinator Camila Pulido

12 | Patient Highlights

Community Service Coordinator Janina Morejon

15 | Baby Season at SFWC

Development Specialist Giannina Orozco

16 | Species Spotlight - Brown Pelican

Outreach Specialist Katelyn Forgham

18 | Stay Wild! Adoption Program

Lead Wildlife Rehabilitator: Maria Vanegas

20 | Upcoming Events

Wildlife Rehabilitators: Nick Sonzogni Jessica Ferrigno Lisa Bergwin Joscelyn Phillips Christian Park Tristan Colon Erika Piechowski Oasis Saenz Crysta Chabriel Melanie Lemieux

Our mission:

22 | Ways You Can Help 24 | HomeCare Heroes Program

Olive, our Ambassador Eastern Screech Owl, had been at SFWC for over 6 months and has grown up to be a fantastic educator for her species. Read more about how to support our Wildlife Education Ambassador Program on page 18.

Cover photo credit, Osprey by Carlos Paillacar

Veterinary Assistants: Sandy Pagel Hailey Rogala Anna Stryjek Facilities Manager Glenn Georgis Facility Technicians: Anthony Weare Adam Sheets

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Jeffrey J. Arciniaco President, Board Chairman Thomas J. Sabatino Jr. Vice Chairman, Secretary Thomas A. Bartelmo Treasurer Ardath Rosengarden Director Doug Koger Director Eric L. Bernthal Director

Raccoons may be adorable, but they are wild animals, and these babies will grow into fierce adult raccoons with sharp teeth and powerful strength when older. As with all of the orphaned patients we get at SFWC, these babies will be raised to be completely wild, and they will be released into their natural habitat as soon as they are old enough.

This adult Turkey Vulture was found weak and unwilling to move for several days in West Palm Beach. No obvious wounds or fractures were found, but supportive care and close observation were given for 43 days until he was fully recuperated and was able to be released back into the wild! | 3

SFWC ANNOUNCES INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIP The South Florida Wildlife Center announces international partnership with the LIPU (the Lega italiana protezione uccelli) wildlife recovery center in Rome, Italy. Fort Lauderdale, FL January 3, 2021 – The South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC), the largest volume wildlife center in Florida and one of the largest in the United States announced today that it has formed an international partnership with the Wildlife Recovery Center - LIPU (Italian League for the Protection of Birds) in Rome, Italy. LIPU is a national Italian charitable organization, founded in 1965 and devoted to the protection of the country’s wildlife with a particular focus on birds. It has a membership of 42,000 and is the Italian partner of Bird Life International. Moreover, it is one of the most important Italian environmentalist organizations with World Wildlife Fund Italia, Legambiente, and Greenpeace Italia. Located in the beautiful Bio-park of Villa Borghese, the LIPU Wildlife Recovery Center in Rome has played a vital role for the protection of wildlife since 1997. This Center cares and rehabilitates more than 7,000 animals a year from 150 different species and has become an important national reference point for the protection and recovery of wildlife. The Wildlife Recovery Center and the South Florida Wildlife Center share a mutual mission and common goals - to protect, rescue, and rehabilitate wildlife while creating awareness on environmental issues and promoting peaceful co-existence with wildlife in our communities. “South Florida Wildlife Center is proud to partner with this Wildlife Recovery Center and LIPU in this innovative joint venture,” says Alessandra Medri, Executive Director (SFWC). Together, our strengths and like missions will play an invaluable part in creating a focused global alliance toward helping wildlife and our environment.” Through this prestigious international alliance, the LIPU Wildlife Center of Rome and the SFWC will share valuable information, foster collaboration, and promote international externships to cross-train our support teams in all areas of rescue, rehabilitation, and outreach. “Through this partnership, we are furthering awareness of wildlife and environmental conservation issues,” says Francesca Manzia, Director of the Wildlife Recovery Center. “We share a mutual mission and large community of members, volunteers and operators convinced that wildlife plays a very important role for people and for society. Together, we want a world where people live in harmony with nature, in a fair and sustainable way, and we strive for it every day.”

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2021 WRAP-UP


TOTAL DIVERSITY: Birds - 64.8% Mammals - 31.7% Reptiles - 3.4% Amphibians - .06%

This Red-Shouldered Hawk was found stunned on the ground after the tree she was perching in was cut down. She was weak, covered in debris, and standing with her head down when she arrived at our 6 | South Florida’s WildSide | Spring 2022 to improve after fluids, hospital. Thankfully, this patient started and other supportive care were given.




Virginia Opossum - 14.6% Raccoon - 7.8% Gray Squirrel - 6.1% Northern Mockingbird - 4.7% Blue Jay - 4.4%

* outside tri-county area ** location found undisclosed during admission

Besides being found weak, sick, and injured though the cause was unknown, the top 3 reasons for admissions were: ORPHANED - 2368


HIT BY CAR - 305 | 7


The South Florida Wildlife Center offers a free monthly virtual series of public lectures covering various topics presented by professionals in their respective fields. We hope those who join us learn something new about nature, how it correlates to wildlife, and what we do at SFWC. Missed our talks this quarter? Check them out on our YouTube channel!

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INTERESTED IN WILDLIFE REHABILITATION? Our Wildlife Hospital admits over 9,000 wild animals a year, from as many as 300 different species. We provide ongoing care for our patients seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, with a dedicated team of staff and volunteers. Our goal? To restore our wild patients to full health so that they may be released safely back to their natural habitats. Our volunteers make it possible to care for all of these sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals undergoing rehabilitation. Volunteering at SFWC helps you truly make a difference for wildlife! Volunteers learn species identification, hygiene and safety precautions and protocols, proper diet and food preparation, physical therapy regimens, and proper handling techniques. Staff and volunteers work together to provide treatments for our patients utilizing x-rays, blood work, and more, and everyone works together to accommodate each patient's feeding, cleaning, and medication requirements. For those still in school and seeking wildlife experience, we provide the hands-on training students need when entering the rehabilitation and animal husbandry industry. Our interns and externs play an essential part in wildlife care and education at our center! Internship opportunities are available in our wildlife hospital, in the nursery, alongside our educators, rehabilitators, and a rotational internship that allows the intern to experience all the departments. | 9


December 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022

Total Patients Total Species



Birds 1299 Mammals 816 Reptiles 64 Amphibians 1

Volunteering is the perfect opportunity to help protect your local wildlife. Volunteers featured here are helping to replace10the substrate in one of the | South Florida’s WildSide | Spring 2022 education opossum habitats.



Hours Donated


Veteran volunteer Rick helps throughout the different departments of SFWC. Here, he is assisting the Outreach Department by helping to care for and enrich the Ambassador Animals. Our Ambassador Animals are handfed most of their meals to develop bonds and help us evaluate them physically and physiologically without inducing stress. | 11


PATIENT HI Evaluating flight and feather quality helps our wildlife rehabbers assess fitness and ability to be released back into the wild. This raptor is also wearing a hood during this evaluation to minimize stress and keep calm during the interaction.

This juvenile American Red-Bellied Turtle had multiple fractures on its shell, and our clinic staff was able to repair them successfully. Initially, this patient could not fully submerge underwater; however, this turtle is now able to do so with ease and was cleared for release shortly after passing several buoyancy tests.

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This female Virginia Opossum was found in Orlando, FL. She was hit by a car and left on the side of the road. The finder called to notify us and drove 4 hours to our hospital so we could evaluate her. Not only was she in bad shape, but she also had eight babies in her pouch! Upon examination, the vet staff noted her top and bottle left canines were broken and needed to be extracted, she potentially had a fracture to her jaw, and there was blood all over her face and body. After a couple of days of providing close observation and supportive care, she was taken to surgery, where the broken canines were removed, and radiographs were taken to confirm a fracture to the lower jaw. After 30 days in care, she is still being monitored closely for any changes. She is still an attentive mom through it all, and the joeys have done | 13 great this entire time. We are hopeful this family will thrive once mom is completely healed.

Baby raccoons are called kits. We admit them throughout 14 | South Florida’s WildSide Springare 2022independent enough the year and raise them until| they to be released into the wild months later.

BABY SEASON AT SFWC Most people genuinely want to help animals, especially orphaned wildlife, but removing infants from the wild often does more harm than good. Wildlife parents rarely abandon their young. If you don’t see a parent, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there — they may be off foraging for food or hiding from you. Fortunately, animals who have fallen or been removed from their nests or dens can often be easily and safely returned. If you find one or more infants who appear to be orphaned, always contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before moving them. Mom and dad may be closer than you think! Nesting season in Florida runs from February to October. Be extra vigilant for nesting wildlife parents, infants, and juveniles during these months: •

Avoid “kidnapping” baby birds. Most birds learn how to fly from the ground up! If the baby bird is mostly feathered and uninjured, leave it on the ground and monitor for parent activity from a distance.

Try to limit any tree trimming during baby season. The safest time to trim is November through January. If you must trim or remove a tree, be vigilant of any nests.

Scan your backyard before letting your dog out. Doing a quick walk-around inspection of your yard for wildlife is the best way to prevent pet and wildlife interactions that can lead to injuries for both animals.

Keep cats indoors when at all possible. Domestic cats are the number one threat to our native birds! If you feed your cat outside, feed them and then remove the food after 15 to 20 minutes. This will help prevent wildlife from coming to your yard in search of food.

Clear all debris piles during the winter months to prevent wildlife from using your yard as a nesting site. Make sure all boats, sheds, and trash cans are properly and securely closed and sealed. This will discourage wildlife from using these items to raise their young.

Wild baby bunnies are only visited twice a day by their mothers; this helps to keep predators away from the nest. If you find a nest of baby bunnies that look healthy, clean, and warm, please leave them be. If you are mowing your lawn, please keep an eye out for nests and avoid them!

Be extra vigilant when driving at night. Mother opossums are on the move and often get hit by cars. If you see an opossum that was hit by a car, please check the pouch for babies, but only if you can do so safely. If you find joeys in the pouch, please bring the mother’s body to us so that we can safely remove the joeys.

In urban environments and especially during baby season, it is not uncommon to see raccoons and foxes out during the day. They are typically in search of the extra food they need to feed their young.

Wildlife rehabilitators are here to help! If you have any questions about these or any other issues relating to wildlife, contact SFWC or another licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you. Remember, if an animal is not truly an orphan, being left with its parents is the best option. The animal has a better chance for survival, and wildlife rehabilitation centers can focus on the animals who truly need their expertise and care. | 15


The beloved Brown Pelican, one of our more popular patients, can live 25 to 30 years. They are social and gregarious birds congregating in large flocks comprised of males, females, juveniles, and adults along the Florida coast for much of the year. The Brown Pelican uses its pouch, swimming ability, and extremely keen eyesight to catch fish. The birds specialize in flying over the ocean (sometimes 100 feet high) to locate small fish. With their eyes on the target, the bird will effortlessly fold back its wings, dive deep into the water, and emerge with a mouthful of fish. Air sacs located beneath the pelican’s skin cushion the impact of the dive and help it to resurface. Brown Pelicans are the only species of pelican that hunt with such dramatic dives. According to Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, at least 500 pelicans in Florida are killed each year due to injuries sustained from entanglement in fishing gear, abandoned fishing lines, marine debris, and overhead wires. In 2021, SFWC admitted a record number of Brown Pelican patients from 76 in 2019 to 97 in 2020 to 163 in 2021. Many of the birds were injured due to interactions with humans. The most common reasons for admission include entrapment in fishing line, swallowing, or being injured by fishing hooks, physical trauma, vehicle collisions, strandings, and appearing weak/sick from botulism or other natural illnesses. To help reduce the prevalence of these injuries to pelicans and other wild animals, SFWC hosts outreach and education programs each year. These activities include annual beach clean-ups, public wildlife releases, and promoting advocacy for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP). MRRP is an innovative statewide project dedicated to reducing the environmental damage caused by discarded fishing lines. MRRP helps to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament lines and encourages recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations at popular fishing locations and beaches. Check out the different ways to prevent seabird entanglement here:

Wildlife Rehabilitator, Nick, has been doing rescues for SFWC for many years. Like this Brown Pelican who was found weak and sick in Fort Lauderdale. After being treated for botulism for 28 days, she was released back into the wild. | 17

STAY WILD! ADO Help support our Wildlife Education Ambassador Program by symbolically adopting one of our resident animals! Through the South Florida Wildlife Center’s Wildlife Education Ambassador Program, our resident animals help us provide education and advocacy for wild animals. The program’s non-releasable animals have unique stories that allow our Outreach and Community Services team to inform the public about the different species, conservation, respect, and appreciation of our South Florida wildlife. Your adoption of an ambassador animal helps to provide the best possible veterinary care, staffing, training, and husbandry, as well as habitat maintenance for our Wildlife Education Ambassador Animals. This is a symbolic adoption. The animal’s possession and responsibility do not pass to the adoptive parent. The animals will continue to reside at the South Florida Wildlife Center in compliance with U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations. Check out our STAY WILD! Adoption Program Candidates:


the Eastern Screech Owl


the Virginia Opossum

Brussel Sprout

the Virginia Opossum


the Gulf Coast Box Turtle


the Eastern Box Turtle


the Florida Kingsnake 18 | South Florida’s WildSide | Spring 2022

OPTION PROGRAM As a STAY WILD! Program sponsor, you, or your gift recipient, will receive a unique STAY WILD! Adoption Packet, including: • • • • •

An 8” x 10” photograph of your adopted animal A certificate of adoption A tax-exempt donation receipt letter A personal biography of your adopted animal and the natural history of their species An invitation to see your adopted animal at SFWC as well as notifications for when your selected animal will be at an event near you Thank you for your generous gift to SFWC's Wildlife Education Ambassador Program and for helping us inspire the community to let the local wildlife STAY WILD! | 19

OUTREACH & EDUCATION Join SFWC staff and learn about local wildlife and their adaptations that help them survive in this urban environment. Meet some of our Ambassador Animals at this FREE event and discover their personal stories and how you can help their species! Meet the team on any of the following days at 11:00AM at the Monarch Interpretive Center inside Secret Woods Nature Center located at 2701 W State Road 84, Fort Lauderdale 33312.




Saturday 7/9 Sunday 7/24

Saturday 8/13 Sunday 8/28

Saturday 9/10 Sunday 9/25




Saturday 10/8 Sunday 10/23

Saturday 11/12 Sunday 11/27

Saturday 12/3 Sunday 12/18

Meet the team on any of the following days at 11:00AM near the front office of Snyder Park, located at 3299 SW 4th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33315 (right across from SFWC). The event is free to attend but parking fees apply.




Sunday 7/10 Saturday 7/23

Sunday 8/14 Saturday 8/27

Sunday 9/11 Saturday 9/24




Sunday 10/9 Saturday 10/22

Sunday 11/13 Saturday 11/26

Sunday 12/4 Saturday 12/17

Check out for updates and more information!

FOLLOW US! Check us out on social media and share what we are up to. Join us for events and help us spread awareness about wildlife protection and species preservation.


Join our Wildlife Educators at SFWC for a private Wild Talk & Tour! Learn about what we do, the local wildlife of South Florida, and some of the challenges they face that ultimately lead them to our hospital. Meet some of our Animal Ambassadors and discover their personal stories and how you can learn to live with your wildlife neighbors. Please email us at to book your visit. | 21

WAYS YOU CAN HELP DONATE (LEARN MORE ON PAGE 26) SFWC receives no state or municipal funding. Make a onetime financial contribution online, by mail, or in person. STAY WILD! ADOPTIONS (LEARN MORE ON PAGE 18) Your support of this program helps to provide the best possible care for our Wildlife Education Ambassador Animals. VOLUNTEER (LEARN MORE ON PAGE 9) We have a variety of ways you can get involved at SFWC. MONTHLY GIFT Join the flock! Giving monthly is the most powerful way to create a lasting impact and make a difference in saving the wildlife of our urban jungle. EDUCATE & ADVOCATE (LEARN MORE ON PAGES 20-21) Join us at our Wild Talks whether at SFWC or at our scheduled park presentations! FOLLOW US (LEARN MORE ON PAGE 21) Stay updated on patient alerts, upcoming events, and features of the amazing work our staff and volunteers do. SHOP OUR ONLINE STORE Funds from our merchandise support our initiatives, and the proceeds from these sales go towards continuing our work in wildlife conservation. DONATE A VEHICLE Donate your car, truck, motorcycle, RV, or boat to SFWC. You may qualify for a tax deduction while supporting a cause that is near and dear to your heart! SUBSCRIBE Sign up to receive our emails and get monthly updates on what SFWC is doing and ways you can get involved! 22 | South Florida’s WildSide | Spring 2022

WISHLISTS (LEARN MORE ON PAGE 25) Caring for our patients requires a lot of time, love, money, and supplies. Donating wish list items helps us with the day-to-day care of these animals and supports our operational needs. ATTEND OUR EVENTS Whether it’s our Wildlife Photography Contest, Drink 4 The Locals charity events, or other fun activity, stop by and see what we are up to. DONATE YOUR YARD If you own property in the tri-county area we serve (Palm Beach, Broward, or MiamiDade) and would be willing to let us release wild animals on your land; we would love to hear from you! LEGACY GIFTS Leave a Legacy! Make a lasting impact on our environment and for wildlife with a planned gift. Your generous gift will help preserve Florida wildlife and conserve the environment for future generations by remembering SFWC in your estate plan. SPONSOR Join the growing group of individuals and corporate sponsors who support our mission of saving injured and orphaned wildlife. As a sponsor, you will receive invitations to our events, recognition on our website and Annual Report, positive media coverage, as well as enhance your visibility within the South Florida business and philanthropic community. BECOME A HOMECARE HERO (LEARN MORE ON PAGE 24) We’re looking for compassionate, committed individuals to help us hand-rear young mammals and birds from home! | 23

BECOME A HOMECARE HERO! Every Baby Season [March – October], we receive several hundred wildlife patients that require special care. Some of these babies need round-the-clock feeding that SFWC cannot provide due to operational hours and shortage of staff. Your assistance in providing much-needed care can make a positive difference for these young wildlife patients. Did you know you can volunteer to help animals without coming to South Florida Wildlife Center for regular shifts? If you live in the tri-county area, we’re looking for compassionate, committed individuals to help us hand-rear young mammals and birds from home! You’ll receive instruction and support from SFWC staff as you feed and care for orphaned infants in your home; then, you’ll bring the animals back to SFWC for final rehabilitation and release. Being a HomeCare Hero is often a 24/7 responsibility, and patients must be returned to our Wildlife Hospital for checkups every few days or as designated by the clinic staff. Please be sure you can commit the time and care for the sake of your fostering success and the health and survival of your patients. Please note that you must be able to commit to seven feedings a day over 24 hours for up to 2 weeks per litter of patients. As part of this program, a minimum of 3 training sessions for 1-2 hours each at SFWC are mandatory prior to taking any animals home. Eligible animals to foster are Virginia Opossums, Gray Squirrels, and various songbirds. Apply online at

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DONATE WISHLIST ITEMS Our Wishlists are filled with items that our staff uses in the wildlife hospital, rehabilitation areas, and for our Ambassador Animals every day. By purchasing these items, you are helping to provide the supplies needed to provide the best care for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. Items include habitat enrichment items, food, and medical supplies. Some items are inexpensive, so there is something to fit into anyone's budget!

Shop online at


Today, your gift will be doubled to help South Florida’s wildlife survive and thrive! For more than five decades, the South Florida Wildlife Center has served as a vital resource for the most vulnerable creatures that cohabitate with us in our communities. We are grateful for friends, like you, who continue to support our work. Your generosity helps to provide rescue, rehabilitation, and life-saving veterinary care for more than 9,000 animals each year. As urban development threatens natural wildlife habitats, the need to treat more and more patients, like the Brown Pelicans, grows. Simply put, we need your help — and today, you can make an immediate and dramatic contribution to our work. Thanks to The Batchelor Foundation’s incredible generosity, the South Florida Wildlife Center has been presented with The Batchelor Foundation Challenge 2022. Your gift at any level, will be matched 1:1 – up to $100,000 through the end of June. This means if you donate a $20 gift today, it will become $40, thanks to The Batchelor Foundation dollar for dollar match. We appreciate your support to help maximize this wonderful gift matching opportunity. Through the kindness and generosity of donors, like you, we can continue to provide critical help for injured and orphaned animals and educate our communities about peaceful human coexistence with wildlife and their vital role in our precious ecosystem.

Thank you to our generous grant partner for making this matching gift opportunity possible! 26 | South Florida’s WildSide | Spring 2022

Wildlife Rehabilitator, Joscelyn, is one of the newer members to join SFWC. Her passion and hard work bring strength to the rehab team and exemplify their amazing care to our patients. | 27

Sleep like a baby

squirrel, opossum, blue jay, pelican, hawk...

It’s baby season, they all need your help.


Learn more 954 524 4302 3200 SW 4th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315 Hours: 9:00AM - 5:00PM @SouthFloridaWildlifeCenter