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AWARE to the Rescue!

By Scott Lange, Executive Director, AWARE Wildlife Center

A mother opossum is hit by a car and killed. Inside her pouch, a dozen babies cling to life. A kind person comes along. She checks the pouch and finds the babies but doesn’t know what to do with a bunch of tiny opossum babies. Where can she turn for help?

That’s where the AWARE Wildlife Center comes in. AWARE, located next to Arabia Mountain, at 4158 Klondike Road in Lithonia, is Atlanta’s only all-species wildlife rehabilitation hospital, taking in upwards of 1300 patients each year, from wrens to owls to flying squirrels to snapping turtles. The dedicated team gives each patient a thorough examination and then delivers whatever medical care is needed, including wraps, splints, antibiotics, fluids, nutritional support, and more. The goal is always to return the animal to live a ‘wild life;’ every patient that recovers well enough to thrive in the wild is released.

AWARE also delivers wildlife educational programs. The Wildlife Center has twenty ambassador animals: patients that couldn’t return to the wild and stay with at the center to teach folks about peaceful coexistence with wildlife. Visitors gather at 1:00pm every Saturday and Sunday at the center, for a free tour. Paid private programs for school groups, scout troops, and individuals are also available. Attendees meet ambassador wildlife and learn practical tips for peaceful coexistence.

Six animal-care staffers rely on a supervised team of 70 animal-care volunteers. Those volunteers provide all the feeding, cleaning, medicating, and care that both patients and ambassadors need. Volunteers typically commit to a weekly four-hour shift and can start volunteering as young as16 years old.

What can you do if you find orphaned opossums or other wild animals that may need help? Contact the help desk with the form on the website ( or by emailing Include a description of the injuries or circumstances and any pictures or videos you have. The help desk will respond with guidance on how to bring the animal to AWARE, how to seek an independent rehabber if they are full, how to renest, or how to peacefully coexist with the animal, depending on the circumstance.

A favorite tip from the Wildlife Center to pass on, “Never throw food waste out your car window. Food, even if biodegradable, brings insects and small animals to the side of the road. Insects and small animals draw larger predators like owls and foxes. Directly or indirectly, one piece of food can attract an entire food chain to a roadside, endangering all of them. More than 60% of AWARE’s patients arrive because they or their parents were hit on a roadway, so always take your food waste home to the compost or trash.”

Want to learn more or interact with the animals? This year’s annual Wild Night Out picnic is on October 22 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at the Rockdale Art Farm located at 4420 Flat Bridge Rd SW, Stockbridge, GA 30281. There will be music, food, drinks, and wildlife encounters, and tickets are on sale on the website now. AWARE is a non-profit and relies on the public for 100% of their funding. To support the work of AWARE, or inquire about becoming a volunteer, visit the website at or contact

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