By: Gillian Birch
Thousands of visitors flock to Sanibel Island every year to enjoy the beaches and popular Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Less well-known, but equally important for local wildlife, is the island’s Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) which provides medical care and rehabilitation for rescued wildlife.
The History of CROW on Sanibel Island
Founded in 1968, CROW cares for over 4000 sick and injured wild animals every year thanks to the staff, volunteers, supporters and students that are involved in this nonprofit organization. CROW started from very humble beginnings when local resident, Shirley Walter, came across a royal tern that had been injured by a car. She nursed it back to health and, along with the help of veterinarian Dr Phyllis Douglass and a group of volunteers, that tern became the first of 500 distress calls they answered in that first year.
CROW inevitably outgrew Shirley’s home and moved to Captiva before relocating to their current site on Sanibel-Captiva Road. This 10-acre site enabled CROW to build an educational pavilion in 1992 and commence a veterinary internship program for students in 1996. Despite setbacks by Hurricane Charley, CROW now boasts a 4,800-square-foot hospital for its wildlife residents and a further Healing Wings Visitor Center for students and visitors.
More recently, CROW has developed sea turtle facilities to educate the public and help conserve rare and endangered species of turtles that regularly crawl ashore on Sanibel’s beaches to lay their eggs.
What to See on a Visit to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at CROW
As well as providing a much-needed sanctuary for sick, injured and orphaned animals and birds, CROW provides a fascinating and informative visitor attraction. The excellent educational facilities provide space and amenities for many interesting displays and exhibits.
Visitors can watch live videos of the animals treated by CROW, see wildlife presentations and attend special events. Children will love the interactive exhibits and the chance to peep through the viewing window into the hospital surgery room.
See past medical records, diagnostic testing and treatment methods used at the center and learn more through the interactive Wildlife Species Touch Screen Profiles. You can even play at being the vet, try the Surgical Challenge Game and test your knowledge with the Taking Action Quiz.
How YOU can Support CROW
Donations and support, both financial and from volunteers giving their time, enable CROW to continue its vital work as a nonprofit organization. The low-cost admission by suggested donation makes this a very family-friendly place to visit. Open 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday, and Saturdays in winter, the admission includes Wonders of Wildlife (WOW) presentations daily at 11am and 2pm.
Individual and family memberships start from just $10 for students and $50 for two named adults. Not only will your membership provide much-needed funds for CROW’s wildlife rescue, care and rehabilitation efforts, it includes free unlimited admission to the Visitor Center for one year plus a newsletter, a number of single-use guest passes and discount in the gift shop.
Another way to support this worthwhile nonprofit is by dropping into the CROW Gift Store or shopping online for clothing, gifts, toys, jewelry and home accents. All profits go to support essential clinics and patient care for Sanibel’s’ wildlife which is certainly something to “CROW” about!