Three common loons and a gopher tortoise were among the 39 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions included a snowy egret, a burrowing owl and an evening bat. We also released 21 animals back to their "homes."
Common loons are migratory birds from various northern states and winter along our coast. Loons normally only come ashore to nest, so if one beaches itself it is a good indication of distress. One common cause is starvation. Oftentimes these birds are exhausted after migration, and they may have a hard time finding food once they arrive in our area and continue to lose the strength required to forage. Weak and emaciated loons will beach themselves in the sand once they are no longer strong enough to stay afloat.
Loons can be injured by motorboat propellers. Loons float atop the water and will dive as motorboats approach. Sadly, they don't always dive fast enough and can sustain deep lacerations when propellers cut into their body and legs.
Our first loon suffered injuries to its legs and back, but is responding well to treatment. Currently we are administering pain medication, antibiotics, electrolytes and a quality fish diet.
The loon spends the day floating in a specially designed "bath tub" in the water bird room at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The tub allows the loon to dive underwater if it chooses and has an overflow feature that preserves the waterproofing on the loon's feathers.