Florida Wildlife Hospital fundraiser was a real hoot


Florida Wildlife Hospital volunteers Donna McGill, left, Karen Johnson and Bill Bjork hold educational ambassadors Gonzo, Corey and Owliver at the 10th annual Animal Baby Shower fundraiser at the Palm Shores Town Hall. | PHOTO BY RACHEL WICK​Owliver, Gonzo and Corey might sound like animated movie stars, but the trio is real. They are revered residents of Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary located in Palm Shores. 

These majestic owls serve as educational ambassadors, and as foster parents to baby owls brought to the hospital. These feathered fosters had starring roles at the 10th annual Baby Shower on Saturday, May 14 at the Palm Shores Town Hall. 

“Since we have so many different species of owls here, we have started fostering them,” Director of Florida Wildlife Hospital Tracy Frampton said. 

According to Frampton, it is important for the babies to come into contact with other owls to prevent them from imprinting on humans. 

“They hear the owl and they start learning who they are and not end up thinking that they are a person,” Frampton said. 

Last year, the hospital saw more than 5,200 patients, its biggest year ever. Fundraisers like the baby shower are crucial for the nonprofit, because the group doesn’t receive federal funding. 

“We get no government funding, so [we rely on] grants, donations, memberships and sponsorships [to] pay the bills,” Frampton said. 

Rescued blue jays and mockingbirds will be released into their natural habitats as soon as they are old enough to care for themselves. | PHOTO BY RACHEL WICKAround 125 party guests had the opportunity to meet Owliver, Gonzo and Corey and discover the ways Florida Wildlife Hospital cares for Brevard’s injured and abandoned animals. Partygoers brought gifts that included supplies for the babies and other animals.

“We have it in the spring, when we have a lot of babies, and just like a baby shower for people, it kind of shares the excitement of having the baby, but also helps the parents, to spare them some of the financial impact of having a new baby,” Frampton said. “We received lots of great items: paper towels, baby food, welding gloves, bungie cords, trash bags, dish gloves, gift cards.”

The group’s passionate volunteers are an integral part of the organization, and Frampton needs people to assist with tasks that range from cleaning out cages to educational outreach. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old before they can work directly with the animals. They must pay their dues doing dishes and cleaning. 

Bill Bjork is a seasoned volunteer who acted as Owliver’s handler during the event. Owliver is a great horned owl and he appeared at ease on Bjork’s arm. 

Gonzo, an eastern screech owl, was Linda Archer’s partner for the day. Archer started volunteering at the hospital 14 years ago, after she brought an injured bird to the Wildlife Hospital. According to Archer, she fell in love with the animals, what the group was doing for wildlife, and never left. 

Karen Johnson spent the afternoon with Corey, a barn owl, as he posed for his fans. Johnson has been a volunteer for four years and is an important part of the educational outreach program, bringing the animal ambassadors to area schools and other events. 

“Returning wildlife to their homes, that’s where they want to go,” Archer said. “I’ve had the opportunity to release some and that’s all they want is the opportunity to go home, like any of us would.” 

For more information, visit floridawildlifehospital.org