Wildlife, Inc., in beautiful Bradenton Beach, serves as home to an array of animals; African Spurred tortoises, otter pups, owlets, skunks, baby raccoons, injured falcons, and hawks.
Their mission statement is Rescue-Care-Release-Educate. Chatting with Ed and Gail Straight of Wildlife, Inc, it’s easy to see how their love of animals drove their humble hobby into a sizable volunteer-run not-for-profit 501c3 education and animal rehabilitation center. The dedicated couple has been caring for over 3,000 sick, injured, or orphaned birds, mammals, and reptiles in Manatee and Sarasota County since 1988, offering animals an opportunity to recover for release into their natural habitat.
Ed and Gail Straight view their work as a labor of love and put in countless hours caring for the animals at the Wildlife Center; actively monitoring, evaluating, feeding, medicating, and rehabilitating. “I have always been an animal lover, even as a little kid, I loved frogs, dogs, pretty much all animals,” says Gail Straight. Ed explains that in the unfortunate event of an animal never gaining the capacity for release, they house the animals on their premises and include them whenever possible into their educational outreach presentations.
Ed and Gail are realistic in the art of animal rehabilitation and are well aware of the risks of “human-imprinting” and avoid it at all costs. Imprinting is a type of psychobiological learning first discovered by Douglas Spalding, a biologist, while working with chicks. Human-imprinting occurs when a young animal begins to identify with humans rather than their species, compromising reentry into the animal’s natural habitat because it lacks necessary survival behaviors rendering them easy prey for predators. I learn that birds that have been human-imprinted may never be suitable for a successful release because of their bond to humans.
Indoors I meet two adorable otter pups rolling around playfully without a care in the world. Officer Devon Straight, Ed and Gail’s grandson, enjoys being around the animals and confidently feeds the otter pups. Ed explains that when the otters are older, they will be ‘soft released,’ which entails caring for them at the release site. This facet of ‘soft release’ is a particularly important component for hand-reared animals as they slowly acquire the necessary survival skills to live in their natural habitat. Beverly Hill, a volunteer, tenderly cradles a baby raccoon, known as a kit, in her arms as she bottle-feeds a unique formula intended for these infant mammals. “Volunteering is a highlight of my week. I especially love seeing animals returned to their natural habitat,” says Beverly, “I don’t feel complete if I haven’t been here.”
Several owls call Wildlife, Inc. home due to their permanent injuries. Last year Wildlife, Inc successfully rehabilitated and released thirty owlets and twenty red-shouldered hawk chicks. During Springtime, considered bird season, Wildlife, Inc gears up for an influx of songbirds, blue jays, and shorebird chicks that they will professionally care for until their release. Wildlife, Inc. is proud of the number of animals they have cared for and released back into the wild, however, since they receive no state or federal funding, their work is entirely reliant on donors’ generosity.
To make a charitable donation, please click. Wildlife Inc FB here.
“True Compassion is showing Kindness towards animals, without expecting anything in return.” – Paul Oxton
Photos from Colin Reisner