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Celebrate “Florida Panther” Week in Naples

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2007


Contacts:

Layne Hamilton, (239) 353-8442
Tom MacKenzie, (404) 679-7291


Starting March 10, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Friends of Florida Panther Refuge invite everyone to join in a week of celebration events leading up to the State designated “Save the Panther Day” on March 17.

Panthers once kept the balance of nature throughout the entire Southeastern United States. But just like Asia’s majestic tiger, America’s signature cat faced overhunting, habitat destruction, and the loss of natural prey. Pushed to the brink of extinction, a remnant population was concentrated in the tip of Florida leaving an imbalance in nature throughout the Southeast. Finally protected in March 1967, their survival and the continuing efforts to save them is the cause for our celebration!

During this highlight week, everyone is invited to participate to learn more about the greater Everglades ecosystem that affects both panthers and people. Join special events and tours to meet experts or have your own first-hand experience in your local wilderness areas. Sign up for tours starting March 5!

To celebrate the culmination of Florida Panther Week, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge will hold a morning open house on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17. Be “green” by learning about this fascinating and important natural area by signing up for a tour. Outdoor activities include a bird walk, swamp buggy tours, a native plant walk, photography workshop, and orchid tours. Thanks to the Duncan Memorial fund, Naples-Fort Myers chapter of Safari Club International, and The Friends of Florida Panther Refuge, an observation platform now enhances the Duncan Memorial Trail. A dedication ceremony will be held at 10am to officially open the newly completed platform. The trail is open daily during daylight hours.

Panther Week Events

March 8, Thurs "The Cause for Paws” Benefit
11:20 a.m. Luncheon & 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Ricky Pires rpires@fgcu.edu or Phone: 239/590-7028
Grand opening for a community in Mediterra & unveiling panther jewelry by Congress Jewelers. Sponsors for this fundraiser include London Bay Homes, Congress Jewelers, Germain Lexus of Naples, Naples Illustrated magazine, FGCU‘s “Wings of Hope” Program, Woodward, Pires, & Lombardo, PA, and the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge.

March 10, Sat "Cycling Bear Island Grade"
9 a.m. - Noon
Spend the morning on bicycles with rangers from the Big Cypress National Preserve to learn about the panthers’ habitat and what researchers do! Limited to age 15 and up with a maximum group of 20 people. Please RSVP, starting from March 5.

March 10, Sat "Marco Island's Community Conservation Celebration"
10 – 4 p.m.
Contact: nrichie@cityofmarcoisland.com
The City of Marco Island has invited over 40 conservation groups including the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge. The National Wildlife Federation will have two workshops to demonstrate steps you can take to support Florida panthers. The 1st Annual Conservation Celebration will be held at Frank Mackle Park.

March 11, Sun Panther Week Kick-off at the Naples Zoo
9:30 – 4 p.m.
Spend a fun day at Naples Zoo. Explore educational exhibits, talk to a field Panther Team Biologist, and enjoy kids’ activities like making panther masks and face painting! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge’s programs. Speak directly to organizations and agencies united to protect the panther including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge, Picayune State Forest, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, and more!

March 13, Tues “Discovery Club hosts Panther Presentation”
3:30 to 5 p.m.
The after-school program, “Discovery Club” welcomes children from ages 7 – 11 to join this special “Panther Treasure Hunt” on the Naples Preserve’s 9.5 acres. Reserve a space now! Call 261-4290 or email directly PreserveCaptains@aol.com

March 14, Wed "Swamp Walk at the Fakahatchee, with Mike Owen"
10 – 2 p.m.
Explore the mysterious "Amazon of Southwest Florida" with this knowledgeable biologist. A dynamic speaker who shares his passion for orchids and the history of the Fakahatchee, Mike Owen will open your senses to a whole new world! Please RSVP.

March 17, Sat “Be Green on St. Patty’s Day”
8 - Noon
EARN A GREEN HEART by sharing this festive day with your family while exploring the Panther Refuge in a swamp buggy or walk the trails with birds, orchids, and, of course, looking for the wild panther! You'll be able to learn more about what you can do as an individual. Representatives from several organizations will be there to offer educational information, tours, and fun kids’ activities!

All activities are free and tours will be available by reservation only. Space is limited. Unless otherwise noted above, call the refuge office at (239) 353-8442, ext. 233 starting from March 5 between 12 noon – 3:30 p.m. to reserve spaces. Reservations will be made on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge work with the refuge to protect and conserve one of earth's rarest animals. To learn more details about the activities and what you can do- Click www.floridapanther.org.

Driving Directions to the refuge’s public trail: From Naples, take I-75 West to Alligator Alley to Exit 80. Take the exit for SR 29, North towards Immokalee. Turn left into the Parking lot for Florida Panther Refuge, within ¼ mile from the highway.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts.

Additional Resources:

Information about the Florida Panther -- http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/Florida_Panther.htm
For children’s resources and activities, click http://www.panther.state.fl.us/
To show your support of the panther, purchase a Florida Panther License Plate. More info at http://www.hsmv.state.fl.us/specialtytags/SLP.html


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/southeast or http://www.fws.gov/.



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