Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary’s Mission is Rescue and Rehabilitation
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Wildlife rehabilitator Noni Beck bottle-feeds a baby raccoon left behind by its mother.
Noni Beck sits in her car, waiting. It’s dark, but her eyes stay focused on three baby raccoons left behind by their mother hours earlier, when a downed tree disturbed their nest.
Under the cover of darkness, the mother raccoon gingerly approaches her young. She gently picks up one and carries it away. Then she cautiously creeps back for a second baby. Minutes pass. Beck waits for an hour in hopes that mama will come back a third time. No luck.
“Unfortunately, that’s kinda normal,” says Beck, the wildlife rehabilitator at Tallahassee’s Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, which was founded in 1988 by a small group of environmentalists and wildlife advocates. “When we brought this baby in, she had a broken leg from when she was little. It was healed, but it was crooked. That may be why she didn’t get picked up. Maybe mama was just making sure that somebody survived.”
As she talks, Beck cradles the three-week-old that is hungrily sucking on a bottle filled with a special formula for raccoons. She stands next to a cage holding a four-and-a-half month old raccoon that is busily pawing her to get attention. Songbirds chirp in nearby cages. A black bird decides to take a bath and water sprays in all directions. And a week-old baby deer, found lying in the middle of a dirt road, shakily gets to her feet and starts on her inspection tour of the room.
“We get a little bit of everything,” Beck says with a laugh as the fawn nuzzles a purse sitting on the floor.
Squirrels, raccoons and songbirds always fill the sanctuary. Other animals come in spurts. One year there were 12 baby foxes to care for. Another year there were 14 fawns. A few types of animals come just for emergency treatment before they are shipped to another rescue group.
“We don’t do otters because we don’t have the caging for them. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to triage a baby otter that comes, get him stable and then transport him to someone else,” Beck explains. “We can do baby bobcats, but then I need to transport them to a bigger facility. We’ve had several bobcats. People just come across them.”
A lot of animals arrive severely dehydrated and in shock. They’re put in crates with heating pads, given fluids and put in a dark, quiet place to begin their recovery.
Injured birds stay for up to six months, giving them time to heal and then time to spend in a flight cage to rebuild their strength. Raccoons stay until they’re about eight months old, a time when Beck says they naturally seem to “get smart — they hear a noise and go into hiding.”
Goose Creek tries to release adults back into the area where they were found, particularly birds of prey that mate for long periods and Canada Geese, which mate for life.