GOING GREEN ( and not just on March 17! ) by Karen Coney Coplin

On March 12, residents and visitors will gather along historic Third St. S. leading to 5th Ave. S. to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade, a beloved Naples tradition. Be prepared with bags for kids to pick up candy, chairs to relax for hours in the sun (or shade), and, perhaps, a thirst for green beer later in the day. Of course, most parade watchers will wear green, and lots of it, that day. as well as on the actual holiday. And, there is plenty of time to “go green” between those days and Earth Day coming up next month on April 22.

The Muppet Kermit the Frog famously sings “It’s not easy being green,” which may be true for a puppet amphibian. (His corollary quote is “Time’s fun when you’re catching flies!”) Fortunately, for his human fans, it is easy to tread more lightly on this earth which we share with so many others.

Recently, I encountered an unexpected and sad scene: a native gopher tortoise had been placed in a bathtub in a vacant home, possibly for as long as three weeks. I knew the Conservancy of Southwest Florida von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff would be able to help and I quickly brought the tortoise there after I conferred with staff by phone and sent photos of the animal as I found her.

Note: this is a protected species and a referral has been made to FWC. Joanna Fitzgerald, Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, shared some tips for all of us to keep in mind should we encounter an injured, sick or orphaned native animal. To be prepared to help in an unexpected or emergency situation, consider the following:

Rescue equipment:
Cardboard box with holes for ventilation, pet carrier or laundry basket.

Towels(3) – one for catching the animal, one on the bottom of the box and one to cover the box or basket

Protective eyeglasses (protection from birds with long necks and pointed beaks) and gloves (leather or gardening gloves).

Rescue – How To:
1. Never handle a wild animal bare handed. Use a towel and/or a pair of gloves to cover the entire animal, including the head.
Approach quietly.

2. Keep the head covered, the darkness will help calm the animal. Carefully pick up the animal and place it in a ventilated box or pet crate and bring it to the closest licensed wildlife facility. The two closest facilities In our area are the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples and CROW on Sanibel Island.

The Conservancy website also lists 14 ways to help prevent injury to wildlife. The first and perhaps most significant tip is to keep pet dogs and cats from attacking wildlife. These comprise a significant number of the injuries suffered by the 3,300 distressed wild animals which make their way to the Conservancy each year for treatment. Keep cats indoors; keep dogs on a leash and monitor their activities outdoors.

If you’d like to do more, consider becoming a volunteer animal caretaker with varied duties under hospital staff supervision. The
von Arx Wildlife Hospital also relies upon many “Critter Couriers” to help with rescue and to transport wildlife in distress for care.
Visit conservancy.org to see if you can be part of the team connecting the natural world with our everyday life in Naples. Call 239.262.2273 if you come across a wild animal in need of further help. It should be brought to 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, FL 34102, located off Goodlette Road south of Golden Gate Parkway.

St. Patrick’s Day was my late father’s birthday. I always said a special man deserved a special day! He was a conservationist before
it was cool. Some rules from “Cork” Coney: Lights off when you leave a room and no lights on if sunlight will do. Take shorter showers to save water and energy. Keep your freezer full. Run washer and dryer on full loads only. Repair not replace. This is one that I really miss. Things are no longer built to last but if he could salvage something, my dad would.

Happy birthday to all our readers who share this great birth date.

And thank you to all the readers who are willing to help creatures in distress, or find other assistance immediately if they can’t. When life in Naples is better for the many special creatures which inhabit it, it is better for all. Email Karen at NaplesKCC@gmail.com with comments or ideas for a future column.
Follow her adventures concerning life in Naples on Instagram @naplesbythenumbers

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