We know snowbirds migrate to Southwest Florida for the winter but where do native birds and other Florida wildlife recuperate while in Charlotte County? The Peace River Wildlife Center located in Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda. I recently toured the facility and am truly amazed at the work this nonprofit organization accomplishes. Fully funded through donations, the Center provides tender care to injured and orphaned native wildlife, whether it a bird, reptile or even a deer (sorry, no venomous snakes permitted). The Center's mission is to return rehabilitated animals back to their natural habitat but if animals are not able to return to the wild, they will be given a permanent home at the facility. During my visit, I viewed some abandoned and injured wildlife recuperating including a cuddly opossum named Peter Pan (because he refuses to grow up) and a small gopher tortoise that met the teeth of a dog and was now healing nicely. I also noticed a funny thing. Native, non-injured birds also like hanging out there. Perhaps they enjoy the company of other birds but I suspect it’s the guarantee of a meal or two. Speaking of meals, I saw one of the volunteers cutting up lunch. Apparently, one of the resident vultures is quite picky about her food and her rats need to be properly skinned and chopped up to a specific size. No bigger. No smaller. Just right. This vulture despises rat feet but her neighbor gobbles them up. Who knew vultures were so finicky? Birds at Peace River Wildlife are very entertaining. Visit around 2:30 for the afternoon pelican feeding frenzy, try chatting up Spirit the Raven, play peekaboo with the owls and pay attention to how the birds on the inside interact with those coming for a visit. Admission is free into the Peace River Wildlife Center and donations are accepted since the facility relies on donations to fund ALL operations. The facility is open seven days a week (closed for Christmas) and tours are offered twice daily. (3400 Ponce de Leon Parkway, Punta Gorda, www.peaceriverwildlifecenter.com)
About the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast
Florida's premier year-round eco-tourism destination, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast, is known for its pristine, unspoiled beauty. The area has hosted seven major feature films, been featured on SAIL magazine's list of the "10 Greatest Places to Sail in the United States," ranked by Golf Digest as the "Third Best Place to Live and Play Golf in America," and rated by MONEY magazine as one of the "Best Places to Live in the South." For information about area events, activities and attractions, contact the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau, 1700 Tamiami Trail, Suite G-2, Port Charlotte, FL; 941-743-1900, or call toll free at 1-800-652-6090 for a free Visitor's Guide; or visit the Web site at CharlotteHarborTravel.com.