Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida

I have been back home since the end of November and I haven’t taken any trips, not even locally. So I decided since I haven’t been to see my friend Sue Arnold who runs Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, in Okeechobee, Florida, in about a year, I went there March 23rd through 25th. I drove my camper there so I could stay there for a few days. Thankfully, the weather was nice and it didn’t rain.

It’s always a great adventure to go there and to see not only the animals that I have seen over the many years I have gone there, but also to see what new animals have taken up residency or are being rehabilitated so they can be released. As always, there are several new animals, and sadly several have died some due to age, some to predators that somehow find a way into the cages of some animals.

This visit I got to pet a camel, lemurs, Capuchin monkeys, kangaroos, an albino wallaby, and several other animals. There are also several new types of chickens which always make me smile seeing the various types of feathers they have. Some look like pompoms, others have feathers sticking out in all directions, others have beautiful feathers. One of the days a large crane somehow flew out of the enclosure and several of us had to circle it and herd it into the fenced in area where it belongs. A few male peacocks were trying to impress the female peacocks and kept spreading their feathers and dancing around showing them off. It was pretty interesting to watch.

One of the ringtail lemurs had twin babies a few days before my visit. I was feeding grapes to the animals. When I was feeding the ringtail lemurs I noticed that one of them had two babies clinging to her chest.

A few years ago when I was at Arnold’s one of the ringtail lemurs had a baby that was two days old when I got there and I was there for five days and saw it begin to crawl and explore it’s surroundings.

I have posted a photo album with pictures I took during my three day stay. There are too many pictures to include in this story. Sue and her volunteers work so hard and such long hours every day caring for the numerous animals, feeding them and cleaning their dishes and cages several times a day. There are no restaurants nearby and the drive into town which normally would take about 20 minutes now takes a couple of hours due to construction and only one lane of traffic being open. Thankfully, I know the back road way to get there so I don’t get caught in the traffic. So, I always bring food with me to eat for us and the animals.

When I was about 20 minutes from the wildlife center I was driving past the garbage mound dump station and what did I see in the road… a five foot alligator. This is a back road with not much traffic, so I stopped my vehicle to see what the alligator would do. I wasn’t sure if it would continue crossing the street. I waited and the gator looked around and decided to turn around and go back into the ditch. When I saw it and stopped, it was halfway across the two lane road. I wasn’t able to get a picture, but it really was cool to see an alligator crossing the street.

Upon arriving at the wildlife center and saying hi to Sue and her volunteers and giving them the fruit and food I brought for the animals, I started to walk around the grounds. I saw some new animals which included pigs, sheep, and several new horses. The little pond was empty. It seems it lost power during the hurricane last year and the fish died. Eventually the pond will be filled and restocked. After the chance of a frost is past the butterfly garden will be worked on. This is a beautiful and wonderful area of the grounds that is shaped like a butterflies body and wings and it was created in memory on one of Sue’s daughters who died several years ago from Cancer.

To read about my previous visits to Arnold’s Wildlife do a search on my website and it will show links to my previous stories and photo albums. If you are looking for a great place to make a donation, or leave money in your will, I highly recommend Arnold’s. All of the donations go to taking care of the animals and buying a good quality food for them. Sue says that since she buys human quality food at Publix and a private meat source the animals are healthier and the vet bills are less. She doesn’t feed them Walmart food products any longer, and hasn’t for several years and the animals are healthier.

I continued walking around and I was able to feed fruit to several animals including my favorites the monkeys. They love fruit and will take it out of my hand and let me pet them through the cage and also will usually let me hold their fingers which is a most wonderful feeling. Their fingers are almost like ours, they have finger nails and their hands are so soft. The Lemurs fur feels like a really soft stuffed animal that would be great to cuddle with.

As I was walking past the racoon cage in the morning, I saw one of the raccoons curled up sleeping in a net hung from a branch. I stood there and watched for a while amazed that it was curled up in a tight ball. Gradually the raccoon woke up and got out of the net.

The day I arrived, the mama camel Lulu came over to me and let me pet her, her two year old daughter Annie didn’t come close this time, but I got to watch her drink water out of a pipe that was at the height of her head. There is a new three year old kangaroo, some new foxes, and a few other animals. It seems people buy these animals and then either they die, move, or are unable to take care of them so they find a great home with Sue at Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Sometimes state officials find or confiscate animals and bring them to her also. I doubt the person giving up their animal provides funding for it’s care and upkeep, but I would like to hope they do. Every time I am there, Sue gets numerous calls a day saying they found an animal sometimes injured or orphaned, and want to bring it to her. She seldom refuses any animal and when necessary takes it to a vet or has the vet come to her.

I tend to be a bit upset sometimes when I see that people walking around don’t put money in the donation box. Sue charges $10 per adult, and children under 12 are free. All the money donated goes to the care and feeding of the animals and this costs about $1,500 a month just for food. That doesn’t include vet bills, medical treatment, cages, utilities, etc .

There are two new baby otters and Sue said that humans have to get in the water with them and teach them how to swim. Usually the otters mother does that but these are orphans and they have to be taught by surrogate mothers, humans. There are also some baby possums and squirrels that are being hand fed and kept warm on heating pads. Also a loon found it’s way to Florida and it can only move in water or fly. It’s legs are behind them and they don’t walk like regular birds.

While I was there Sue’s nutritionist who lives in Iowa and comes to visit I think monthly to check the animals and their diet to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition was there and they were taking about tainted pet food that killed about 15,000 animals. I hadn’t heard about this and asked them what happened. They told me that many pet food companies used euthanized animals in the pet food, both dry and wet food for dogs and cats. I couldn’t believe pet food companies would do that, but they did. It seems it helps to reduce the cost of the food and it helped to get rid of dead animals. Using euthanized animals in the food is not good. The chemicals that they give the animals to euthanize them, and probably to get them sick ones healthy so they can euthanize them in some cases, is still in the dead animal and it is then in the processed pet food.

This is not only lower cost pet foods, but also in many name brands including many that advertise they sell healthy pet food and also advertise on television. If you are interested in knowing more, do a Internet search for tainted pet food. Don’t only read the first page, read down several pages. You will be amazed. This isn’t only a past problem, it happened this year.

At Arnold’s Wildlife the vegetarian animals get fresh fruit and vegetables, and the meat eaters get chicken and chicken necks, beef, and other fresh or frozen human grade meat products, and some get fresh or frozen fish if that is their natural diet.

If you go, feel free to pack a picnic lunch, or bring snacks because there is not anywhere close or convenient to get a meal.

If you want to visit Arnold’s Wildlife, here are the best directions I found for the shortest distance, at least from south Florida and Broward or Palm Beach County. Take I-95 to the Blue Heron exit which is north of Palm Beach. Go west on Blue Heron and a few miles up is the VA hospital on the right and just after that Blue Heron turns into 710. Make a right on 710 going west/north. Drive about 43 miles, you will go through Indiantown and other than that town it’s all country roads.

About 3 or 4 miles before you will make a right turn on SE 128th, off of 710, you will see Martin Road on the right, I think it’s on the right and you will go over a railroad track across 710. You will also pass the junction of CR 714, go 1 mile and turn right on SE 128. About two miles before CR 714 you will cross over a railroad track, three miles (3 miles) past the railroad track is SE 128th, there is a sign a little before the turn. Make a right on SE 128. Go straight about 8 miles and you will come to a stop sign with a restaurant on the right. That is the intersection with Hwy. 70. Go straight at that intersection, Do Not Turn on Hwy 70.¬† I think SE 128th becomes a different road at that intersection.

Drive about 12 miles past Hwy 70 and you will pass a landfill, and then a while later you will come to a flashing traffic light which is Hwy 441. Do Not Turn on 441, go straight across it. Drive about 3 miles more down this country road and then turn left on NW 30th Terrace and Arnold’s Wildlife is at the end of that street.

To return back to I-95, leave Sue’s, make a right at the stop sign then go straight. When you get to the blinking light at 441, go straight. Keep straight and drive about 12 miles¬† and you will come to a stop sign and you will cross over Hwy 70 where the restaurant and gas station is located. Go about 8 miles and the road ends at 710. Make a left and drive about 43 miles. You will see several signs and roads that say I-95. You will go under an overpass or walkway type structure, and will pass the sign for Northlake Blvd. Watch for the VA hospital on your left and turn on 708E which is Blue Heron. Go a few miles and then you will see signs for I-95. Make a right to go south back to Broward or Palm Beach counties.

If you want to, feel free to bring fresh fruit and vegetables, or cans of slice peaches for the animals. Even overripe fruit and vegetables are okay, not spoiled, but overripe is okay. If I make banana bread I save the peels and bring them. If you want a personal tour through the wildlife center that is often available at no extra cost. Tell Sue you are a friend of mine, or read about the wildlife center on my website.

If you have any sturdy children’s toys or plastic furniture please donate it to Arnold’s for the animals. Many of them love toys, especially the monkeys. They like swings, chairs, hand toys, etc. You can see it in many of the pictures I took.

When I watch television, I see many repeats of the ASPCA asking for money. I did an Internet search and found out that they spend 35% of donations on overhead. It says that 38 cents of every dollar goes for expenses. In 2012, the ASPCA spent $52 million dollars on fundraising. Sue Arnold spends 100% of the donations she receives on taking care of the animals in her care.

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One Response to Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Okeechobee, Florida

  1. Michele Anzalone says:

    Hi Carol – I am reading and catching up on your life events. First, I want to express my sympathy on the passing of your beloved mom. It brought a smile to my face when you wrote about her yarn and your plans with it. I still have the blankets you knitted for me when I was pregnant with my daughter 15 years ago. I like to cuddle up on the couch with them when I sit down for a movie.

    I read with delight your story about Arnold’s Wildlife Center – I love animals and I hope to make it there for a visit one day. It sounds like such a lovely place, thank you for introducing them to me.

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