And just in case anyone thought Saturday’s Community Conservation Celebration wasn’t just that, Charley, a 60-pound wolf was in attendance to highlight the theme.
“Charley is around eight years old and he is our primary spokesman at the Shy Wolf Preservation Sanctuary in Golden Gate,” pointed out Randy Williard, his trainer. “He likes to meet people and to be petted. When people come for our tours and educational programs we offer a one-of-a-kind experience.”
And with that, Charley obliged a passing throng of picture takers and incredulous passersby who got to see a great American wolf close up.
Charley was just a part of the second annual Community Conservation Celebration at Mackle Park. It was the brainchild of Nancy Richie, environmental specialist of the City of Marco Island and responsible for bringing together more than 40 organizations and individuals who were available to answer questions and explain what everyone can do to help strengthen and maintain our environment.
Like Zach Mauk and Santo Maggio who represented the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
“We are a nonprofit organization which does educational programs for adults and children alike,” explained Mauk. “We feature a lot of different aquariums, live animal exhibits, nature trails, and we also have an electric boat tour. We are located just south of the Naples Zoo in Naples.”
Dick LaMay was also on hand from Southwest Trinkets based in Ocala with his hand-made Native American Zuni and Navaho jewelry which is made in Gallup, N.M., along with Betty Gilbert who featured her popular “Buffy the Burrowing Owl” book along with her DVD of the same title.
The burrowing owl is now considered a ‘Species of Special Concern’ and, as Gilbert points out in her book’s preface, we must take immediate action to protect it. The bird could be on its way to becoming endangered. Should it become extinct, future generations may never know such a fascinating bird ever existed.
“A percentage of the proceeds from this book goes directly to the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife,” Gilbert pointed out. “They’re the ones who go out and put up all the stakes and ribbons to keep anybody from getting too close to the burrows where the owls live. They pick them up when they’re injured and take them to the kindness center or the hospital as well.
“We’re also applying this money toward purchasing a piece of land in a more remote area so we can have more control of them and because they’re safer. We’ve found that they’re dying, they’re being killed, or the lizards are getting to them. They’re also in danger from the big tractors that do the mowing in some areas as well as constant development.”
Other exhibits included the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 95 of Marco Island that featured it’s Safe Boating Program, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s guide to living with Florida panthers.
All of which made Richie just beam at the exhibits and turnout.
“The Celebration is going really good today and we have some really great and interesting displays for people to look at and learn about,” Richie said. “We’re very pleased because today shows what Southwest Florida’s environment is all about.”