CELEBRATE FLORIDA PANTHER WEEK IN NAPLES

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1 News Release Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 3860 Tollgate Blvd, Suite 300 Naples, FL Phone: 239/ CONTACT: Layne Hamilton, Refuge Manager FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CELEBRATE FLORIDA PANTHER WEEK IN NAPLES SAVE THE FLORIDA PANTHER is the theme for the annual Florida Panther Week, March The US Fish and Wildlife Service & Friends of Florida Panther Refuge invites the community to join the celebration events leading up to March 17, Save the Panther day, as designated by the State of Florida. Florida Panthers once ranged throughout eight states in the southeast, but for over a100 years, they were pushed to the brink of extinction, concentrated now in the southwestern tip of Florida. The panthers have somehow found a foothold for survival in the remote regions of the Everglades. The Florida Panther is a symbol for the ecosystem, representing the fragile habitat that is under constant pressure by years of human activities like hunting, logging, drainage, road and commercial development, recreation, and most detrimental of all, apathy. In March 1967 they were finally protected, and that is the cause for our celebration! The more you learn about the inherent challenges for survival of the Florida Panther, the more you will understand how complex, dynamic and fragile the

2 entire Everglades ecosystem is. The problems that have caused the need to list and protect endangered and threatened species are a human problem, so the solution is also a human one. It will take the coordination of federal, state, and county governments, as well as the support of each citizen that lives in the area because it affects all of us, as stewards of the natural areas. We encourage you to participate and learn more about the ecosystem during this special week where each day brings a new opportunity to explore your wilderness areas. Sign up for or attend the events listed! Have your own firsthand experience in our natural areas and if you re lucky, you ll see wild animals in their environment. Sign up for the tours, starting March 5! To celebrate the culmination of Florida Panther Week, the Florida Panther Refuge will hold a morning open house on St. Patrick s Saturday, March 17. Be Green by learning about this interesting and important natural area by signing up for a tour. Outdoor activities will include a bird walk, swamp buggy tours, a native plant identification walk, photography workshop, and orchid tours. Starting at 7:30 am, a bird walk and talk will start from the Duncan Memorial Trail. Other tours run from 8 am noon will visit cypress swamps and oak hammocks and if we re lucky, have occasional wildlife sightings. The public Duncan Memorial Trail which is open during the daylight hours every day of the week, just added a new boardwalk observation platform! A dedication ceremony at 10am will officially open the platform which was completed last month, thanks to the Duncan Memorial fund, local chapters of Safari International Club, and the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge. March 8, Thurs "The Cause for Paws" <Event details has already been released to the press from London Bay Homes Contact: Ricky Pires

3 11:20 am Luncheon and 5:30 pm Evening Events. Grand opening in a new housing community in Mediterra and showcasing the unveiling of new line of Panther jewelery created by Congress Jewelers will help fund projects for the Panther Refuge. Sponsors for this fundraiser include London Bay Homes, Congress Jewelers, Germaine Lexus of Naples, Naples Illustrated magazine, FGCU s Wings of Hope Program, Woodward, Pires, & Lombardo, PA, and the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge. Please be sure to sign up (starting March 5) for the tours below! March 10, Sat "Cycling Bear Island Grade" 9am - Noon Spend the morning on bicycles, with rangers from the Big Cypress National Preserve and along the way, to learn about the Panther's habitat, what the researchers do, and other interesting facts about Panthers! Limited to age 15 and up & maximum group of 20 people. Please RSVP, starting from March 5. March 10, Sat "Marco Island's Community Conservation Celebration" 10 4 pm <This event has been addressed in a separate press release from City of Marco Island Contact: 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 teach people what 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 4pm Spend a fun day at the zoo with educational exhibits, talk to a field Panther Team Biologist and enjoy kid s activities like making panther masks and face painting! A portion of the proceeds from that day will benefit the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge s programs. Speak directly to organizations and agencies that are fighting to protect the Panther, such as 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, The National Wildlife Federation, and more! Join the Zoo staff as they introduce the animals in their Planet Predators show and a Meet the Keepers presentation around the Panther Glades exhibit. March 13, Tues Discovery Club hosts a Panther Presentation 3:30 to 5 pm The after-school program, Discovery Club welcomes children from ages 7 11 to join this special presentation and a Panther treasure hunt on the Naples Preserve s 9.5 acres. Make sure we have enough supplies for your child by signing up now! Call or directly March 14, Wed "Swamp Walk at the Fakahatchee, with Mike Owen" 10 2pm

4 Explore the mysterious "Amazon of Southwest Florida" with the knowledgeable biologist. A dynamic speaker who shares his passion for Orchids and the history of the Fakahatchee, Mike will open your senses to a whole new world! March 17, Sat Be Green on St. Patty s Day 8 - Noon EARN A GREEN HEART by sharing the festive day with your family, while exploring the Panther Refuge from a swamp buggy or walking the trails learning about 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 to help save the panther and its habitat. Representatives from organizations like will be there as we offer educational information, tours, and fun kids activities! All activities are free and will be available by reservation only. Call the refuge office at (239) , ext. 233 starting from March 5 between 12 noon 3:30pm to reserve spaces. Reservations will be made on a firstcome-first-serve basis. Space is limited. 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. For more information about panther week: For children s resources and activities online educators should visit: Support the Florida Panther Trust Fund by buying the specialty license plate: 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

5 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. The Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge work with the refuge to protect and conserve one of earth's rarest animals. The Florida species; when we protect all our neighbors! (Credit image to Panther is an umbrella protect the Panther, we plant and animal Steve Carbol)

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