A Hidden Treasure, St. Augustine Wild Reserve
Lions in your neighborhood, or wolves just down the street, how about a Tiger lurking near by? These are all the animals and more that you will find at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve.
I had the pleasure recently to visit the St. Augustine Wild Reserve, and sit down and talk with one of their veteran volunteers Karen Malfry. We spent the good part of an hour talking as Karen shared one story after another about the animals at the reserve. While Karen and I talked, you could not help notice the deer, turkeys and the Siberian Lynx eavesdropping nearby. Karen was open about her experiences at the reserve; you could tell her obvious passion for helping the animals.
The St. Augustine Wild Reserve is the “last resort for unhomed exotics” in Florida. It was founded by Deborah Warrick, a carnivore biologist, and wild animal handler, to educate the public about exotic animal ownership as well as prevent future animal abuse.The facility spans over seven acres, tucked away among other lots and farms near St. Augustine, Fl. It was a hidden secret of sorts, well that was until they became a hit on Trip Advisor. As a non-profit, the reserve is strictly volunteer run and donation sponsored, as they do not receive any federal grants or funding.
Q. Can you describe the St. Augustine Wild Reserve as if no one knew about it?
It is principally a rescue facility; they are not breeding animals. They are a home of last resort for many animals that would otherwise be euthanized.
Q. What has surprised you most about volunteering at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve?
It would have to be the vast amount and various types of supplies, and equipment in addition to food, and time it takes to care for the animals.
Q. How welcoming is the local community, knowing they have wild animals living next door?
The majority of the neighbors are fans of what we do, and enjoy having us in the neighborhood.
Q. What would you tell someone thinking about volunteering at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve?
It is dirty, sweaty, tiring, and absolutely priceless! You could not pay for this type of experience; I feel like the luckiest person in the world!
Q. I know the reserve is volunteer and donation run, how can someone get involved if they wanted to?
If they want to volunteer (age 18+, or 16+ when accompanied by a parent) they need to email Deborah to sign up. For donations, we have a wish list on our site, and donations are always welcomed!
Q. Beyond the ‘wish list’ is there something the reserve needs? Something perhaps the community or a corporate donor could help with?
Well, animals are costly, so money donations are always welcomed. We also need someone who knows woodworking; we have some den boxes that need repair or replacing. Oh and pressure treated plywood would be great!
Q. What is a unique or unusual animal or animal story that you would like to share with your readers?
We had a 600 pound Bengal Tiger that was a bit food aggressive but was quite the ladies man. He would get into his bathtub backward, only allowing his back paws in the water, not the front. He had a back deformation; his doctors said he would be paralyzed by age three, and he lived happily until eighteen on the reserve.
Q. What action would you like the readers to take when they read about the St. Augustine Wild Reserve?
We would love for them to get excited to help preserve the species here at the reserve; some are endangered. It will take the extraordinary action of humans to prevent their extinction.
After the interview, we stayed for the tour of the reserve. Karen along with a few other volunteers guided about eighty other people and us through the reserve. The tour was quite enjoyable as the volunteers shared their stories and passion for the animals. There is a vast number, and types of animals from tigers, lions, ligers, hyenas, bears, wolves and one of the crowds favorites a porcupine.
Many of the animals that can be found at the reserve came from less than pleasant conditions from either zoos, private owners or animal shows. You would never be able to tell though as the animals look to be well fed and taken care of. It was not unusual to see Karen or one of the other volunteers hand feed or even nuzzle some of the animals. Keep in mind these volunteers are trained, some are licensed, and many of them have volunteered at the reserve for years. The animals are obviously well taken care of and cared for at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve.
For more information on the St. Augustine Wild Reserve feel free to give them a call, check out their website or their reviews on Trip Advisor. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the reserve, and I am thankful I found this hidden treasure on the First Coast.
About Charles Johnston
Charles is a Christian, husband and father of fur-kids who shares his walk with others in hopes to help other's along the way.