FREEPORT – Alaqua Animal Refuge has announced the opening of its new wildlife rehabilitation center, located on five acres at their original property on Whitfield Road in Freeport.
The Alaqua Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is a state and federal licensed facility providing an indispensable resource for the rehabilitation of sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife. Alaqua predicts that most of the animals will come from Walton, Okaloosa and Bay counties. However, there are eight counties surrounding the Alaqua facilities without a physical rehabilitation center.
As Alaqua prepares to move to its new refuge and sanctuary, the organization has reassigned many existing structures, concrete slabs and cages to meet a variety of wildlife needs. The facility will not be open to the public as it is important to rehabilitate in a quiet space and to minimize human interactions to ensure the safety of the animals until they are finally ready to be released into the wild. .
As with all of its facilities and services, Alaqua operates solely with funds raised through private donations and fundraisers. Currently, the nonprofit organization does not receive any state or federal funding.
“Alaqua gets a dozen or more calls a week to help injured wildlife, and so far we have had to send them to another facility,” said Laurie Hood, founder of Alaqua. “It’s heartbreaking to think that there is an animal in pain. We believe all animals deserve a second chance, and that includes our important wildlife.
“We are delighted to finally be a resource for people in our community when they see injured wildlife, and we will be able to educate them in the process as well,” she added. “With overdevelopment around our state and in other parts of our country, animals are losing their natural habitat.”
A highly experienced wildlife team has been assembled with a combined experience of 30 years working with wildlife in clinical settings. The facility includes a fully functional wildlife clinic with an operating theater, triage area, intensive care unit for critical animals, detached avian nursery and mammal nursery with a quadrant of rabies vector species. to provide specialized care for orphaned babies in a confined environment.
Additional outdoor habitats, including a brand new flight cage, have also been built on the wooded property to provide an environment free from common urban stressors. This will allow the rehabilitation process to take place in an environment that closely resembles that of returning to nature.
The Alaqua Wildlife Rehabilitation Center welcomes animals of all types, including shorebirds, seabirds, beauty birds, mammals, marsupials, and reptiles. The organization expects the new facility to fill up within a few weeks due to increased needs in the area. The estimated capacity is around 300 animals.
Animals can be dropped off at the Alaqua Whitfield Campus, 914 Whitfield Road in Freeport, 9 am to 4 pm, seven days a week. A team of volunteers is also being assembled to rescue the animals and bring them back to Alaqua. Those in need of assistance can call the office at 850-880-6697 or the FWC Wildlife Hotline at 888-404-3922.