WOODVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Rescue, rehab and release. That's what a couple in Jackson County is dedicated to doing for wild animals in north Alabama.
Fawns freely walk around in the wooded area behind the home of John and April Russ.
"It's fun to see them running around and playing," says April Russ.
"They'll take off in here sometimes just streaking back and forth," adds John Russ.
In 2012, their eight and a half acre property became Shamballa Wildlife Rescue. It's a safe haven for wild animals. There's Elsa, the bob cat, a dexterous racoon named Myra, and plenty of opossums, including a baby one.
"She's about 4 weeks now," says April Russ as she feeds the baby opossum.
The Russ' take in the animals if they're abandoned or turned into a local shelter or veterinarian's office. Sometimes an animal is killed after a run-in with a car and the babies are left alone. Such is the case with Elsa.
"The mother was found dead on the side of the road and had a baby in her mouth," describes John Russ. "It was dead. I guess she chomped down on it, but Elsa was laying beside the mother. She was just a little kitten then."
Now, Elsa's set to be released in a few weeks. The Russ' provide shelter, food and training for the animals to hunt so they learn to be self sufficient.
"Racoons for instance, we teach them to fish by putting ice in their water," explains John Russ. "When they can catch the ice, April replaces the ice with fish and hides food around their enclosure."
This operation costs thousands of dollars, so our $319 came as an unexpected, but welcome surprise.
"That's great! Thank you," says John Russ.
The fact that someone thought enough of them to send in a nomination brought April Russ to tears. Here's a portion of the nomination email from Ann Cryer:
"Shamballa Wildlife Rescue is a place where animals are sent to be rehabbed. They are up to date on all of the latest laws and regulations. April and John work endlessly in building cages, cleaning cages and feeding these critters. They get very little donations and the rest of the money comes out of their pocket. The food and formula that it takes to feed these animals are monumental. April and John have put blood, sweat, tears and not to mention all the time that this takes to clean the areas. Shamballa Wildlife Rescue is a non-profit organization that is willing to help many wildlife animals to survive."
The Russ' say they will use the money to buy feeding supplies and materials to build more shelters so they can house more animals. Shamballa Wildlife Rescue is not open to the public, but you can follow the progress of the rescued animals on its Facebook Page.