Since its founding in 2012, Wild at Heart Rescue in Vancleave has helped thousands of injured and distressed animals heal and return to the wild — with species ranging from bobcats to pelicans.
“We assist local law-enforcement, residents and anyone who has concerns about wildlife,” says director Missy Dubuisson, who established the nonprofit. Here, she tells us how Wild at Heart got started and how it serves the community:
WHY DID YOU FOUND WILD AT HEART?
Caring for animals, whether domestic or wild, is just a calling in my life. From a very young age, I rescued anything that looked like it was in need. I would scoop the critters up, set them up in a little shoebox, milk my little nanny goat to feed them and released them when they got mean. Literally, that’s what I did. As I grew older, I pursued a career working as a veterinary technician. I then started working for wildlife rehabilitation centers along the Coast and decided it was time to start my own rescue.
Caring for wild animals is more of a challenge to me than domestic animals. Obviously, they are wild, and in most cases uncooperative, but working on these majestic animals is such an honor. I am helping them heal and go back to nature. To see them come in with horrific injuries, or tiny babies that would have no chance of survival without our help — the experience of seeing them return home … oh my goodness! That feeling is overwhelming and just an awesome thing to be part of. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing that future generations may be able to see the offspring of the animals I had a small part in putting back in nature.
TELL US ABOUT WILD AT HEART AND ITS MISSION:
We specialize in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of indigenous injured, ill, or orphaned Mississippi wildlife. We conduct hundreds of programs educating tens of thousands of people each year. Education is a primary focus for the rescue, as it aids in the conservation of habitats for Mississippi wildlife.
With the pandemic, obviously we have been in quarantine — as everyone has. So, our school visits and festival visits have come to a halt. However, we did put together some educational videos for the summer library program, as well as Zoom meetings for schools. Education is key. We participate in many coastal cleanups as well and educate on the importance of keeping the environment safe for the wildlife that inhabit it.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY LIKE AT THE RESCUE?
A typical day involves feeding, cleaning, triaging new patients, updating medical records, rescuing wildlife that may be in need, vet visits, repairing closures, answering hundreds of calls and texts and maintaining our wildlife Facebook page, which has over 70,000 followers with thousands of messages each day.
WHAT ARE SOME SIGNIFICANT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS FOR WILD AT HEART?
Hurricane Zeta made quite an impact on Wild at Heart. We lost over 30 enclosures and had damage to our raptor flight enclosure, which is only one of three in the Southeast. Our corporate sponsor, Mississippi Power, funded nine enclosures for raptors, as well as repair of our large raptor flight enclosure.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?
We have been busy with a rebuild and are making things bigger and better. 2021 will prove to be an amazing year here at the rescue. We have just been named part of the Outpost program for Jackson County, so we are very excited to be part of it.
We look forward to a great year!