Busch Beautiful Beasts Sanctuary

Photograph by Mark Cook

Hannibal the Bald Eagle

In 2015, an Audubon EagleWatch volunteer was surveying a nest in Okeechobee County and came across an injured eagle. The eagle arrived at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, and the medical team discovered that it was covered in scabs and had damage to its eyes, with a huge growth under one. After tests, they found out that he had cancer (squamous cell carcinoma). He was only 6 weeks old. The doctors removed the growth, and luckily the cancer did not come back. Hannibal eventually lost one eye from the damage, but he is otherwise healthy and happy and lives in the house of the Avian Ambassador at the Sanctuary.

Tahmahlah the mountain lion

In 2015, after a series of wildfires in California, some people were on the hunt for dogs left behind when they came across Tahmahlah. They informed wildlife officials, who took him to a hospital in California where it was determined his eyes and paws were too damaged and he could no longer live in the wild. His paws were burned so badly in the fires that he lost all feeling. Word got out to find a safe new home for Tahmahlah, and Busch took him in. He’s about 5 years old, weighs around 122 pounds, and feasts on meat, chicken, fish, and even rats. Its habitat, which includes an indoor rest and eating area and an outdoor courtyard, is located next to Makaya, the Florida panther.

Freddy the alligator

Freddy came to Busch not long after it opened in the 1980s. A young boy had gone fishing with his father in Miami when he walked away and found an egg. Without telling his father, he brought it home and hatched it – prematurely. He was delighted to have a new baby “lizard”, which he kept in a shoebox under his bed. The following week, while the boy was at school, his mother was in her room cleaning up when she found the baby alligator. As the alligator was underdeveloped and hadn’t spent time with its mother learning the ropes of the alligator trade, Busch felt its not releasable and moved it to a permanent habitat at the sanctuary, where she is now an education ambassador and fills her belly with everything from fish and chicken to rats.

Mo the barred owl

In August 2020, a woman named Monique, who works for Harmony Animal Hospital, encountered an injured owl in Martin County that had clearly been hit by a car. She took him to Busch, where doctors had to remove his left eye because of the trauma. With one eye, Mo can no longer successfully hunt in the wild, so he stays at the Sanctuary, where he is the Education Ambassador and lives in the Avian Ambassador House. Barred owls get their name from the striped feather patterns found on their chest. Mo was named after his savior, Monique.

Buckshot the Crested Caracara

Buckshot arrived in Busch in November 2018, after his rescuer found him in Martin County. He had been illegally shot with a BB gun, and the pellets shattered his wrist. Now an education ambassador, he resides in the avian ambassador meowing with others. Known as the “Mexican eagle,” caracaras are actually part of the falcon family and are scavengers.

Scar the rat snake

Scar was found in Jupiter in 2015, all tangled up in a football net. The net was wrapped so tightly around his body that he ended up with permanent scars (hence the name). In Busch, he lives in the sanctuary serpentarium, which is home to around 12 different species of snakes, each in its own space. Rat snakes are not poisonous and are often kept as pets. Farmers have given them the nickname “corn snake” because of the checkered pattern on their stomachs that resembles an ear of corn.

Earl the flying squirrel

Little Earl, for reasons unknown, has been kept as a pet by an elderly woman for years. When the woman eventually moved into a nursing home, Earl was alone and arrived at Busch. The staff noticed that he was happiest with people when he was in the hospital, so that’s where he lives full time at the shrine today. It is small, about the size of the palm of your hand, and very adorable! Flying squirrels “glide” from tree to tree with a parachute-like membrane (called “patagia”) and nibble on mushrooms, nuts, berries, seeds and even small birds.

Makaya the Florida Panther

Before moving to the shrine, Makaya spent her life being trotted across Ohio by humans who sold photo ops with the then-cub. In 2009, someone attempted to smuggle her into Florida to sell her on the black market, but authorities discoverederred and confiscated at Palm Beach International Airport. Makaya, 11, and 88 pounds, now lives full time in Busch, in a habitat right next to Tahmahlah, the mountain lion. Like Tahmahlah, she also eats meat and fish, although she is allergic to chicken! Recognized as the official animal of the State of Florida, the panther is one of the most endangered mammals on Earth, with only 120 to 130 estimated in the wild.

Tehya the black bear

Tehya shares a home in Busch with her sister, Kiona, two cuties with a very unhappy history. In 2008, their mother repeatedly made her way through the urban neighborhoods of Apopka, prompting the state to view her as a security risk and, sadly, to euthanize the poor mother bear. Tehya and Kiona were cubs at the time, and the state feared that they too would become a threat to humans, having learned habits from their mothers. They didn’t want the cubs to stay in the wild, but luckily local organizations came to the rescue. The Palm Beach Zoo hosted them temporarily while Busch began building a permanent habitat for the sisters. In 2010, they moved into their new digs, which include an indoor facility with two bedrooms and a kitchen, as well as a 2,500 square foot day yard with a pool and lounging platforms (that’s where you will usually find them!).

Whitetail deer nubs

It is almost impossible to approach a deer in the woods – they usually flee from humans. Not the case with Nubs! He’s gentle, caring, and friendly to people because he was actually kept as a pet (in a garage) when he was a baby. Busch staff say this often happens when someone finds a fawn sleeping under a ground cover or bush, assumes its mother has abandoned it and brings it home. The reality is that a mother doe hides her babies under camouflage during the day to keep them safe while she goes to look for food. Luckily, a neighbor who spied on Nubs in the garage called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and officers confiscated the deer. Nubs now lives at the sanctuary with his deer buddies, Daffodil and Moose.

Stu the Piping Duck

In the five years he lived in Busch, Stu became something of an official host, camping just outside of Discovery Center and “whistling” at passers-by. He’s a hell of a charmer! While a baby, Stu was found by a woman who raised him in her house. When he became a teenager, the woman took him to Busch, where he was placed with another wigeon and a pair of spotted ducks. Stu seemed to get along well with the others, and Busch released them as a group to a private farm with a pond. Almost immediately, the spotted ducks flew away, leaving behind Stu and his whistling buddy. About a week later, Stu showed up solo at a nearby garage sale. The owner posted a “found pet duck” on social media and Busch admitted it was Stu. But when they arrived to collect it, the woman had already given it to someone else. The next day, a Sunday, Stu visited a local church. Someone called Busch to tell him that a duck was trying to get into the morning services. This time the team successfully retrieved him and decided that Stu would live better at the shrine. It lives alone in a lovely songbird habitat with an artificial pond, several raised twigs and platforms to sit on, a swing, and even a mirror to look at itself.

The heart that is in Desert

Visitors to the sanctuary come to admire all the animals that strut around their enclosures. But few people see what is going on behind the scenes, especially in the hospital there. The organization’s mission is to rehabilitate injured wildlife and release recovered patients to their natural habitat, something they have done hundreds of times in the past year alone. It is only when an animal cannot recover enough to survive in the wild that it becomes a permanent resident of the sanctuary, where it can become an “animal ambassador” serving in Busch’s many educational programs. The hospital has full-time doctors, seasonal nurserymen and volunteers, who treat every animal that comes through the door. In the past year alone, the hospital treated nearly 6,000 animal injuries, most of which were directly related to man-made causes, such as being hit by a car, being illegally shot or being kept. as a pet. Howling owls were left orphaned when their “household tree” was cut down by landscapers. A snapping turtle was hit by a car – carrying 23 eggs. Opossum babies have arrived, orphaned after their mothers were strangled by a soda can ring. There are countless sad stories. The most common species that people brought to hospital last year were the opossum and cottontail rabbit, but staff have treated all manner of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. If you find a sick or injured animal, please call the hospital emergency line for assistance: 561.575.3399.


For the first time in the region’s nearly 40-year history, the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is preparing to hit the road. The organization has purchased new land at Jupiter Farms, on the southwest corner of Rocky Pines and Indianown Road, where it will build a brand new campus for its resident animals, education center, hospital, and more. . “As we see between 8 and 10 byWith 100% increase in animal patients every year, we realize we need to grow, ”said CEO Amy Kight. “The sanctuary is currently built on approximately 6 acres, and our new the site is just over 19 acres, allowing us to triple our size. For years Busch has praised its owned by the Loxahatchee River District, but this agreement is about to expire. Kight says the goal is for the new facility to be completed and ready to move in from here March 2022: “Our construction will also include larger habitats for our permanent animal ambassadors. as more space and enclosures to prepare our wildlife patients for a successful reintroduction into their natural ecosystems. Busch is launching a fundraising campaign to help raise money for Construction, a $ 13 million project. You can find out more about the plans and donate to the campaign by visiting.

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