Alabama Wildlife Center
The Alabama Wildlife Center, located within Oak Mountain State Park, is the state's oldest and largest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center. It has cared for over 50,000 injured or orphaned animals of 100 different species. It was founded as the Alabama Wildlife Rescue Service by Anne Miller in 1977. She served as Executive Director until her retirement in 2008. The current executive director is Chris Sykes.
The Alabama Wildlife Center assists Alabama residents with wildlife-related emergencies. The center operates a a telephone hotline for information and recommendations (205-621-3333). The center uses its staff, volunteers and facilities to care for injured, orphaned or abandoned wild animals and to educate the public about threats to wildlife and the details of caring for wild animals.
Miller started the center while she was a keeper at the Birmingham Zoo. She cared for an injured red-shouldered hawk, sheltering it in her own Smyer Lake cottage and training it to hunt mice. At the time she was affiliated with the Wildlife Rescue Service which operated with grant money out of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. By 1981 she was operating the center full time and left the zoo.
In 1987 the wildlife center moved most of its operations to the former Foothills Restaurant in Oak Mountain State Park, an in-kind gift from the state. Renovations were designed by Evan M. Terry Associates architects. In addition to incubators, clinic rooms and enclosures, the center has educational displays, a gift shop, and meeting space for visiting groups. A 750-foot handicapped accessible Treetop Nature Trail begins at the center and permits views of non-releasable birds of prey in large natural habitat enclosures.
The center is operated by a network of hundreds of volunteers. The center is open daily for self-guided tours. Special programs include the "Juvenile Raptor Restoration Project", which helps reduce the need for rehabilitative services by helping adult raptors locate their displaced hatchlings. "Natchez" and "Coosa" are specially-trained "education birds" that accompany educators at programs with youth and civic groups.
The 2006 Rand McNally Road Atlas includes the Wildlife Center as one of its "Best of the Road" suggested side trips. The Wildlife Center is partnering with Oak Mountain, the Alabama Department of Conservation, Samford University and the Friends of Oak Mountain to create a new $1.5 million Oak Mountain Interpretive Center in furtherance of its educational and conservation mission.
In July 2009 the Center reduced programs and staff in the face of reduced contributions. George and other staff members resigned in advance of taking unpaid furloughs and recruitment of volunteers was stepped up. In 2014 the center's outdoor bird enclosures along the Treetop Nature Trail were refurbished with funds from Shelby County and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
- Anne Miller, 1977–2008
- Liz Bleiberg, 2008–October 2008
- Amy George, October 2008–July 2009
- Carol Argo, –June 2013
- Douglas Adair, July 2013–November 2021
- Chris Sykes, March 2022–
- Bryan, Kelly (1981) Article from Leeds News. Photocopy provided by Alabama Wildlife Center.
- Bryant, Walter (July 14, 2008) "Vestavia Hills native Liz Bleiberg is the new executive director of Alabama Wildlife Center in Oak Mountain State Park." The Birmingham News
- Vickery, Scottie (July 21, 2009) "Alabama Wildlife Center cuts programs, staff." 'The Birmingham News
- Reed, Martin J. (August 14, 2014) "Birds return to enclosures at Oak Mountain State Park's Treetop Nature Trail following repairs." The Birmingham News
- Love, Michelle (March 10, 2022) "Chris Sykes named new executive director of Alabama Wildlife Center." Shelby County Reporter