Organizations: Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort
The baby owl, known as an owlet, kept hopping around in circles.
She had a cataract, which rendered her partially blind and unable to survive in the wild. The raptor found a home, though, at Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE), where staffers named her Gazer. She now serves as one of 26 animal ambassadors for the Lithonia nonprofit.
Naturalist Michael Ellis founded the organization in 1999, and the center accepted its first wildlife patients in 2006. He had been studying wildlife rehabilitation in the U.S. northwest before he relocated to Atlanta and saw an urgent need. At the time, there was only one small rehab center serving the area, despite the fact that Metro Atlanta is one of the most densely forested urban areas in the country.
“There are organizations that target one specific animal,” says Executive Director Scott Lange. “We’re the only one that serves all species native to Georgia.”
With a staff of six and an army of 100 volunteers, AWARE’s mission is twofold. It rescues and rehabilitates injured animals, while educating schoolchildren and church groups about “peaceful coexistence” with wild animals. Every year, the organization treats at least 1,500 animals. Some are able to return to the wild, but others are not.
No creature that can survive is turned away. Snakes, otters, skunks, Canada geese and bald eagles all get their due. The most common patients? Orphaned baby possums.
The center offers free tours at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.