Given a second chance: Sanctuary returns animals back to their habitat

Four squirrels, four raccoons, a turtle, a gray fox, and one bald eagle were all released back into the wild on Thursday by the team of the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida.

They are just a few of the many creatures the sanctuary heals and returns to their natural habitat.

Dorothy Kaufmann, director of the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida, said around 3,000 to 4,000 a year to be exact.

"We're in our 34th year, so we've done a lot," she said. "A lot of releases. We're very proud of that and this is what it's all about, giving wildlife a second chance."

Each rescued animal has its own story; rescue and rehabilitation is a team effort.

"Sometimes it takes human intervention to do that, getting them released, but it's usually human issues that brought them in, so we don't mind interfering," Kaufmann said.

Critters get caught in fishing lines and even ingest toxic items.

"It's not really nature if you get caught in fishing line and it's not really nature if you ingest bad things and you get sick from it," Kaufmann explains.

That is what happened with the bald eagle that the team calls , "Santa Baby".

The eagle ingested items near a landfill in December and fell ill.

After nearly three months of TLC she was ready to be released.

"Releasing a bald eagle, there's just something about it. It's wonderful," Kaufmann explains.

It's easily the most rewarding part of their job and a visual reminder of why they do it.

"When you get to see your work that you have given something a second chance, it just makes life better. It really does," Kaufmann said.

The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida is open seven days a week as a wildlife hospital for any injured and orphaned and indigenous wildlife.

Also, they are open for public tours Wednesday through Saturday noon to 3:30.