In Johns Creek, a refuge for injured wildlife

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center has the third wildlife rehabilitation facility in metro Atlanta and the only one working exclusively with small mammals

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Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center
State-licensed wildlife rehabilitator Jess Legato gives a nine-week-old joey water with a syringe.

Photograph by the Sintoses

This spring, 10 baby possums arrived by cardboard box to a newly opened wildlife rescue center in Johns Creek. The now nine-week-old joeys had been in their mother’s marsupium when she was killed by a car. Here, state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator Jess Legato gives one of them water with a syringe. Since opening, the center has also cared for fawns, cottontails, and squirrels, all of whom are returned to the wild once they heal.

Working as Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center’s education program manager, Legato saw the need for a place to treat injured wildlife in a rapidly developing suburbia where habitats are being fragmented; today, she’s the new clinic’s director. Autrey Mill has the third wildlife rehabilitation facility in metro Atlanta and the only one working exclusively with small mammals. The majority of its patients are the victims of cat attacks and road collisions in Fulton County, where the human population has grown 20 percent since 2010. Elsewhere in the metro, the Wildlife Department at the Chattahoochee Nature Center cares for reptiles and raptors, while the AWARE Wildlife Center in Stonecrest cares for all species of injured or orphaned wild animals.

Legato encourages folks to speak with experts before interacting with wild animals or bringing them to the clinic, which charges no fees and relies on donations to keep going.

This article appears in our September 2023 issue.

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