Incorporated in June 1989, Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge (BTN) is the largest non-profit 501(c)(3) public wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Central Florida Region, serving over 3,000 animals per year. BTN is located in the Lake Nona area on 20 acres of Orange County conservation land that is managed by the Environmental Protection Division. Their mission is to rescue, raise, rehabilitate, and release injured or orphaned Florida native species and to provide education about respecting and preserving the environment through our non-releasable permanent residents known as “educational ambassadors.”
The refuge is staffed by three full-time employees and one part-time employee as well as a host of volunteers and interns. The BTN team is one of the most devoted and compassionate groups of people you will ever meet. They work tirelessly to care for the animals, provide educational opportunities, and maintain the site. It is truly a labor of love!
The condition of animals upon arrival varies greatly. For instance, one situation may bring a litter of abandoned, but healthy, baby raccoons while another animal may arrive in need of urgent medical attention. Neither situation will be easy, nor is one more important than the other. In both instances, round-the-clock care is required as well as the dedication it takes to ensure a healthy outcome.
Also, since they provide a permanent home to many non-releasable animals better known as our “educational ambassadors,” BTN offers visitors the opportunity to view these magnificent creatures up close. During a visit, you can learn about the various species and also be presented with each individual animal’s story. For instance, BTN is home to a fox that was hit by a car and has neurological concerns, and an owl that lost an eye to a BB gun. As a result, visitors can see the firsthand effects humans have on the environment and why it is so important to be respectful of our wildlife. Also, visitors will gain a profound understanding of the value organizations such as Back to Nature provide to the community.
The BTN team strives to provide the best possible outcome to each and every animal they encounter. In addition, they welcome the visiting public and the opportunity to educate all of us on the ways we can contribute as well.
The following are animal celebrities currently staying at Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge and Education Center:
- Athenos the African Tortoise
- Little Man the Eastern Gray Squirrel
- Russell the Great Horned Owl
- Hercules the Red Foot Tortoise
- Crash the Gopher Tortoise
- Koko the Emu
- Katie the Russian Tortoise
- Tiny the Box Turtle
- Wizzer the Red-Tailed Hawk
- Cookie the Turkey Vulture
- Honeybear, Whimsa, & Thumbelina the Lemurs
- Wheems the Eastern Screech Owl
- Tarot the Red Tailed Hawk
- Precious the Raccoon
- Jennifer the Goat
- Daisy the Eastern Gray Squirrel
- Columbo the Great Horned Owl
- Roc the Sherman’s Fox Squirrel
- Nigel the Sherman’s Fox Squirrel
- Oliver the Bobcat
- Jaggar the Florida Bobcat
- Mongua the Barred Owl
- Kenny the Barred Owl
- Spencer the “Arctic” Marble Fox