From the St. Augustine Record

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thankfulThankful was released into the wild after more than a month of rehabilitation

Thankful, a American Bald Eagle, earned her name one night in September.

She probably would have drowned in Dunns Creek in Putnam County if two boaters had not rescued her. Her story did not end in the creek.

An officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission put the 14-pound eagle in a kennel and called The Humane Association of Wildlife Care and Education rehabilitation center, HAWKE, in Elkton, where she was brought back to strength.

“She’s very thankful she didn’t drown,” said Melanie Cain-Stage, president of HAWKE, who gave Thankful her name because she was lucky to be found.

Cain-Stage and a few others gathered at the HAWKE farm Wednesday morning to release Thankful back into the wild after more than a month of rehabilitation.

“I think she knows today’s a big day,” Cain-Stage said as Thankful waited in the arms of St. Johns County Sheriff’s Agricultural Deputy George Letts.

Letts works with Cain-Stage and has taken six injured eagles from the wild to the center for rehabilitation. Cain-Stage asked Letts to release the bird.

Thankful flapped her wings a couple of times as Letts held her. She seemed eager for her flight. But when she first arrived at the farm, Thankful seemed lifeless.

“She just stood there,” Cain-Stage said.

Thankful was isolated in a 25-foot cage when she arrived at the center. While most eagles act aggressive toward humans, Thankful was lethargic.

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Melanie Cain-Stage, president and curator of HAWKE, has been a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and environmental educator since 1979. Over the years she has cared for many bobcats, including Brave Heart, who had a severe head injury after being
hit by a car. With the help of St. Johns Vet and the excellent care of HAWKE, he was successfully released back into the wild. HAWKE rarely gets orphaned baby bobcats, but that is all changing...more adults and babies are likely because of increased traffic and overdevelopment of rural areas, combined with the closing of several wildlife centers that that once could have taken in this native cat. There are very few people
sjs 09BobcatRelease0329in Florida "set up" with special cages and experienced with rearing and training a bobcat that will be able to survive in the wild.
In April, there was a request from a center in south Florida who had a small bobcat kitten that had been orphaned. The baby was found at a construction site. Her mother had been killed by a bulldozer and the den destroyed along with any siblings she might have had. The center that received her was only permitted for birds. They took excellent care of her, but were not experienced with bobcats or mammals. The bobcat had been handled and bottle-fed since just two weeks old. After seeing the request, Melanie emailed the center and was told they were desperate for help because no one in all of Florida had offered to help. By this time the cat had totally bonded with people and was weaned.
Melanie told the center that if they could drive the cat to HAWKE she would raise it. This was the third bobcat she had received in two years. She prepared a large shoreline inside cage that she furnished with a kitty litter box, a nest box to hide in. and cat-safe toys to play with. When the kitten arrived, Melanie noticed that she was mewing, purring and looking for companionship. She had no fear of people. Melanie tried at first to reverse the bond by not letting anyone else see or handle the cat, but it was hopeless...she only related to people.
There is a hunting season on bobcats. People can get permits to catch them by snared trap and kill them for their fur. Bobcats are naturally shy and learn from their mother to avoid people, and a tame bobcat would not last long in the wild. People would be terrified if an adult bobcat approached them, especially durning the day. It would be a death sentence. It was too late to change this cat's bonding to humans. Thankfully, she is a female and she would be able to be a foster mother to baby bobcats so HAWKE could help other centers who have just one baby. Our bobcat here will be a foster mom for youngsters all over Florida and be able to bond with the babies so they can be released back to the wild where they belong.
Melanie named the baby bobcat Cherokee after her dear friend the late David Thundershield Queen who was always fighting for the environment and was very proud to be part Cherokee Indian. Cherokee was excited but a little scared when moved to her large outside cage. She soon became familiar with logs to claw, a nest box, a walkway all around the inside of the cage and a grand view of all that goes on in the center. Melanie plays with her every day with string and catnip toys and she runs like a lightning bolt and get lots of exercise. Cherokee is fed a well-balanced but expensive diet of canned Zupreme wild feline formula food and dead chicks and mice so she gets all her dietary requirements. A generous supporter has donated funds to double the size of her cage, and the Boy Scouts are helping with this and other projects for Eagle Scout Awards.
Cherokee has tripled in size and become an amazing agile and breathtaking beautiful bobcat, long and lean. To see films, photos and more about Cherokee, visit www. hawkewildlife.org. For updates and help pay for her care, check our Facebook page.
A second bobcat arrived in October 2012. It was a miracle of timing that she was even discovered. Melanie was traveling down S.R. 207 at 9:20 a.m. on a Thursday morning on
her way to a physical therapy appointment, when she noticed an animal up against the aluminum fence on the opposite side of the four-lane highway. This fence is extremely, long and the spacing between rails very narrow. There was a car stopped nearby and a man was heading for what she assumed from a distance was a dog. But Melanie's instincts said turn around and check it out,
so she did. When she looked again she could tell it was a bobcat. It was scared of the approaching man and was starting to somehow squeeze itself through the bars of the fence, causing it to become stuck. Cats can articulate their body to get through small spaces though. The man drove off and by the time Melanie parked her car, the bobcat had successfully popped through the fence! Melanie was relieved but felt it would be a good idea to check it out anyway. When she looked down the seven-foot drop on the other side of the fence, a huge adult bobcat was on its side looking up at her. She could see its hip and leg were injured, probably from being hit by a car early in the morning, and it was just resting by the fence.
Melanie's adrenaline shot through her body. She called for back-up and received assistance from George Letts, the agricultural agent of the St. Johns County Sheriffs Office, who only the week before had rescued a deer for HAWKE. He rushed over to carefully rescue the injured animal. He climbed over the fenced and jumped down quickly, then he got the bobcat carefully into a kennel. Melanie had already called ahead to St. Johns Vet Clinic to tell them that they would be bringing it in.
St Johns Vet does all the medical services for us. Without their help we would not be able to have the high success rate or be able to help wildlife that needs x-rays and surgical care. They dropped everything and Dr Burkhalter and Dr Wihbey quickly sedated the animal for painless physical examination and x-rays. She was named Georgia in honor of George. When the doctors along with Melanie and George examined the x-rays, it was bad news. Her hip socket was completely crushed and her leg bone displaced totally out of the socket. The pelvis was crushed and there was no way to repair the damage caused by a car or truck hitting her at at a high rate of speed. Melanie and George were deeply saddened that Georgia was not able to be saved, but she was quietly euthanized and put out of the intense pain she had endured for many hours.
You might ask why was this cat lucky? If Melanie had not been on her way to the doctors and spotted the cat a minute or two diffence she would have just been left to slowly die in the grass where no one would have seen her. She was of good weight and could have lasted a week just in agony and dying of thirst while cars sped by overhead. This too is a part of wildlife rehabilitation that many wildlife rehabilitators just cannot handle. Some wildlife because of injuries have to be euthanized. Others may not make it, even after every effort has been made. It can break your heart, but to help you just have to do the best you can.
This stunning creature is a reminder of how many creatures, from turtles to endangered panthers, get killed each day by traffic and how many more may be suffering on the side of the road. If you want these creatures to get medical care, please support what HAWKE does and thank the wonderful doctors and staff of St. Johns Vet who donate their time and resources to provide medical care to help HAWKE and wildlife. And please, especially from dusk to dawn, look out for wildlife that may be crossing the road...slow down!

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HAWKE Spring Open House set for December 7th, 2014, 2014

HAWKE wants to continue to be there to take your calls when injured wild animals need help. HAWKE needs funds to feed and provide care for orphaned wild birds, mammals, and reptiles. We will be opening our doors for our annual Spring Members-Only Open House under the big oaks at the HAWKE rehabilitation facility in Elkton, FL. The festivities begin on Sunday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m. and continue to 4:00 p.m., featuring tours of the rehabilitation facility, hospital room, ICU unit, feed room, and large wildlife enclosures both inside and outside the center. HAWKE officers, members, and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the animals, the facility, and opportunities for volunteering to help support the mission of the Humane Association of Wildlife Care and Education.

DSC 0033HAWKE is celebrating 27 years of helping wildlife have a second chance, thanks to generous donations from the community and from HAWKE members. The association provides two open house events per year as a thank-you and so you can see where your funds are going. At the open house, members can visit the hummingbird garden and water turtle pond, our huge land turtle habitat, and can see our resident bobcat, Cherokee, in her new habitat. HAWKE's educational and non-releasable animals and education birds of prey will be on display, but patients being rehabilitated will not be on view. Meet our owls, hawks, Peregrine falcon, swallow-tailed kite, playful river otters, and our other Un releasable "adoptable" critters. Because HAWKE does not receive state or federal support and depends entirely on donations of time, material, and funds, events such as these help us raise funds, raise awareness of the material needs of the facility, and introduce available volunteer opportunities.

All new and current members are invited to attend, and major membership donors ($500 and up) can bring 2 guests. Large donors can also request another day to visit, People who donate services to HAWKE such as newsletter ads, St Johns Vets , volunteers can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ahead for more information. For individuals and families who are not members and still wish to attend the open house, you can join from the website or even at the event (please email ahead); membership information and registration will be available. A single membership in the Association is $25 (this will feed our screech owl, Twiggy, for days), and $35 for a family (couples and minor children under 18 years old, but not extended family). Of course, we also welcome larger donations to help offset the operating costs for the center, and all donations are tax deductible. There are many levels available to join. Membership includes HAWKE newsletters and invitations to our two open house events each year, plus discounts by mail for HAWKE events. Go to www.hawkewildlife.org to use a credit card using PayPal (you don't have to have an account) cut and past http://www.hawkewildlife.org/index.php/please-donate and bring your receipt to enter the sanctuary. If you would prefer to send a check to join the Association, or if you cannot attend the event and would like to make a donation, mail a check to HAWKE, PO BOX 188, Elkton, FL 32033. For directions to the HAWKE facility or for additional information, please email Melanie Cain-Stage at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Please, no school groups or children without an adult. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations prohibit the use of cell phones, cameras, or recording devices, and no pets of any kind are allowed at the center. Private limited groups for special occasions, photography, or clubs can be arranged at another date by emailing Melanie for information.

The St. Augustine Record Featured HAWKE efforts to save an abandoned baby otter.

From the story...

Local animal lover Melanie Cain-Stage welcomed a new young and abandoned critter into her animal sanctuary home in Elkton this week with open arms.

Becky, an 8-week-old baby river otter, came to the Humane Association of Wildlife Care and Education Inc. on March 5 after a couple found the abandoned otter lying by itself on the side of a residential street in Jacksonville, Cain-Stage said.

Click Here to see the story (Opens new window)

braveheart-bobcat-smIn the last three years alone, HAWKE has rehabilitated and cared for four bobcats and keeps getting requests from other centers that are unable to deal with them. In 2012 alone, HAWKE was asked to take three other bobcats, two from other rehabilitation centers and one from a zoo. She had already had one orphaned kitten and another adult male bobcat that had been hit by a car. She did not have the enclosure space to take in any more. Ms. Cain-Stage explained, "The other main center that helped with bobcats moved out of state when the owner passed away. Additionally, more and more (wildlife rehabilitation) centers are closing due to lack of funding, so there are fewer centers that can take any animals at all, much less cats like these. One of the main factors causing the increasing number of bobcat injuries seen by HAWKE is the destruction or disruption of their habitat. Because male bobcats establish territories of between 10-25 square miles, new construction or land clearing creates a huge problem for them, forcing them to hunt in smaller territories or challenge other bobcats to establish new ones. As their territories become smaller and smaller, they come in contact with humans more frequently, often being hit by cars."

Read more: New Bobcat Cages

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HAWKE
P.O. Box 188
Elkton, FL. 32033
(904) 692-1777
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