Volunteers go to great lengths to rescue wildlife in need of emergency care


A rescued anhinga is wrapped for transportation to Wild Florida Rescue.


Wild Florida Rescue Corp., a small non-profit organization, aims to do one big thing — save wildlife. They seek to accomplish this objective by, “providing a safe and compassionate emergency first response service for wildlife in need of urgent medical attention,” as stated on its website.

Brevard County is home to hundreds of species of animals and birds. The county also is home to a growing population of people. Heather Pepe Dillon and Matthew Buice, co-founders of Wild Florida Rescue in 2017, recognized that that growth in population and urbanization, was contributing to an increase in situations where wildlife required a rapid response by trained wildlife professionals.

Wild Florida Rescue rescues animals in need, such as injured and or trapped. They run an ambulance service seven days a week around the clock. With a staff of four and an additional eight people they can usually call on for help, Wild Florida Rescue responded to more than 4,000 calls in 2018.

It’s not unusual for the rescue team to drive long distances to rescue an animal. For example, a year ago, a retiree volunteer, drove from Titusville to Grant to rescue an injured anhinga bird.

Wild Florida Rescue is an all-volunteer organization — from board to staff, students to retirees, part-time to full-time.

“The common factor among volunteers is their genuine love of community and wildlife,” said Jennifer White, an “almost” full-time volunteer who serves as the rescue lead.

Some of White’s duties are driving the ambulance, fund-raising and grant writing. In fact, she says, “we (volunteers) do everything we can to keep it up. Brevard is a special county when it comes to its wildlife.”

“I’ve always been passionate about animals. I have a degree in environmental biology. It’s amazing when you can unite a baby with its mom; when you can disentangle an animal from fishing line,” added White. “We as humans are doing irreparable damage to the planet at all corners. So, when we rescue one animal, it is helping. We also educate the community, which in turn helps other animals.”

Wild Florida Rescue, which is run on donations only, is located in Melbourne. For more information, go to wildfloridarescue.org or call

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