Florida is home to a variety of wildlife waiting to be discovered: the screech of an osprey spying on fish; the hoot of a great horned owl echoing through a pine forest; the shimmering eyes of a raccoon at night. In Palm Beach County, a handful of organizations aim to protect and educate residents about the last few vestiges of wilderness, all with a mission of conservation for the future.
The Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter started as a rehabilitation center for sick, orphaned or injured wildlife in 1983 and has grown into a sanctuary where the public can observe Florida’s native wildlife and ecosystems. The sanctuary's mission is to protect and conserve othe state's wildlife and natural resources. Busch continues to provide free medical and rehabilitative care to wild animals, treating more than 4,000 animals annually, but has added an education program to help visitors understand the native wildlife in and around town.
Set up like a small zoo, the sanctuary allows visitors to take guided tours or explore at their own pace. The sanctuary is filled with native and nonnative species that are either being rehabilitated or could not be reintroduced to the wild because they are injured, were rescued from an illegal pet trade or were orphaned young and raised by humans. Visitors get an opportunity to view their wild neighbors up close—the close proximity of the enclosures to the walking trails gives the sanctuary an intimacy few zoos are able to create. Some of the larger draws include Florida black bears, bobcats, birds of prey, Florida panthers and a large albino raccoon named Casper. Signs provide information about each animal’s natural environment, status in the wild and rescue story.
Educational activities are available for an informational experience. Guided sanctuary tours ($3) takes groups throughout the property’s nature trails and boardwalks. Daily educational activities at the Cypress Amphitheater include wildlife encounters geared toward resident animal species, while feedings and special programs happen at individual enclosure areas. (For a complete schedule of the educational offerings at Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, click here.)
- On Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., Busch hosts story time for toddlers.
- Special “nightwalks” give visitors a chance to explore the sanctuary once the sun sets and the animal residents are more active. From 7-9 p.m. on March 21, guests can enjoy a tour of the facilities by flashlight, a special guest speaker and s’mores by the campfire. The cost is $5 per person, and preregistration is required. Call 561-575-3399 to RSVP.
Busch Wildlife is funded entirely on donations, and an army of volunteer staff helps maintain the property, making the property truly a labor of love.
- Admission to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5.
- For more information, visit buschwildlife.org.
Photos courtesy of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary