A Home for Orphaned & Injured Wildlife
by Jamie Birchfield
Free Again is Southern Illinois’ largest and oldest Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. It was founded in 1987 and more than 400 injured, ill, or orphaned birds, mammals and reptiles are cared for every year at the center. Located just outside Carterville, Free Again provides a home for fourteen permanent residents that can’t be released into the wild and are now living out their lives as animal ambassadors.
“The rehab started off as a hobby,” said Beverly Shofstall, founder and director of Free Again. “My background is a Vet Tech so there were always animals. Then about 14 years ago I quit to do this full time because I had to pick one and I picked the one that has no pay.”
Through awareness and education, the center encourages a peaceful coexistence between people and native wildlife. Free Again is recognized as a leader in providing quality educational programs, which allow young and old to interact with wildlife. Every year, thousands of children and adults attend the center’s educational programs at Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, Hunting and Fishing Days at John A. Logan College and Vulture Fest in Makanda.
“I could not imagine my life without animals. I came from a farm and there were always animals there. The only time there was a lamb in the oven at my house growing up was a baby that we put in there to keep warm. ”
Free Again is a non-profit organization. The center receives no government funding and there is no paid staff. It is supported solely by private donations from individuals, businesses and service groups and organizations. Dedicated volunteers provide their time to care for all the animals on a daily basis.
“In the end, a day in the wild is better than a lifetime in a cage,” Shofstall said.