Pensacola Wildlife Sanctuary in Northwest Florida rehabilitates eagles


When someone is injured or abandoned, they receive treatment from a licensed health care provider or caregiver. But injured and abandoned wild animals in similar situations often suffer and die without assistance.

This is where Dorothy Kaufmann and The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida come in, giving at-risk wildlife a second chance. For 39 years, the Sanctuary, nestled on North S Street west of Pensacola, has been a quiet and constant refuge for local animals in need.

“The sanctuary receives 3,000 to 4,000 animals each year and is one of eight in the state of Florida known for eagle rehabilitation. Our community, board of directors, staff and volunteers come together to create the perfect place to give wildlife a second chance, ”said Kaufmann.

Dorothy Kaufmann, director of the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida, with Iris, a rescued great horned owl.

For a suggested donation of $ 3, clients are invited to explore the center between noon and 3:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. They might just see deer, bobcats, baby flying squirrels, and even bears. Birds, from hummingbirds to a variety of owls to eagles, also all take a breather at the center.

The shrine grows and prospers

“The Sanctuary was quite small at first, but now, 39 years later, we continue to grow. We are a well-known non-profit wildlife sanctuary and hospital, open seven days a week for injured and orphaned wildlife, ”said Kaufmann, who turns 25 as head of the agency.

While working for a dentist in 1994, Kaufmann volunteered to help when a fire devastated the sanctuary.

“I was addicted,” she recalls. “I then took on the role of leader in 1995 and since then I have been fascinated. I felt incredibly lucky to have landed here at the Wildlife Sanctuary.

His fond memories are too numerous to count.

“A few years ago we had the opportunity to help two baby cubs who had been separated from their mothers,” Kaufmann said. “OK, all I can say is wow – what a responsibility. The same excitement occurs when we have baby bald eagles – “eaglets”. It is a huge responsibility; it makes you nervous but also makes you smile from ear to ear whenever you see them.

The rescue includes a number of pelicans which can be spotted in the pond.

Like all good parents, the goal of the Wildlife Sanctuary family is to foster independence.

“We love all the hundreds of babies that come every year, but we also have such a sense of pride when something once hurt is able to return to nature. Your heart swells and that big smile begins again. This is what keeps us going, ”said Kaufmann.

But the proud moments aren’t just with animals.

“I like to look around at the open days and see who is still involved and helping here. Here we will have 15-20 former staff and volunteers who still believe in our mission and want to help. It’s like a family reunion and some of our supporters have been with us for over 20 years. It gives me a big hug that we always work together for animals. ”

It takes a village to raise wild animals

It turns out that it takes a village to run a successful animal rehabilitation center.

“This is not a one-man or one-woman show or an operation,” Kaufmann explained. “Our success is the team that is created by everyone, from the individual who rescues the animal to the staff or volunteer who does a diet that encourages him to eat, or the staff member who works with him every day. after day trying to see that he lives and thrives in his temporary habitat.

The Northwest Florida Wildlife Sanctuary is one of eight sanctuaries in the state known for eagle rehabilitation.

It is clear that Kaufmann’s work is much more than a job. She often brings animals, which she calls her children, home with her for extra doses of care. She enjoys cooking, bird watching, gardening and relaxing outdoors. And its families of biological and wildlife sanctuaries intertwine.

“I was born and raised here in Pensacola with a big, loving family. Imagine the gatherings when you mix a very southerly group with a very Italian group. Yes, that means we love to get together to cook, eat and laugh. I know I’m lucky because besides having a lot of loving parents, I also have this large family of wild animals.

And like any family, the Wildlife Clan loves and endures the ups and downs of living together. Currently, they are renovating and repairing the sanctuary’s facilities following the flooding caused by Hurricane Sally.

“We go through good times and bad, go and come back and face another day together,” Kaufmann reflected.

The Northwest Florida Wildlife Sanctuary is open to visitors from noon to 3:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

One thing is certain: they always unite around their common mission: to breathe new life into injured and abandoned wild animals of Northwest Florida.

“We are the voices of animals,” she said. “We are their moms and dads trying to do all we can for them.”

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