All polls indicate that besides the sun and the beaches, visitors and residents alike admire Florida’s tropical environment which includes wildlife and plants.
With twenty million residents, several million snowbirds, and over one hundred million visitors there is less and less habitat for Florida’s creatures to avoid mankind. Encounters with humans often lead to injuries and even death despite the best intentions of people. Florida’s big zoos and attractions like Sea World and Busch Gardens have nature rescue programs but I want to concentrate on some of the smaller, lesser known places.
Here is a look at some of Florida’s best animal and bird preservationists.
The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary at 18328 Gulf Boulevard on the Gulf of Mexico in Indian Shores is a rescue operation in itself. Lacking in sufficient funding the original Suncoast Seabiard Sanctuary (1971-2016) closed but was reopened with the help of bird-loving volunteers and specialists.
At one time this location was the “largest bird hospital in the world” while its rescues of over 3,000 wild birds each year are much less than the old facility, some 80% of the birds that survive 24 hours are rehabilitated and released. There are always residents in house and there are presentation and programs everyday for people to visit.
Down in Key West the brown pelicans and other island creatures have a big friend in the Key West Wildlife Center at 1801 White Street. Open 24 hours a day, the center’s hospital covers dozens of boating accidents with birds and wildlife.
Highly unusual, the Center also handles the island’s huge stray wild children population. I wonder if they have treated some of the ancestors of Hemingway’s multi-toed cats?
More than six hundred miles away south of Tallahassee is the Florida Wild Mammal Association surrounded by the dense pine forests in Crawfordsville. Open since 1994, the center will help any sick, injured, or orphaned creature.
In the Panhandle that could include deer, bobcats, and black bear.
Sanibel Island is a very conservation-oriented place with much of the bayside as part of the famous Ding Darling preserve. CROW or the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a ten acre complex complete with hospital and nature trail.
“I’m at CROW .. but I’m an owl!”
The island may seem rather urban but the raccoon and owl population often seems as note-worthy as the water birds.
The Treasure Coast Wildlife Center in Palm City has been open since 1974 and covers an area from Lake Okeechobee to urban Palm Beach County to Martin County.
On a typical day the Center may treat a barn owl, baby wrens, and a wounded bobcat. At least 10% of their cases involve endangered or rare species.
In Miami Sea World is famous for their treatment of manatees and dolphins, but the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station right there on the 79th Street Causeway is filled with brown pelicans and other seabirds usually caught in fish nets and lines.
The Station has serviced a monstrous 30,000 patients, with over 300 species of birds. It is a tourist attraction for nature lovers.
It is not unexpected that there is an active wildlife treatment center in Gainesville. The Florida Wildlife Care Center gets over 5,000 rescue calls each year. With I-75 nearby deer, foxes, opossums, and bears can be targets.
This article just touched a few bases, but if you are a Florida resident or snowbird look online for the nearest wildlife rescue place if you wish to donate or volunteer. These spots could be educational stops for tourists with families.