Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge

The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge is a shining example of a nonprofit that actively makes a difference and focuses on educational programs for the continual betterment of our community.


Director Susan Leveille explains how broad the scope is for the refuge. “Our refuge is responsible for the rescue and rehabilitation for any type of native life here in Florida.”


From the smallest birds and mammals to dolphins and whales, ECWR works with volunteers and a veterinarian so they have the best care possible. “The happiest day of all is when we can release these guys into their natural habitat. Our goal is to let the animals live freely in healthy circumstances that allow for their success.”


If an animal can’t be fully rehabilitated, ECWR has a space for them as well. “We also have a zoo in Crestview as a possibility for an animal who can’t be released,” says Leveille. “They may be able to find a home right there at our zoological park.”


Some are deemed “animal ambassadors” and can be seen at area events to help continue ECWR’s commitment to educational programs. “Lots of our patients are here because of interaction with humans or human-caused events,” says Leveille. She lists issues like fishing line entanglements, accidents, and domestic animals as the leading causes for injuries. “We estimate that 70 percent of the animals that come through the door have had some kind of human negative interaction.


“We have a policy that everyone receives an answer to his or her call,” she says. While officially their boundaries run from Western Bay to Escambia, they are happy to offer advice, solutions and networking for any wildlife issues.


“We really want people to know that they can call us if there is a question about wildlife. If they observe something, just make that phone call because we can respond with a rescue, offer advice and suggestions, and help identify animals if you are uncertain of what they are. We have a lot of resources here that we want to share with everybody.”


Items like bleach, laundry detergent, printer paper, paper towels, tissues and baby wipes are often at the top of ECWR’s wish list. Pine straw, contractor-sized trash bags, yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, birdseed and raw nuts are also welcomed to help the nonprofit defray expenses.

Volunteers also play an integral part, helping with transport and rescues, as well as working at the refuge and zoological center. “It is a great way to donate,” says Leveille of volunteering. “It is something that is so valuable. We appreciate anyone that can help us that way.”


From a tropical masked booby being reunited with its migrating flock via plane to the more common smaller mammals needing extra care, ECWR is always there. Call 850-650-1880 or visit ecwildliferefuge.com to learn more.


Upcoming ECWR events include a haunted house and kids’ Halloween activities at the Crestview Zoological Park starting Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m., and a benefit night at Redd’s Fueling Station in Blue Mountain Beach Nov. 17.

– Nikki Hedrick
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