Leslie Lattimore with one of the beasts she cares for at the Wings of Hope sanctuary (photo from wingsofhoperehab.org)
Livington Parish, La. -
When animals get injured along the road, or they're no longer wanted as pets, Leslie Lattimore takes over, nursing the newborns to adolescence and preparing them to return to the wild.
Lattimore shows us several such animals, including an eagle. She says, "The eagle was caught in a fishing line right down here in French Settlement-Port Vincent area. And he went ahead and amputated his wing by himself.
"These are bard owls," she says as we continue our tour of her Wings of Hope sanctuary. "Once they get proficient at catching mice in this ring, then we just turn the mice loose and they'll have to catch on their own that way."
It's a love of animals that has grown far beyond anything Lattimore would have imagined when she started this 15 years ago. She says, "You can't take the wild out of them. They're always going to be a wild animal. So it's best to appreciate them from afar."
Her home in rural Livingston Parish is surrounded by small buildings and pens that hold an assortment of wild animals, including an I-shaped, 150-foot-long flight cage.
All of this work, the housing, the feeding, and the rehabilitation of wild animals is done without government funding. They rely on donations and the help of volunteers.
One of those volunteers, Peggy Wiley, says "I just love doing it. Been doing it for awhile. You get attached to all these animals."
Lattimore says, "We have a certain length of time that we are allowed to keep them and they have to be released… those are just worth 10,000 words, because I can't explain the joy and rewards that you get when you watch an eagle fly away that you've helped recover."
It's the same way with the owls, raised here since they were tiny nestlings and now ready to fly away on their own, with their wings of hope.
The Wings of Hope wildlife sanctuary in Livingston provides education programs and also hosts an occasional open house. For more information, go online to http://www.wingsofhoperehab.org.
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