Ricky Pires Director,
“Wings of Hope” Program
They make it possible for us to reach out to our community and make a difference for the environment,
the Florida Panther and the wildlife of Southwest Florida.
Artist Linda Barone
Donation made by Florida Wildlife Federation for infrared motion
cameras to help moniter and track the Florida Panther.
While the Florida Panthers are having a stellar year on the ice, the endangered Florida panthers, off the ice, haven’t been so lucky. The Florida Panthers hockey team honored FGCU Wings of Hope Director Ricky Pires during the NHL team’s Conservation Night, recognizing her for her efforts to help save the endangered Florida panther species.
“It is dear to my heart,” said Pires, who was honored as the Community Champion as part of the NHL team’s #MoreThanAMascot campaign. “It’s just a big partnership that makes this work. A lot of people help us out because it’s a lot of work.”
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Thank you to our new Bear Brigade Partners, Defenders of Wildlife, for their generous donation to our new and quickly growing Program. The Bear Brigade is making an impact in our greater community every day! Beginning in Fall 2015, we will be educating six Orlando elementary schools, approximately eight hundred students, in critical bear habitat about Florida Black Bears and how we can all co-exist.
Florida’s black bear population has recovered from historically low numbers in most areas of the state, while at the same time the number of people has increased in and around where bears live. As a result, bears and people encounter each other more than ever. Keeping bears wild and away from the places where people live and work is a responsibility we all share. (FWC information)
Bears do no stay in neighborhoods if they do not find food. Properly storing or securing garbage cans and outdoor grills is a proven method of preventing bear conflicts.
The FGCU “Wings of Hope” program's new outreach team is gathering data on the different types of garbage cans on campus, and whether or not they are bear or wildlife proof. Phase two starts in the fall semester with presentations in many classrooms and events, educating FGCU staff and students about:
• Bear behavior and you.
• Discouraging wildlife and bears from visiting campus.
• What to do if you find an injured or orphaned critter.
• Who to call? NOT a TV station!!
Our Board of Advisor, and dear friend, Nancy Payton was joyous May 22nd when the Nancy Payton Preserve in Collier County was finally open to the public. This 76 acre plot of land was unanimously named after her in recognition of all of her hard work on behalf of native wildlife including the endangered Florida Panther.
The property, located at 1540 Blue Sage Drive in rural Collier County, was purchased in 2005 by Conservation Collier, Collier County’s conservation land program. The preserve property is managed by Conservation Collier land manager Christal Segura. There are trail markers, benches, a picnic table and an educational sign built by Eagle Scout Trey Blackmon. The Collier County Audubon Society donated a sign identifying the woodpeckers found in the Preserve.
The Nancy Payton Preserve serves as an important wildlife refuge within Collier County’s urban fringe for many native plant and animal species. Wildlife known to occur or directly observed include the bobcat, cotton mouse, gopher tortoise, eastern gray squirrel, Florida panther, nine-banded armadillo, raccoon, spotted skunk, Virginia opossum, white-tailed deer, Big Cypress fox squirrel, red cockaded woodpecker and at least six different woodpecker species. Florida black bear are known to be in the area.
As the 2014-2015 school year is nearing its end for both collier and lee county grade school students, our Panther Posse fourth and fifth graders have went above and beyond in raising money and saving their pennies for panthers for the FGCU Wings of Hope Program. These funds are now being used to purchase a new infrared motion camera to capture pictures of our endangered Florida Panther, as well as, other critters that also call Florida habitats home. This includes, Florida Black Bears and more elusive animals such as the Grey Fox and Coyote. We are so thankful to our Panther Posse students for taking initiative and helping the success and perpetuation of our program for future generations. Together we will help save the Florida Panther and its habitat!