Our primary goal at Peace River Wildlife Center is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured, orphaned, and ill native Florida wildlife. Our secondary mission is to educate the public. This is the reason we have display habitats at our facility. People can see the unreleasable birds up close, learn how and why they got injured, and hopefully stop that same thing from happening to another animal.
We have over 100,000 visitors every year at our wildlife center, but we also reach countless others through our online presence with our website, Facebook page, and other social media outlets. We also have a troupe of volunteers heading up PRWC’s outreach efforts, headed up by Sue Gilleo. How she keeps all these events and volunteers straight, is a testament to the fact that she used to be a teacher and is used to being pulled in many directions at one time.
What started out with one retired school principal, Maryanne Sakamoto, going to Fishermen’s Village once a week to give lectures with a screech owl in a cage, has turned into one of our most popular features. We used to show up at the occasional street fair or church social with a table and some brochures, and invariably heard, “I’ve lived here for 45 years and never heard of PRWC!”
Fast forward a few years, and we now have three glove-trained birds of our own and three more that our seasonal volunteers bring with them from New York. We also have Blossom the opossum, who blissfully sleeps through outreach events in the loving arms of whichever volunteer is lucky enough to call dibs on her on any given day. And now we are welcomed at every event with a chorus of, “Yay, Luna’s here!”
Luna, a leucistic (albino) screech owl; Bella, a great horned owl; and Orion, a barred owl are our resident glove-trained birds that greet the public on the boardwalk at the Center or go out into the public to various venues. John and Diane Hime, wildlife rehabbers from upstate NY, bring their education birds with them when they flee the ice and snow each winter. Hootin’ Annie, a great horned owl; Maggie, a barred owl; and Allister, a red-tailed hawk are quite literally snowbirds that help PRWC spread the word locally, spending their winters at PRWC when they are not out at events.
Our outreach now includes trips to Fishermen’s Village twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. We are also out in the community almost every weekend and many week days at schools, clubs, and events.
On Saturday January 27, we will be at the Mopar Car Show at the new location of Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City Museum (10175 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda.) That location is just south of their previous site, (for us old-timers, where Sweetbay used to be.) Luna will be there from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. trying to decide which vintage vehicle he would most like to fly over and anoint with his personal “Luna’s choice” award.
After a morning of car shopping, join us at the 7th Annual Charlotte Harbor Chili Challenge & Beer Festival at Laishley Park, also Saturday January 27 from noon to 5 p.m. PRWC will be serving our award-winning Road Kill Chili and there will be beer, live music, and (did I mention?) beer. Some of our well-behaved glove-trained birds will be in attendance as well as some of our volunteers (whose behavior may leave a bit to be desired.) Come out and vote for us as your People’s Choice award winner with the token you receive on admission.
PRWC will have a booth at the Charlotte County Fair at the Charlotte County Fair Grounds (2333 El Jobean Rd, Port Charlotte) starting Friday January 26 and running through Sunday February 4. We may not have birds there due to the number of adoptable dogs that will be in the same tent, because our birds get a little nervous around that kind of commotion. We will have brochures and flyers and an amazing display board that our volunteer Maria Metge just spent weeks (and the GNP of a small county) putting together. Okay, so for the price of a glue stick and a couple photos on sale from Walgreens, it must have been one of those very small countries. Definitely not Norway.
Next month is shaping up to be just as busy. Stay informed with PRWC’s website and Facebook event calendars to know where in the world we may be on any given day. Rest assured the Center is always open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for visitors. Depending on the weather or our outreach agenda, if you want to see a particular animal or presentation, call in advance of your visit to verify the schedule for that day.
Education is a very important component of what we do at PRWC. The animals that are being rehabilitated with the ultimate goal of eventual release, are not, by law, permitted to be shown to the public. Having unreleasable education animals is a wonderful way to engage the public with our message. Our volunteers make great ambassadors and have a fun time doing it.
by-Robin Jenkins, DVM