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October 25, 2012

The South Florida Wildlife Center Turns 43

Anniversary pays tribute to founder Bea Humphreys

  • From a spot on Bea Humphreys' front porch to a high-tech trauma hospital, The South Florida Wildlife Center has come a long way. The SFWC

by Sherry Schlueter

A lot of animals owe their lives to a woman named Bea Humphreys.

Back in 1950, she was one of the few people involved in wildlife rehabilitation in South Florida.

From the front porch of her Fort Lauderdale home, Bea took in injured and orphaned wild birds, nursing them back to health until they were ready for release back into the wild. 

As word of her healing work spread, more and more people from around South Florida began bringing injured animals to "The Bird Lady," as Bea came to be known. After 19 years of working out of her home, Bea needed to expand her base of operations. 

Beyond birds

With help from friends and volunteers, Bea established the non-profit SPCA Wild Bird Center in October 1969. Forty-three years later, Bea's center has grown to become one of the nation's largest wildlife trauma hospitals and rehabilitation centers—now known as the South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC).

Today, the SFWC sees nearly 13,000 animals a year, operates three wildlife ambulances, and boasts a staff of 60 professionals. Among the animal visitors are native wildlife like foxes, oppossums, raccoons, and owls. Occasionally a pet iguana, bird, or bunny displaced by a hurricane will find his or her way into the center en route to an adoptive or temporary home.

The Center is open 365 days a year and plays a pivotal role in the survival of wild animals and the local ecosystems to which they are returned.

Rescue, rehab, and education

While our facilities have expanded to care for more animals over the decades, the SFWC's mission continues to include adoption events and educational seminars to engage the public in wildlife rescue and preservation.

As the SFWC enters its 44th year of service to the tri-county region of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, we are grateful for Bea Humphreys' pioneering work in wildlife rehabilitation, as well the countless supporters and volunteers who continue to help us carry it forward.

Sherry Schlueter is executive director of the South Florida Wildlife Center.

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