Alaqua Animal Refuge announces opening of new Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
FREEPORT — Alaqua Animal Refuge announced the opening of its new Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, located on five acres within their original Whitfield Road property in Freeport.
The Alaqua Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is a state and federally permitted facility, providing a much-needed resource of rehabilitating sick, injured, and orphaned native wildlife. Alaqua anticipates most animals will come from Walton, Okaloosa, and Bay counties. However, there are eight counties surrounding Alaqua’s facilities with no physical rehabilitation center.
As Alaqua is preparing to move to their new refuge and sanctuary, the organization has repurposed many of the existing structures, concrete pads, and caging to fit 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 keep human interaction to a minimum to ensure the animals’ safety until they are ultimately ready to be released back into the wild.
As with all of its facilities and services, Alaqua operates solely on funds that are raised through private donations and fundraising. Currently, the non-profit organization does not receive any state or federal funding.
“Alaqua receives a dozen or more calls a week to help injured wildlife, and up until this point we have had to send them to another facility,” said Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood. “It is heart-wrenching to think there is an animal out there suffering. We believe that all animals deserve a second chance, and that includes our important wildlife.
"We are thrilled to finally be a resource for people in our community when they see injured wildlife, and we will also be able to educate them in the process," she added. "With the overdevelopment around our state and in other parts of our country, animals are losing their natural habitat.”
A highly experienced wildlife specialty team has been assembled with a combined 30 years’ experience working with wildlife in clinical settings. The facility includes a fully functional wildlife clinic with surgical suite, triage area, ICU for critical animals, a detached avian nursery, and a mammal nursery with rabies vector species quadrant to provide specialized care for orphaned babies in a contained environment.
Additional outdoor habitats including a brand-new flight cage have also been constructed on the wooded property to provide an environment free from common urban stressors. This will allow the rehabilitation process to happen in a setting that is closely similar to being back in nature.
The Alaqua Wildlife Rehabilitation Center welcomes animals of all types including shore birds, seabirds, birds of pretty, mammals, marsupials, and reptiles. The organization expects the new facility to fill up within a couple of weeks due to the increased need in the area. The estimated capacity is approximately 300 animals.
Animals may be dropped at the Alaqua Whitfield Campus, 914 Whitfield Road in Freeport, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. A volunteer team is also in the process of being assembled to rescue animals and bring them back to Alaqua. Individuals needing assistance can call the office at 850-880-6697 or the FWC Wildlife Hotline at 888-404-3922.