Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge offers driving wildlife tours

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is offering driving wildlife tours around the Joe Michael Memorial Trail, with a stop at the wildlife observation deck.

These tours are geared toward those who would like the opportunity to get outdoors and experience wildlife on the refuge but might not have the ability to walk the 3-mile trail.

The tours are free and will take place biweekly on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. through February.

Participants will have the opportunity to go deep into the refuge by van while riding into areas that aren’t normally open to vehicular traffic. Reservations will be required due to limited seating space.

Anyone is welcome to attend these tours but the van is not equipped with universally accessible lifts. Personal vehicles will not be permitted.

Participants should first call or email the refuge to sign up, then, plan on meeting refuge staff at the Centennial Trail parking lot 10 minutes prior to each tour.

The Centennial Trail parking lot is located on north Historic Jungle Trail, off Highway A1A on Orchid Island (located 3.7 miles north of CR 510). Once on Jungle Trail, drive ½ mile south and turn right towards Centennial Trail. Loaner binoculars and bird I.D. guides will be provided.

People have been watching birds at Pelican Island since before Paul Kroegel began protecting the island’s pelicans from plume hunters in the late 1800’s. Later, in 1903, the island was established as the nation’s first national wildlife refuge by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect all species of water birds.

Today, the refuge remains a national birding destination, a Great Florida Birding Trail site, and most recently became a “Birder-friendly Refuge” of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge is most popular for its water birds, including all the heron and egret species, white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, wood storks and even an occasional bald eagle.

However, many species of mammals thrive on the refuge, including bobcats and river otters. These driving tours were very popular last year so please call to reserve a spot today!

Tours will be offered on the following Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 14 and 28; Jan. 11 and 25; and Feb. 8 and 22.

Please call (772) 562-3909 x 266 to reserve a seat.

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