Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary to close after decades serving wildlife in TallahasseeDec 01, 2022 03:50PM ● By Stephen Klein
After more than 30 years of assisting wildlife in need of rehabilitation, the Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary of Tallahassee is planning to close its doors.
Located in the modified, enclosed carport of a home in a residential neighborhood, Goose Creek is probably not what you might imagine when you think of a wildlife sanctuary.
Even so, the dedicated volunteers at Goose Creek have assisted thousands of animals since the sanctuary opened in 1988.
A tortoise at Goose Creek explores the floor of the facility.
To get an idea of what has been accomplished at Goose Creek over the last three decades, and why the organization is coming to an end, The Bradfordville Bugle recently spoke with Director Noni Beck and volunteers Catherine Kynech and Ahan Jain.
“I just started volunteering with another rehab center many, many years ago,” Beck says. “And then, 31 years ago, we joined Goose Creek, and the person who started it turned it over to us. I’ve been a rehabilitator here since then.”
Goose Creek was founded in 1988, by a veterinary technician for Dr. David Hale at Cross Creek Animal Clinic.
“Dr. Hale still does animals for us. He does everything for free, surgeries, donates medicines, everything.
“I’ve been doing this for a little over a year,” says Jain of his volunteer work at Goose Creek. “I found an injured Kite on the road, and I brought it in and they were so wonderful. The veterinarian at the clinic helped me get involved over here, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Jain works at Timberlane Animal Hospital and Cross Creek Animal Clinic as well.
“I’ve been here for 12 years,” Kynech says. “I started when I was 14, and I just wanted to work with animals. Noni was kind enough to give someone under the age of 18 a chance, and I just haven’t stopped since.”
A small rabbit is one of the little creatures that has been rescued and cared for by Goose Creek volunteers.
Kynech then describes the work done at Goose Creek:
“We take injured and orphaned wildlife in, and we do the best we can to get them back to the level they need to be in order to be released. Legally we’re only allowed to release on private property, so we’re always looking for the best available thing. There’s some animals that have to be released at the same spot, so we’ll take them back there. We’re kind of at the tail end of everything, but during the height of our baby season, we were just full of cages, and we’ll take in just about anything that we are able to handle here.The smaller animals, song birds, birds of prey, squirrels, opossums, a couple of skunks this year, lots of racoons, occasionally we’ll get something like a coyote, we’ve had otters before, quite a few fawns and does. Any wildlife native to Tallahassee. Anything that’s an invasive species, we do our best to take it, because they still deserve the same treatment as the native wildlife. We get it to where it needs to be and then we try to find someone to adopt it out to, or a zoo to possibly take it.”
“For lot of the animals,” adds Beck, “like the fawns we had, its extremely rough on them to catch them and then move them to transport, so we do a lot of triage to get them back up and going, and then find people who have appropriate outdoor caging and move them there. Same with eagles and red-tail hawks. They require a 100 foot flight cage, and we only have 50. But we have a partnership with a couple of other facilities with bigger flight cages and we can send those animals to them.”
One of the perks of working at Goose Creek is getting to know the animals, and some have memorable personalities.
“We had a white pelican at one time,” Beck remembers. “We would put him in the side yard, and when he was ready to come in, he would knock on the door.”
Kynech tells the story of an interesting crow who currently resides at Goose Creek.
“Brandon came to us as an injured fledgling that was already healing incorrectly. We turned him into an education animal, because he is an animal with a lot of personality. Crows are some of the most intelligent birds out there, and he is able to mimic our speech, he’s able to bark like a dog, he clucks like a chicken. You can hear him talking right now.”
“He says hi, bye, and imitates our laughs,” adds Jain. “He has outstanding comedic timing. It’s unreal.”
Brandon, a crow, likes to mimic human voices and other animal sounds, such as the barking of a dog.
“That’s been part of the fun of this job,” says Beck. “Just picking up on different personalities. We still respect that they are wild animals, but it is much more fun seeing the personalities.”
After a 30 year run, Beck and the hardworking volunteers at Goose Creek are ready to retire.
“When you're doing this at your home,” Beck explains, “and it is kind of like a facility, people come and go. 31 years and it is pretty much for most of the year and all day long. When we had all the babies here we were going from 7 in the morning to sometimes 10:30 at night. It’s gotten to be too much. I’ve had two knee surgeries on one knee, and I think I’m getting ready to have another one. It’s also not unusual for me to get a call at 1 a.m. that somebody’s hit an owl. We do have the option to turn off the phone, but we’ve never done that. That animal just got hurt. They need our help.”
“Animals don’t take or respect holidays,” adds Kynech. “I’ve worked several Christmases and Thanksgivings over the years. There’s something very peaceful in doing animal care, but all of us would like to have a little time to ourselves again. It’s going to be so hard to give it up. We just had a record breaking year, and it was a lot of work. I think we’re really going out with a bang this way, and there will be plenty of other ways to help out.”
Even though Goose Creek is closing, there are a number of other local organizations that remain open in the area, and will continue the work of rehabilitating wildlife.
“St. Francis Wildlife Association in Quincy is back up and running,” Beck says. “Florida Wild Mammal Association in Crawfordville is only temporarily closed due to the passing of Chris Beatty, who started it.”
“St. Francis has a much larger facility,” says Kynech, “and they’re able to release wildlife directly on their property because they have protected acres out there, and they have a vast volunteer network.”