Located 18 miles south of Birmingham, Alabama and a 45 minute drive from my home, is Oak Mountain State Park, an outdoor enthusiast’s 9,940 acre dream that also houses the Alabama Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (AWC); an education and wildlife rehabilitation clinic.
What began as a backyard passion in 1977 has grown into the oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation clinic in Alabama whose mission is to provide rehabilitation services to injured native birds, mammals and reptiles in order to return them to the wild. Those that cannot be physically rehabilitated to survive in the wild are housed and pampered by the staff at the Center and used in its educational programs. I was fortunate to have met two of the birds of prey recently at an educational session. These two residents were unable to be returned to the wild due to permanent injury.
The red-tailed hawk was injured by an automobile causing brain injury; impeding his natural survival skills in the wild and a falcon who had suffered injuries to his feet and talons; hindering his ability to hunt prey.
The Center’s resident birds can be viewed from the Tree Top Nature Trail, an elevated boardwalk winding through a secluded woodland valley. Adjacent to the Wildlife Center is the Oak Mountain Interpretive Center, a 2,500 square foot interactive exhibit space, meeting room, and teaching laboratory. The Center is a leader in the rehabilitation of wild birds, and some of the methods developed here are now used in rehab facilities all over the world. Hallmarks are rehabilitation excellence and innovation in reuniting baby birds with their families. They also engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting Alabama’s native wildlife.
The Alabama Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization supported by approximately 1,000 dues-paying members as well as individual donors, local businesses, and several foundations. The Center operates almost entirely through volunteer efforts with roughly 300 volunteers from all walks of life and more than 1,400 bird enthusiasts of all ages who find the Center on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ to follow the touching and inspiring stories of new patient rescues, reunites, and releases. Volunteer efforts include services from statewide transport of injured birds and mammals to groundskeeping and animal care.
The Center also staffs a Wildlife Help line with trained specialists who provide free advice and information on how to deal with all kinds of wildlife problems and emergencies. They receive almost 4,000 calls annually from all over Alabama. The Line has been in continuous operation since 1982, and has served more than 100,000 people!
We applaud the efforts of the Alabama Wildlife Center as its staff, members and volunteers work to preserve our natural heritage and make Alabama a better place for wildlife.
Photos courtesy of AWC – AlabamaWildlifeCenter.org