Two Men in Ocala Give a Hoot
They say they give a hoot, literally. The Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary has dedicated 15 years to saving owls and birds of prey in Marion County, many of them abused. The center has recently felt the strain of the economy. Yet two animal lovers say the determination in rescueing these animals is much stronger than any recession.
Hobbie, a great-horned owl is regarded almost as a child by Keith Belisle and Kenneth Lane, the founders of the center. One of her wings was chopped of with a machete. Hobbie is just one of 32 owls at this sanctuary.
For years, Keith and Kenny have rehabilitated and released owls, birds of pray and some animals without feathers, like Buttercup, a young key dear. Buttercup lost her mother when she was very young and would have died without care.
The center is full of disturbing stories of abuse. We met Tipper, a goose whose beak was purposely broken off, yet her sweet demeanor remains unaffected. The economy has made it even more difficult to provide for the animals. The center depends on donations and volunteers. The average monthly bill is $2 thousand dollars.
But to Keith and Kenny, the rewards soar above the struggles, especially when they release a bird back into the wild.
"There are times when we release an owl and it will go up to the branch and look at us like it's thanking us for what we did," Belisle told us. "That's more powerful than any thank you a person could ever do."
The center provides about 135 educational programs a year for schools and developmentally challenged children and adults. To learn more about the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary, plan a visit, or make a donation, visit the center's website at: www.owls-ocalainc.org or call 352-895-0451.
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