PORT ARANSAS, Texas — The Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas took a direct hit from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, causing millions of dollars of damage.
More than 80 percent of the Amos Rehabilitation Keep was damaged during the massive storm.
The estimated damages were about $45 million, and the rebuilding process has taken longer than expected.
“We really have come a long way since Hurricane Harvey, and we still have a long way to go, but we are getting closer every day,” said ARK Program Coordinator Alicia Walker.
One project that can be crossed off the list is their new flight rehabilitation cage.
“We got a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help us build this, and it was about $100,000, and it took us quite a while to get going, but now it is finally here, and we are excited about it,” she said.
The 100-foot-long sanctuary is a part of the center’s already existing rehab efforts, where it rehabs more than 800 birds a year, such as the great horned owl.
“It is so important, obviously; there are 800 birds that we rehab," Walker said. "So if we were not here to do that, then it would be very difficult to find other facilities to be able to pick up that need.”
The flight cage specially was designed to encourage flight while preventing damage to feathers and injury to the birds.
“It is so important for bird rehab because it allows us to let these guys stretch out their wings and really start to fly," she said. "And we can test them for live prey and how well they can survive in the wild.”
The flight cage is supposed to be the last stop in the injured birds’ rehabilitation process, which can range from days to months.
“This facility, the flight cage, helps us to do a better job at rehabbing," Walker said. "It gets these birds in, and it gets them out quicker.”
The ARK mission:
• rescue and rehabilitate marine birds and turtles found sick or injured from the coastal zone of Mustang Island and St. Joseph Island.
• release those animals that recover back to their native habitat.
• educate the public about local wildlife and human impacts on our coastal area.
• increase our knowledge through association with veterinarians and professional societies of how to treat, house, and release animal patients using up-to-date wildlife rehabilitation techniques to increase release success rates.
• improve our facilities so that turtles and birds can safely be housed and treated year-round, independent of seasonal climate changes.
The ARK also helps stranded turtles through its association with state and national turtle networks. To volunteer caring for injured coastal marine birds and turtles, contact the UT-Marine Science Institute at (361) 749-6711. This job is rewarding, but tough. If you love coastal critters and don’t mind cleaning cages, doing laundry, and cutting up fish then the ARK is the place for you.