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

 
1968
CROW founded and operated from Shirley Walter’s West Rocks Sanibel home.
Number of patients: No records
 
1972
CROW incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) organization.
Number of patients: 241
 
1974
City of Sanibel was incorporated.
Number of patients: 458
 
1975
CROW closed at Shirley’s home; 88 different wildlife species were seen.
Number of patients: 181
 
1976
CROW existed in name only and the search for a new location began.
Number of patients: 482
 
1977
Moved to the Captiva home of Adelaide Cherbonnier.
Number of patients: 401  
 
1980
Obtained 10 acres of Sawbridge family property on Sanibel Captiva Road.
Number of patients: 658
 
1981
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
 
1982
Staff housing opened with three rooms; two rehabilitators live on-site.
Number of patients: 688
 
1985
VERT (Volunteer Emergency Rescue & Transport) program instituted.
Number of patients: 1,338
 
1987
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
 
1992
Original Robert E. Schneider Education Pavilion built; Daily educational programs began.
Number of patients: 1,614
 
1996
Veterinary internship program began.
Number of patients: 2,251
 
1998
Fellowship Student program began.
Number of patients: 2,720
 
2004
“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
 
2005
Student program continued uninterrupted; Remote housing provided by friends of CROW.
Number of patients: 3,730
 
2006
The George E. Batchelor Student Housing completed and occupied by students.
Number of patients: 3,700
 
2007
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
 
2009
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.
 
2010

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.

2013
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.