We often talk about the number of animals we see at Peace River Wildlife Center. Let’s look at the number of people that impact and are impacted by PRWC. By rough estimate, we have approximately 90,000 visitors each year coming to the Center to tour our permanent residents’ habitats and learn more about native Florida wildlife. Other people that we see are a result of outreach programs at schools, civic organizations, and community events.
PRWC’s mission is to rehabilitate orphaned, injured, and ill native Florida wildlife and get the healthy individuals back out into the wild. Our secondary mission is to educate the people living in and visiting this area how to peacefully coexist with the abundance of wildlife with which we are fortunate enough to share this little corner of paradise.
While the rehab staff consists of a few highly trained, not-so-highly paid rehabbers and technicians, the rest of PRWC’s staff comprises volunteers from all walks of life. More than 100 people a year give their time, their hearts, and often their own money to help keep PRWC open, clean, and operating smoothly. Even our paid staff members can be considered volunteers if one realizes that they could be making significantly more money in the private sector than working for a small non-profit.
Wednesday, February 23, 2017 is the day we celebrate and thank our staff (both volunteers and employees) with a special dinner in their honour, immediately following our annual membership meeting. If you are a member of PRWC or are unsure of your status and would like to attend the annual member meeting, call PRWC to get details.
Originally scheduled for Trabue, the event had to be changed at the last minute when it was decided that the wonderfully unique restaurant would be closed and turned into yet another Italian eatery. Just what downtown Punta Gorda needs—another place to get a bowl of soggy noodles in a pool of ketchup. (In case you couldn’t tell, I am not a fan of Italian food.)
So, we celebrate our volunteers. We thank them for cleaning every cage and habitat every day. They scrub, scoop, and rake. They chop food, wash laundry, and sweep floors. They provide tours, man the gift shop, and answer phones. They rescue injured animals, pick up donated items, and go to outreach events.
They are hospital aides, tour guides, gift shop clerks, maintenance engineers, cleaners, board members, office staffers, rescuers, outreach reps, and home care techs. This amazing little army keeps PRWC running and has been responsible for some of the major changes and improvements over the years. Without them we could not function on a daily basis and could not provide the level of care that we do to our patients and resident animals.
Thanks to our staff of volunteers and employees, Trip Advisor has rated PRWC as the #1 Thing To Do in Punta Gorda. We get visitors from all over the county, state, country, and world. Many of them come to see our star attraction, Luna, the leucistic (albino) owl.
Speaking of Luna, PRWC is having our first annual bluegrass festival as a fundraiser coming up. LunaFest will be Saturday, March 4, starting at 1p.m. at the Punta Gorda History Park. Featuring three well-known area bluegrass bands, LunaFest tickets are only $10 each and due to the intimate nature of the location, a limited number will be sold. Food and drinks will be available onsite. You are encouraged to bring your own chairs. For tickets and more information go to www.peaceriverwildlifecenter.org or call 941-637-3830.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM
Mac feeds the resident pelicans
BOD president Pat cleans cages
This past week has been an exhilarating one at Peace River Wildlife Center. We had our summer volunteer and staff appreciation party, where we thank all of the wonderful (foolhardy) folks who brave the heat, bugs and torrential rains to help us throughout the sultry summer months. Our tiny but mighty staff of 9 could not achieve PRWC’s mission without a lot of community involvement. PRWC is the success that it is because of our volunteers and our generous supporters.
We normally hold a pot luck picnic at the pavilion in Ponce de Leon Park. It’s a beautiful setting and close enough so that even the people who are working can slip out for a bite to eat and a chance for a quick social visit. We often get rained on, but we are all kind of used to that. This year as a special treat, Trabue Restaurant in Punta Gorda hosted our party and it was spectacular. We closed PRWC early for the first time so all of our staff could attend. It was a great time, the food was delicious, the staff attentive, and the venue was extraordinary.
We weren’t all about the party this week though; we did get a little work in. Baby bird season is finally slowing down and now the baby squirrels are starting to stream through the doors. Our amazing foster parents are taking care of close to 30 baby eastern gray squirrels right now. If anyone is interested in learning how to care for neonates (syringe feeding every 3-4 hours), call PRWC to sign up for an introductory lesson.
The most exciting patient of the week was a young bobcat. The kitten was seen in a Port Charlotte backyard one day. The savvy (This is not an insult. If you don’t understand the meaning of the word, please Google it.) homeowners left the gate open for the bobcat to leave or its mother to return for it. After over 24 hours the kitten was still there, repeatedly walking into the fence, so they called PRWC. Charlotte County Animal Control officer Finkbeiner picked up the confused kitten and transported to our facility.
The approximately four-month-old female bobcat kitten was quite thin on admission, but otherwise appeared to be in good health. Her eyes looked fairly normal but she is visually impaired and would not have survived in the wild on her own. We don’t know if she was born blind and survived this long by her mother’s side or if she sustained some sort of trauma that lead to the impairment, although no injuries are present at this time. Her bloodwork was normal, so a congenital anomaly like a liver shunt is unlikely.
Since PRWC does not have room for resident mammal habitats, we reached out to our friends around the state. And while the east coast was girding for the possible attack by Tropical Storm / Hurricane Erica, the good folks at Flamingo Gardens responded quickly. Just west of Fort Lauderdale in Davie, Florida, Flamingo Gardens was able to take in the little bobcat and give her a permanent home. They have called her Charlotte in honour of her hometown.
Charlotte will be treated and handled carefully over the next few weeks and months as she acclimates to her new life. The Flamingo Gardens staff will assess her aptitude as an educational animal. If she is not comfortable being handled and being close to visitors, she will go on display with their older female. We are sad to see her go, but we know this is the best possible place for her to live a long and happy life.
by–Robin Jenkins, DVM
Charlotte ready for transfer to Flamingo Gardens
CCAC Officer Brad Finkbeiner restrains blind bobcat
Baby bobcat by Linda Oneill