When we walked through the AWARE Wildlife Center, melodies of animal noises echoed like background music throughout the grounds. Chirps, coos and caws hummed amongst the trees abundant with native wildlife. And, one thing was certain: their enthusiasm for fauna is contagious. (We haven’t been able to stop daydreaming about having forest creature sidekicks since.)
One of the only centers in Georgia that specializes in rehabilitating all wildlife species, Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort– AWARE Wildlife Center gets injured and orphaned wildlife back on their paws, claws, and talons all while educating the local community about preserving our natural habitat and encouraging a peaceful coexistence with native critters of every sort.
We’d like to take this time to give a cordial introduction to some of the friends we made at AWARE. (Both human and non-human.)
Executive Director, Dr. Tarah Hadley and Assistant Director, Linda Potter along with their charming crew of animal lovin’ staff and volunteers work around the clock to rehabilitate injured animals and create a place where people can appreciate Georgia’s rich wildlife. Or, as Dr. Tarah would say, “Bring to light what we have in our own backyards.” Although the majority of the injured or orphaned animals are able to be rehabilitated & returned to the wild, a few have some severe injuries or have lost their fear of humans and cannot be released. These guys become Ambassador Animals and are used as educational tools for engaging the community. Here are some of the adorable critters that we can’t help but love.
KoKo the Hawk
This majestic bird of prey has the confidence we all dream of. He likes to sit tall, perched with his chest puffed out. And, even though he’s a hawk, which are native to Atlanta, we’re pretty sure he thinks he’s an eagle. KoKo was brought into AWARE after a good Samaritan found him lying on the side of the road. At the time, KoKo could barely even lift his head – he had gotten ahold of a rodent that has been poisoned and in turn, poisoned himself. His feathers fell out and he lost his ability to soar. Although he can only fly in short flaps around enclosure, his cool guy composure makes him a great tool for educational purposes. (Clearly, it’d take a lot to bruise KoKo’s pride.)
Marc Antony and Cleopatra
These two striped skunks are just so stinkin’ cute. Marc is a former pet who was surrendered to AWARE after his owners moved to Georgia (where it’s illegal to have skunks as pets). He’s been a wonderful Ambassador ever since. Second to that, he’s Cleo’s best friend. The two especially like to snuggle up together for skunk naps. Cleo’s story is a little different though. Since she never developed her normal skunk instincts, she can’t spray predators - a skunk’s number one defense mechanism – therefore, she cannot protect herself in the wild. But, not to worry, the folks at AWARE have taken good care of this friendly striped skunk and she’s one happy little critter spending her days with her BFF, Marc.
Owlscar the Grouch
Owlscar, as he’s so cleverly named, is a Great Horned Owl who has a drooping left wing and a chronic leg injury. Although he’s healed as best as possible, his injuries make him unable to fly back into the wild. And, well, he’s a little cranky about it (in a charming owly way of course). He’s an intelligent little hoot – it’s pretty hard to not pamper the li’l guy. (We’re pretty confident Owlscar would have his nose in the air about life, even out in the wild.)
Stevie Hawking is a red-shouldered hawk with a bit of a wonky eye. But that doesn’t keep him from being as sharp as ever. Even with neurological issues he sustained from being hit by a car and with his balance being a little off - he knows exactly what’s going on. He’s one intelligent bird with a lot of fight in him and his name couldn’t be more fitting.
Midas & Legs
His name is inspired by his species, Midas is a King Snake and a beautiful one at that. Beautiful, but fierce. (We watched him pounce on his lunch in a swift bound – it was awesome.) Midas was rescued by a person who was attempting to save him from his neighbors who were out to get the li’l guy. Before handing him over to AWARE, Midas’ rescuer kept him as a pet for two years – making him unaccustomed to life on his own outside of human care. In short, he’s not such a great hunter (although he’s learning). For now, he brings a lot of life to the main room of AWARE wildlife center.
Another snake of the center has an ironic name. Legs is a sweet little corn snake who was adopted in Alabama and couldn’t be kept as a pet in Georgia, again due to state laws. Legs is very happy being around people and, adorably, has has no idea what she’s doing outside. But, happily, she makes a great pet and her stunning and intricate designs are a sight to see when she coils around your arm.
Ellis D. Owl
Named after AWARE’s late founder and director, Michael D. Ellis, the two share larger-than-life personalities. Ellis is an Eastern Screech Owl and is non-releasable due his vision problems. Since this breed of bird rely so heavily on their vision to hunt, his eye injuries keep him from doing so. He may be a tiny li’l guy, but he’s certainly got a lot of pizzazz, and quite the powerful screech.
Stella Luna and Cessna
Although these flying squirrels are known to be more frisky come nightfall, they are still equally as adorable during the day. Notably, they are super silly and fun animals to be around. As nocturnal animals, their big eyes help them see at night and on their little bodies, make them just as cute as can be. These two make quite the pair are some quirky little critters to have around. Need we say more?
Cat Ballou and Savannah
These two bobcats have large, intricate enclosures because they are equally intricate animals. They stay separate since they tend to have clashing personalities (no cat fights please, ladies) but one thing they have in common - they both enjoy long cat naps in the shade. Ballou was found by a family who wanted to keep the large, frisky kitten as a pet. When they took her to the vet to be spayed and declawed, however, the vet let them know that keeping her as a pet was in fact illegal. She was then turned into AWARE as an Ambassador Animal. Savannah, named after the southern city, was also a pet but for much longer than Ballou. She was even sleeping in bed with the family of which she hailed, making her one sweet kitty who (even pushing 15 lbs) still probably thinks she’s a house cat.
Want to meet the gang yourself? Tours of AWARE Wildlife Center are conducted Saturdays and Sundays at 1p.m. Or, if you love these animals just as much as we do, donate directly here
Scoutmob Local Editorial Intern Brittany Maher is a self-proclaimed word nerd, coffee connoisseur and lover of all things comedy. Currently a senior at Kennesaw State University, Brittany is Editor-in-Chief of her university’s student run newspaper, The Sentinel. She has infinite knowledge of 90’s sitcoms and will almost always beat you in Scrabble.