Education, conservation, and rehabilitation for the welfare of Florida's natural fauna.
Founded in 1994, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) has grown from a single volunteer responding to a stranded dolphin to a nationally recognized state and federally permitted wildlife rehabilitation center.
ECWR moved to Navarre from Okaloosa Island in 2019 and has our first open-to-the-public facility. With the help of a new state of the art digital x-ray machine, a necropsy suite for our stranding team, and a learning environment focused on educating the public about conservation and coexistence with nature and wildlife, we can accomplish our mission of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing Florida's native wildlife.
Our staff, board of directors, ambassador animals, education displays, gardens and more continue to evolve as well. We hope that you will join us as a supporter who will evolve with us as we grow.
Rehabilitation is hard work, especially considering the cases that come through our doors. We could never do it without the commitment and compassion of our staff and volunteers. In 2020, ECWR took in almost 2,000 animals! Our most common patients are Eastern Gray Squirrels, Virginia Opossums, Brown Pelicans, and Eastern Box Turtles. Providing the medical care for wild animals can vary from minor wound treatment to major surgery, to over-winter housing and physical therapy.
Our main goal is to aid in the conservation of Florida's natural fauna, provide education to the local community or visiting tourists, and to rehabilitate orphaned or injured animals. We are a non-profit facility, and strive to help the Gulf Coast through the kind donations of individuals, families, and businesses.
Some of the most common wildlife injuries we treat are:
Pet (dog/cat) Attack
Did you know that ECWR has a state and federally permitted Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Team? We respond to stranded, sick, injured, and entangled dolphins and whales from the Florida/Alabama state border into Walton County. We also respond to sea turtles in Okaloosa County.
Our stranding team collects invaluable data that are used to help understand what affects these animals in their natural habitats, study potential human impacts, and conserve them for generations to come. On average, we respond to over 20 stranded dolphins and 10 sea turtles every year!
We are passionate about sharing our knowledge about conservation and wildlife with students of all ages. Examples of topics we cover include:
Native Florida Wildlife
We embrace the opportunity to educate in a variety of settings:
Field Trips at ECWR
Programs at Schools or Other Organizations
For Law Enforcement or Adult Education Groups
For Early Childhood Education
When local fisherman George Gray walked quickly across the white sands of Pensacola Beach, with a single, tiny baby dolphin in tow, he never imagined that one simple act of kindness would start a local conservation revolution. George, along with co- founders Richard Everett and Julie Parvin, formed a coalition of volunteers made up of local concerned citizens to respond to the rescue of “Kiwi”, a one month old Pantropical- spotted dolphin. Unable to move or touch the animal due to federal laws, the dedicated volunteer group stood strong for seventy-two hours in waist deep waters to form a human fence around the orphaned baby dolphin. The fragile “Kiwi” remained safe inside her circle of new friends, protected from predators and certain death, as George rushed to complete the permitting process. Finally, with the paperwork in order, George entered the water and accepted the very first patient to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.
Refuge founders may have never planned on becoming the area’s first wildlife rehabilitation center, but they could not deny the overwhelming needs of local wildlife and residents. In September 1994, the refuge was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation registered with the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. The organization was then granted 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and became permitted by the State of Florida and the federal government to rehabilitate most species of wildlife.
For the first six years, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge operated from volunteer homes. In March of 2000, refuge leaders recognized the necessity of a central base of operations and leased a commercial warehouse in Destin. By establishing a permanent residence, the refuge became more accessible to the public and local recognition by the community grew.
As the number of patient admissions continued to increase and a master plan was developed, additional space and more appropriate facilities were required. In early 2005, with the help of passionate volunteers and a zealous community, the refuge was able to raise enough funds to relocate to a larger facility, located on Okaloosa Island, and hire a professional staff to oversee its operations. The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge leaders were then able to focus on implementing a master plan and develop public outreach programs. In November of 2019, ECWR moved to its first ever, purpose-built facility at 3051 Cloptons Circle Navarre, FL 32566.