Injured wildlife find a haven at AWARE

Snowjam 2014 just over a week ago found me visiting a remarkable place called AWARE (Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort) near Lithonia in DeKalb County.

As AWARE's website ( states, it is "committed to the preservation and restoration of wildlife and its habitat through wildlife rehabilitation and education." As such, it accepts all native wildlife species every day of the year from the public.

Most of the animals have been injured or orphaned. Some, though, are creatures confiscated by wildlife authorities from persons illegally keeping wild animals.

Except for the light snow falling outside, it was a typical day at AWARE. Because of the cold, most of the animals were inside.

Volunteer Melanie Furr was feeding live mealworms to a little brown bat, whose wing had been broken by a cat. Behind her were cages full of live, squirming mice, food for a bobcat that AWARE hopes to return to the wild. All rehabilitated animals, Furr noted, must be able to catch food on their own and remain instinctively fearful of humans before they can be set free.

In a small room, a young raccoon peered at us from its cage. Another cage held a small armadillo hiding under a pile of blankets. A pasteboard box held a yellow-bellied sapsucker, which couldn’t fly.

In a larger room, two barred owls stood on the floor, looking up at us with big, curious eyes. The eye of one of them was blinded. Next to the owls was a red-tailed hawk. In a cage were two American crows. Perched nearby was a black vulture.

Sitting regally on a high perch was a great horned owl recovering from a broken wing. One of Furr’s fellow volunteers toted a three-legged possum.

Also in residence on this day were a screech owl, Canada goose, corn snake, king snake and box turtle. The turtle’s shell, Furr explained, was broken by a lawnmower. AWARE’s rehabilitators glued the pieces back together and even repainted the shell with yellow camouflage patterns.

Because their injuries may be permanent, or because they have lost their fear of humans, several of these creatures can’t be returned to the wild. Instead, they will be kept at AWARE and used to help educate the public about wildlife conservation.

IN THE SKY: The moon will be full on Friday (Feb. 14), said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer. Native American tribes called February's full moon the "hunger moon" since harsh weather made hunting difficult. Venus is low in the east about 2 hours before dawn. Mars is in the east a few hours after dark. Jupiter rises out of the east at dusk and is visible all night. It will appear near the moon Monday night (Feb. 10). Saturn rises out of the east about midnight.