Finances may force wildlife rehab facility to close

HAWKE has rehabilitated animals for over 30 years

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A nonprofit facility in St. Johns County that’s been rehabilitating animals for over 30 years may have to close its doors.

The Humane Association of Wildlife Care and Education (HAWKE) rehab facility stretches over 2 acres and rehabilitates birds, otters, bobcats and other animals.

HAWKE was established over three decades ago to help animals that are injured, sick or orphaned get back on their feet. HAWKE owner Melanie Cain-Stage said she also partners with local vets to get the medical attention that the animals need. 

According to Cain-Stage, HAWKE is licensed by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Commission, but does not receive any federal funding.

"We don't get a dime. They charge us for our permits and we have to keep careful records of everything," said Cain-Stage.

It takes about $4,000 a month to run the facility, which can hold anywhere from 35 to 60 animals at once. HAWKE has only one part-time employee, but needs more help.

"I have a life, too, not much of one. But I have a husband, a daughter and a grandson and my own animals, so it's hard to juggle it all," Cain-Stage said.

Cain-Stage said she has a passion for animals.

"Everyone keeps saying (I should) quit, but I keep coming down here and they look at me, and it's like 'Where are they going to go?'" Cain-Stage said.

Jim, a hawk that Cain-Stage is currently rehabbing, is one example of the thousands of animals that HAWKE has rehabbed and released. Jim was extremely thin and couldn't care for himself. But after three months, he’s ready to get back to the wild.

"He was starved to death," Cain-Stage said.

Cain-Stage said seeing Jim ready to return to the wild makes her work worthwhile.

More wildlife centers are closing their doors because of lack of funding, and Cain-Stage said that without more funding, HAWKE may be the next one to go.

To make a donation, go to http://hawkewildlife.org/index.php/please-donate. All donors get two tours a year of the facility, and 100 percent of donations go to the animals, Cain-Stage said.

HAWKE also needs volunteers for facility clean-up, social media and someone who can make newsletters. All volunteers must be at least 18 years old.