From the Director:
In 2009, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Following surgery and recovery, a baby deer wandered into our yard. I wanted to raise it so I reached out to a rehabber in Orange Park and asked if I could work under her permit. I worked under her for approximately 2 years before obtaining my own permit. I had been working with deer, raccoons, bobcats, hundreds of squirrels and once I had my own permit, I realized that non-release animals had virtually nowhere to go. After discussing it with a friend of mine at work, Don Musser, we decided to form The Ark Wildlife Care and Sanctuary Inc. Our goal was to give non-release animals a place to live out the best life possible in captivity. Many zoos and rehab facilities will not take animals that are impaired or come out of the wild for fear of spreading viruses and diseases to the existing animals they have. Our facility has grown since we established it in the spring of 2014 to our current number of over 118 animals in permanent residency. We have animals that are physically or neurologically impaired, blind and imprinted. Our number one goal as a rehabilitation facility is to get the animals back in the wild where they belong but while this is not feasible in every case, we settle for giving those deemed non-releasable the best life possible in captivity
What We Do
We provide care, treatment, and shelter to orphaned, surrendered and/or injured wildlife and provide a permanent haven for animals which cannot be returned to their native habitat. The ultimate goal is the humane rescue and rehabilitation of said wildlife and their release back into their native surroundings.
We are not nuisance control or animal trappers and therefore do not trap or remove wildlife under most circumstances.
Our day typically begins around 5 a.m. with the care and feeding of our guests. Food has to be prepared as there aren't many manufactured wildlife foods. Throughout the day there are cages to build or clean, feeders and waterers to be washed and sanitized and repairs done. Oh yes, and during the day, babies to feed. Late afternoon, starts the 5 a.m. routine all over. When baby season is here these feedings can be as often as every two hours around the clock.
A call will come in from someone who has found a baby, injured, or trapped animal. One of our members will take the call and we respond accordingly. If the animal can be released the same day and was just trapped in someones attic or yard, then that is what we do after evaluating and checking for any injuries. The least interaction with humans the better due to stress imposed on the animal. Baby animals are brought to our establishment, triaged and if necessary isolated for any injuries, parasites, or illness. We have two veterinarians, Michael Payne at Full Circle Animal Hospital, and Alicia Emerson at Ravenwood Veterinary Clinic who work with us and are available to us around the clock. Animals receive the best care available. Once the little ones are able, they go in with a foster of the same species or others their age. A singleton has a tough life from day one if there are no others of their species here. Imagine yourself, in a world of animals, as a human child with no other human there, this is what they face. In these instances a stuffed animal or surrogate parent may be used from a similar species.
Animals in rehabilitation must be released after 180 days unless a medical neccesity dictates otherwise. Imprinted or impaired animals which come in, deemed unreleasable, must be evaluated by a second licensed rehabber, a vet, and a commission officer to establish the validation for them to remain here.
OtterSpace, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission closley monitors the health and well being of animals brought in to our rescue for treatment, rehabilitation, and long term care.
OtterSpace Wildlife (aka The Ark) is a wildlife rescue made up of local area citizens dedicated to saving animals (squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, deer, fox, bobcat, otters, etc.) whose lives are in jeopardy. Our animals are rescued from a variety of situations and are cared for both emotionally and physically by state licensed rehabilitators, veterinarians, and fosters.
We work specifically with injured and orphaned wild animals in need of care. OtterSpace's President, Jonathan Howard, is a Florida state licensed animal rehabber and he continually works with the Board of Directors, other rehabilitators, and local volunteers to ensure that all of the animals in our care are properly tended to.
We have a local veterinarian that provides medical treatment to the animals. Any medical needs that we encounter are covered.
OtterSpace is a federally registered and approved non-profit organization, 501(c) 3. The animals are cared for at a donated space. We are constantly inquiring about donated supplies to care for the animals (kennels, fencing, feeding apparatuses, medical supplies, etc.). Though OtterSpace depends on donated supplies and funding, we routinely have to purchase these supplies ourselves.
Aside from the actual caring of the animals, we diligently try to provide education, tips, and resources about wildlife to the community. People with expanded knowledge of wildlife tend to be more tolerant and compassionate to the animals. An understanding of why the armadillo is digging in my mulch (they love bugs!) or perhaps why the deer keep coming in my yard (your flowers are the best on the block!). What to do during an encounter with wildlife, and who to call for help and when to not intervene are all useful pieces of information. Many people misunderstand a small bunny in the wild, thinking it abandoned when in fact it is at an age to be free. Why the fawn found in the tall grass in a field is right where it should be, or may need some extra care. These types of questions are what we get quite often. Sharing our knowledge about wildlife is one of the greatest gifts we can give.