When local fisherman George Grey walked quickly across the white sands of Pensacola Beach, Florida with a single, tiny baby dolphin in tow, he never imagined that one simple act of kindness would start a local conservation revolution. Unable to move or touch the animal due to federal laws protecting it, a dedicated group of volunteers stood strong for seventy-two hours in waist deep waters, as they formed a human fence around the orphaned animal. The fragile “Kiwi”, a one-month old Pantropical-spotted dolphin, remained safe inside her circle of new friends protected from predators and certain death, as George rushed to complete the permitting process. Finally with the paperwork in order, George entered the water and accepted the very first patient to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge founders may have never planned on becoming the area's first wildlife rehabilitation cen¬ter, but they could not deny the overwhelming needs of the local wildlife and residents. In Sep¬tember 1994, the refuge was officially granted 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status and became permitted by the State of Florida and the federal government to rehabilitate all species of wildlife. The refuge receives no tax dollars and depends upon private contributions, memberships, business partners, and grants to support our mission.
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge is based in Ft Walton Beach, Florida and provides wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and environmental outreach to five counties in Northwest Florida. The ref¬uge rescues thousands of animals a year working closely with law enforce¬ment, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Marine Fisheries, and US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect, treat and release our native species. Refuge staff is on duty 24-hours a day, seven days a week, providing an invaluable service to one of the most biologically diverse areas of North America.
The refuge is the lead response team for the Federal Marine Mammal Stranding Network, assisting with all marine mammal strandings from central Walton County west into Alabama. The refuge stranding team is trained to stabilize and transport distressed marine mammals and sea turtles. Stranding Center staff is instrumental in collecting data and samples for use by state and federal agencies for important research and tracking.
On any given day, the refuge receives as many as 20 calls from concerned citizens reporting injured or nuisance wildlife. With the admission numbers on the rise, the refuge recognizes the need to promote public awareness and education on wildlife, environment, and conservation issues. Informative and dynamic community outreach programs that combine new technology and live animals is available to all school classrooms, scout troops, community organizations, and private individuals wishing to learn more about wildlife and nature. For area residents that desire a more in depth, hands-on learning experience, the refuge offers volunteer opportunities in wildlife rehabilitation, marine mammal strandings, and environmental education.
If you would like to volunteer or learn about other ways you can help the refuge complete its mission, please call (850) 650-1880 or visit www.ecwildliferefuge.com. You can also follow on Facebook and Twitter.
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Mailing address: ECWR, 105 Santa Rosa Blvd, Ft Walton Beach, FL 32548