My love for wildlife is reflected in the passion in which I started Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, but that is not where it began. Growing up in Pennsylvania, animals were always a part of my life. My grandfather and father instilled the love for all animals as a young girl and my mother, while supporting my enthusiasm, tried to keep me from bringing them all home. I knew then I wanted a career working with animals.
Moving to the Sunshine State to attend the University of Florida, I found my first love: whales and dolphins. This lead me to major in marine mammals and after graduating in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology, I had my chance. A job interview with Sea World in San Diego, California, but something inside kept me from going. I had found my second true love, my now husband.
That did not end my story as I took a position with Busch Gardens, Tampa, as Lead Zoologist where I worked with over 350 different species, everything from birds to panda bears. I started in Zoo Education and ending up as Senior Zoo Keeper in the Animal Nursery. After eleven wonderful years I found out my adventures were just beginning as I was pregnant with my first daughter. A high risk pregnancy changed my life path when a little 4lb baby came four weeks early…my daughter Rachel. I decided it was time to resign and care for a family of my own.
Fourteen years passed. Then I was contacted by a fellow zookeeper who said I was wasting my time and should become a rescue and rehab specialist. I eased back into animal rehab by raising squirrels and rabbits. Within four months I had my licensure in place and it progressed very quickly from there. Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife opened in 2015 and devoting a large number of hours to such an incredible cause has literally changed my life. Sharing this experience with my children has also enhanced their lives for the best. Not only do they get to see firsthand their mother doing what she was born to do, it allows them to watch the wonders of nature up close and personal.
The need I have learned is great and I have constantly been busy with so many incredible success stories, many of them made possible by the wonderful team at the Wildlife Docs right here at Busch Gardens. Most of the animals I have dealt with has been accidents due to domestic pet attacks, collisions on highways and impact with cars, mothers orphaning their babies, poisoning, fishing hooks and line and the list goes on. Working with Dr. Churchill and several other vets that also do Pro Bono work for us, I am pleased to put in the time, effort and yes, the money it takes to get an animal back to freedom of nature. So many have contributed over the past years to help for which I am truly thankful, for in my eyes every one of them is God’s creatures and deserves a chance.
I have been blessed to be able to work with animals for almost 40 years now, in one way or another. Not many of us get to live out our life-long dreams, but rehabilitation has proven to be a team effort and we are over 200 strong. Owl’s Nest works quickly to respond to requests from Florida Fish and Wildlife as well as receiving 20-80 calls daily from the community. Sadly, a lot of animals must have just died before I started Owl’s Nest with a few close fellow animal lovers. Collaboration has been key and connecting with other groups to get animals rehabbed and released the ultimate reward.
That being said, I work also under the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission completely free as a registered 501c3 non-profit organization where each animal is raised with the love, compassion and skill that I have acquired over the years. Thank you for considering a donation and the time you took to check out my site!