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Helping Native Florida Animals Heal Before Release at Florida's Wildlife Hospital & Sanctuary Inc.

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

This Melbourne hospital is open every day and sees 5,000 patients a year. Not your average hospital, its patients are owls, seagulls, tortoises, bats and opossums. The hospital is the Florida Wildlife Hospital & Sanctuary Inc. and their mission is to "aid injured, sick and orphaned native Florida wildlife and migratory birds and return them to their place in the ecosystem."

A nonprofit wildlife hospital, this facility has many animal encounters. Time of year effects the type of patients seen. Executive Director Tracy Frampton tells us, "Seabird season (seagulls, terns, gannets) is winding down, but baby mammal season, with squirrels, opossums, raccoons is picking up. Baby songbird season will be picking up in the next few weeks." Interesting cases are documented in the newsletter sent out to Hospital members.

There is no veterinarian on staff, but there is a consulting staff veterinarian that assists as needed. "We offer supportive care, wound care, and foster parental care," details Frampton. Indoor housing is provided for those especially in need. Frampton continues, "As they improve, we move them outside as soon as possible. It's better for them and makes room indoors for the next round of patients."

As a nonprofit, raising funds to support the organization is important. Aside from yearly membership dues, money for operating expenses, supplies and other needs is brought in through donations, proceeds to their new online product store, grants and events. You can also help by donating items from their wish list- items such items as distilled water, unflavored Pedialyte (or generic equivalent) and bananas. You may also volunteer, sponsor an educational classroom or public group program or go to a fundraising event.

Wildlife Legacy program covers Hospital educational programs. "We get a steady flow of requests for our learning programs with titles that include Florida Friends, Basically Bats, All About Owls and Gopher Tortoise: Burrowing Buddies," states Frampton. Customized programs are also possible.

Volunteers are a valuable asset to the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary team, usually beginning with cleaning chores. "Depending on skills, interest and reliability, a volunteer may move to direct animal care," says Frampton. "Other skills needed are IT knowledge, grant writing, photography and videography, customer service, social media marketing and fundraising."

Summer internships are a good way to learn about taking care of wild animals in the field. The Hospital offers three summer internships for those at least 18 years of age and in a related college program, such as biology or ornithology. What a great way to obtain some on-the-job training while supporting Florida wildlife and the Hospital that treats them.

The hospital keeps an updated wish list on their website (www.floridawildlifehospital.org) and posts occasional urgent needs on their Facebook page. Donation, volunteering and wildlife information is all available on their website as well. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter that comes out quarterly!

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