One of the many delights of living in Destin, Florida is the opportunity to visit the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge on a regular basis. Located on Okaloosa Island in neighboring Ft. Walton Beach refuge staff and volunteers have nursed stranded dolphins, injured pelicans and orphaned opossums back to health, returning them to the wild whenever possible. Animals that are not able to return to their native habitats become refuge ambassadors and part of the wildlife center’s extensive education program. Most recently, an exhausted masked booby blown off course by Tropical Storm Lee was rehabilitated and, with the help of local pilots, returned to its home turf in the Florida Keys.
A visit to the wildlife refuge is a favorite spring break outing for many Destin families; but for children in grades 1 through 6 who have a keen interest in the natural world, next week’s SpringWILD Children’s Spring Break Camp offers exciting opportunities to learn about and experience Florida’s native animal and marine life up close and personal. In session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 12 to 16, SpringWILD focuses on Florida’s exotic wildlife and their natural habitats. Children will be fascinated by live encounters with native owls, tortoises, gray foxes and raccoons and learn about Destin’s sea life, especially dolphins and sharks. Kids will also have plenty of time for sandcastle building, seashell collecting and arts and crafts. Interested parents should contact the wildlife refuge for details and registration.
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge also hosts summer camps for children and Is scheduled to open a charter school in August. The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Academy of Zoological Sciences will accept 6th and 7th graders this fall, eventually expanding to serve middle and high school students.