About CROW

Our Mission: 

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a teaching hospital and visitor education center dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine.

CROW's Visitor Education Center (VEC) offers behind-the-scenes views into CROW's animal care through live camera feeds, interactive displays and daily presentations by students, staff and volunteers.

Each year, CROW cares for more than 5,000 wildlife patients including more than 200 species of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in its veterinary hospital, which is one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation facilities for native and migratory wildlife.

CROW offers educational fellowships and externship programs for undergraduate students, and internship programs for veterinarian graduates. 

Volunteers are the cornerstone of CROW and each year more than 200 volunteers dedicate thousands of hours helping rescue, care for and rehabilitate wildlife. 

What Sets CROW Apart

  • CROW accepts all native wildlife in need of care including migratory birds.

  • CROW employs a full-time veterinarian who is Board Certified in avian medicine and surgery with a number of years' experience working with wildlife and experienced wildlife rehabilitators.

  • CROW offers immediate on-site critical care such as pain management, surgery and radiography, while also providing for long-term rehabilitation.

  • CROW offers a student program unique in its scope, with opportunities for college-age or older students at all levels of learning -- including veterinary interns.

  • CROW has a high case-load with a rich variety of wildlife species not encountered at many other rehabilitation centers.

  • CROW has served the wildlife of Southwest Florida for almost 50 years. 



History of CROW

In 1968, shortly after the Sanibel Causeway was built, islander Shirley Walter found a Royal Tern which had been hit by a car on the causeway.  Finding no services available for injured wildlife, Shirley took the bird to her Sanibel home.   A small group of volunteers joined Walter, and CROW was born.  In the first year, 500 distress calls were answered.  From the beginning, the late Dr. Phyllis Douglass provided veterinary assistance.  Wildlife medicine was in its infancy in the 1960's so Shirley, the volunteers and Dr. Phyllis all learned together, with the network of rehabilitators around Florida.  

In 1972 CROW incorporated as a non-profit organization, receiving their 501 (c) (3) IRS exemption in 1973.  The name was Shirley’s idea – she wanted a bird’s name, a W for wildlife and she considered crows intelligent – the CROW acronym was born.

Forced to close down in 1976 by new city ordinances, CROW existed in name only for one year.  In 1977, the late Adelaide Cherbonnier offered her Captiva home as a temporary location until CROW was given 10 acres of the Sawbridge tract along Sanibel Captiva Road.  With a $35,000 mortgage to build its facility, CROW won city approval and the wildlife clinic became operational in 1981.

 An interview with CROW Founder, Shirley Walter

CROW founded and operated from Shirley Walter’s West Rocks Sanibel home.
Number of patients: No records
CROW incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) organization.
Number of patients: 241
City of Sanibel was incorporated.
Number of patients: 458
CROW closed at Shirley’s home; 88 different wildlife species were seen.
Number of patients: 181
CROW existed in name only and the search for a new location began.
Number of patients: 482
Moved to the Captiva home of Adelaide Cherbonnier.
Number of patients: 401  
Obtained 10 acres of Sawbridge family property on Sanibel Captiva Road.
Number of patients: 658
Raised funding and constructed the original clinic building with a third floor apartment and moved into the new location from Captiva.
Number of patients: 609
Staff housing opened with three rooms; two rehabilitators live on-site.
Number of patients: 688
VERT (Volunteer Emergency Rescue & Transport) program instituted.
Number of patients: 1,338
Hired first veterinarian; installed surgery room; X-ray machine, hand tanks for developing films; stainless steel cages in clinic; Student Extern program began.
Number of patients: 1,479
Original Robert E. Schneider Education Pavilion built; Daily educational programs began.
Number of patients: 1,614
Veterinary internship program began.
Number of patients: 2,251
Fellowship Student program began.
Number of patients: 2,720
“Commitment to Compassion” capital campaign begun; Hurricane Charley devastated Sanibel and Captiva; CROW student housing destroyed; added Associate Veterinarian position.
Number of patients: 3,416
Student program continued uninterrupted; Remote housing provided by friends of CROW.
Number of patients: 3,730
The George E. Batchelor Student Housing completed and occupied by students.
Number of patients: 3,700
Construction of the Visitor Education Center  and hospital began.  CROW treated 164 different species and a record number of patients.
Number of patients: 4,146
CROW celebrated its 40th anniversary with the opening of a new state-of-the-art veterinary hospital and the 4,800-square-foot Healing Winds Visitor Education Center. The Visitor Education Center (VEC) features innovative visitor displays, interactive exhibits, live patient videos, wildlife presentations and special events. Proceeds from an on-site gift store benefit patient care. CROW’s wildlife hospital includes diet preparation areas, a laundry room , reptile room, pediatric ward and surgery room with a viewing window.

In addition to treating more than 4,000 patients, CROW unveiled renovated sea turtle facilities and announced several new ventures to more effectively share news and success stories with supporters. In addition to introducing a new e-newsletter, the organization launched a new website that more fully highlights the range of educational programs and services offered. CROW also implemented wildlife partnerships to better educate the public about saving wildlife through compassion, care and education.

CROW began its Animal Ambassador program to provide an educational home for animals who are unable to be released into the wild. These animals are used during presentations and programs for an up close experience with wildlife.
Number of patients: 3,583
CROW received recognition and first place distinction from the EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Program. CROW won the award for its role in protecting and caring for wildlife native to the Gulf region and toward achieving and preserving healthy and resilient coasts in the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.
Number of patients: 3,392
Live cameras or "Critter Cams" in the hospital intake room and patient enclosures are upgraded. These cameras are viewed in the Visitor Education Center and live streamed on CROW's website.
Number of patients: 3,432
Initiated specialty programs including Wildlife WalksLunch & Learn, and a yearly Speaker Series
Number of patients: 3,646
Established an Endowment Fund for the purpose of providing a self-sustaining source of funding.
Number of patients: 3,960
Introduced live animal exhibits to the Visitor Education Center. These exhibits are designed to teach visitors about the impacts invasive species can have on our native and migratory wildlife.
Number of patients: 4,238
CROW celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a series of events including an open house, an off-island 'friend'raising event and a birthday celebration! During the year, southwest Florida saw unprecedented effects of a devastating red tide bloom. The hospital admitted a record number of sea turtles and red tide patients.
Number of patients: 4,763
One of the busiest year's ever for CROW that began with a new executive director. For the first time, over 5,000 patients were admitted to the wildlife hospital and the Visitor Education Center saw a record number of visitors in its tenth year of existence. The Animal Ambassadors moved into permanent enclosures built just for them!
Number of patients: 5,336