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Christmas Eve 2008 brought an unusual visitor to the facility. This big guy had appropriated an "L" joint piece of PVC for his home. It seems a little awkward for him and so a trip to the shell store was in order to find more suitable accommodations for a land hermit crab. Once abundant throughout the Florida Keys, their numbers have significantly diminished. Obviously, housing for them is limited as more and more shells are collected leaving them homeless.
Most often the sea turtles that come into rehab are found by fishermen entangled in fishing line, or injured by boats. When we get a turtle call, we rescue, stabilize, and then transport to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida. There the sea turtle receives specialized treatment with the latest technology by experienced turtle rehabbers.
Late one afternoon I was called about some hatchling sea turtles by a storm drain in a parking lot. These hatchlings were actually crossing the highway going to a spotlight on a business. We discovered that many were already smashed on the road. We called our very supportive sheriff's office who sent two squad cars to help divert traffic and help with the round up. Soon tourists pulled over to help and a boy scout troup as well. We scoured the area thoroughly with the help of the deputies, now four, the Turtle Hospital, boy scouts, tourists, and locals. Nearly 30 babies were saved. Sadly, many more died right there on the road.
Hurricane Wilma was partially responsible for the problem the hatchling turtles had with the light. Prior to Wilma, the vegetation shielded the light on the building from the beach, but hurricane Wilma destroyed much of the underbrush and treetops that the light was exposed. So, instead of going towards the moon and the ocean, they went to the highway. All of the rescued babies were released.
We don't generally have many bat rescues throughout the year, but there are always a few. Most of the bat rescues involve Mexican Freetail bats and usually they are found in pools. They probably fell in trying to drink the fresh water, or trying to catch a bug. Losing just one of these precious animals is tragic because they serve such a valuable purpose here. Without bats keeping the insect population under control, the mosquito population would be awful. Bats eat millions of bugs every night, not to mention that some even pollinate flowers.
Many years ago a bat tower was built in the Keys to try and attract bats. Unfortunately, the bats didn't care for the tower and have continued to live elsewhere.
Snake calls are usually due to a rat snake inadvertently getting himself into a house or other area inhabited by people. These guys are rounded up and released in a more appropriate wild area. Occasionally, we get a snake that has had a close encounter with a cat. Since cat bites contain very bad bacteria, the snake has to be treated with medications to prevent infections. Sometimes, however, we get a call about a BIG snake. For those "pets gone wild" by expert team of wranglers head out for the capture. These large 6, 8, 10 foot snakes are captured and turned over to professional snake rehabbers or collectors. These snakes are usually boas. Since there are no natural predators in the Keys, they grow fairly rapidly and attain long lengths. These non native snakes should NEVER be released into the wild.
Over the years, we have had the extraordinary experience of receiving several coral snakes. They are extremely poisonous, but they are also very mellow. They certainly are small compared to the other snakes that are found here. They are very beautiful as well. The coral snakes are returned to an unpopulated area for release. Well away from human populations.