Water-Related News

Sanibel Island wildlife being threatened by deadly disease

By Katie Jones

LEE COUNTY – A "cold-blooded" killer is wiping out reptiles and other species in Southwest Florida. Officials with the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife, also known as CROW, said a deadly disease called Ranavirus is spreading and killing animals in our area.

"It causes intense internal bleeding or hemorrhage and so it causes death fairly quickly in fact there is no treatment or cure for this disease," Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron said.

CROW's hospital director Dr. Heather Barron said they've seen at least five cases of Ranavirus in the Sanibel, Captiva area this year alone. She's worried it could be spreading across the state.

"All of a sudden it will just explode and you can have up to 90 percent death or mortality in a small population at one time," Dr. Barron said.

Dr. Barron said right now, the disease remains a mystery mainly because most cases haven't been documented. Ranavirus attacks in reptiles, amphibians and fish. Once it strikes, Dr. Barron said chances of survival are very slim.

"It could be affecting animal health, human health and could be trying to tell us something about environmental health," Dr. Barron said.

Dr. Barron said the virus doesn't directly affect humans but there is cause for concern. She said Ranavirus is responsible for a global decline in many species and could bring a big blow to the local economy.

"It can go in and wipe out large numbers of fish and that can really have an economic impact on people throughout the world," Dr. Barron said.

If you think you've found an animal with Ranavirus, call the CROW hotline at 239-472-3644.