Deep in the woods, four miles northwest of Havana, sits a hospital and rehabilitation center on 35 secluded acres.
It seems like a strange, rather inaccessible area for patients to receive care. It is, however, perfect for the particular patients housed there.
These are the sick, injured or orphaned wildlife of Gadsden County and the facility is St. Francis Wildlife Association. Feathered, furred or scaled, these creatures are all given a second chance to be wild and free at St. Francis. The facility cares for more than 3,000 animals annually, the census fluctuating with the season.
Spring and summer and following big storms are the busiest times. On average there are 200-300 patients to treat, clean up after and provide meals for at any given time. Meal preparation proves to be even more challenging than it is for hospitalized humans, since special diets are not only required for certain diseases but each species’ dietary guidelines are different.
The director and rehabilitator at the facility is Teresa Stevenson. She says the facility relies heavily on volunteers to provide the best care possible for those entrusted to their care.
Some animals can’t be released back into the wild due to their particular malady. These animals become part of the St. Francis education program, under the direction of Education Director Sandy Beck. Beck takes these animals to schools and other events to teach about wildlife. One such animal is Teddy the squirrel, who has neurological problems. He has a huge cage, sleeps in a hammock and enjoys an occasional tummy rub from the director, which seems to send him into ecstasy.
St. Francis is celebrating its 40th year anniversary Nov. 1 at the Goodwood Carriage House. They will be selling tickets soon and are seeking sponsors. The association plans for it to be an exciting event with music, special guests and more.
Animals in need of care can be dropped off at St. Francis, 5580 Salem Road, or they can be taken to Allied Veterinary Emergency Hospital, 2324 Centerville Road, Tallahassee; or Northwood Animal Hospital, 1881-B N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tallahassee. St. Francis makes two trips a day to the veterinarian offices to pick up the animals.
We live in beautiful Gadsden County surrounded by native flora and fauna and we are so lucky to have St. Francis Wildlife Association in our midst taking care of the helpless creatures who make our environment so special.
By Judy Conlin
Photos courtesy St. Francis Wildlife Association