We attended a presentation from Wild Florida Rescue, a volunteer organization that rescues injured wild animals all over Brevard County. The organizers worked as ambulance drivers and EMT's and wanted to provide their services to animals as well as the humans they assisted every day. Since their organization is volunteer based, the original founders were on duty 24/7 spending their own money on gas and supplies and jeopardizing their family life. About the time they were ready to have nervous breakdowns, other ambulance drivers joined them and they began to secure grants. Although they own two equipped ambulances now and more folks have volunteered, it sounded like an operation that was still working on a shoe string, but the stressful, sleepless nights they put in were tempered by the joy they felt freeing pelicans from fishing line, raccoons from bird feeders and bringing injured animals found by the side of the road to veterinarians who also volunteered their time and expertise. No poisonous snakes or alligators needed to apply.
At the presentation Betty announced her next hike and we joined her on the trail to Indian Mound. When Betty and her volunteer crew create trails, they follow the paths made by wildlife, clearing away the underbrush and putting blazes on the trees. As the jungle continues to grow and the animals continue to wander, new versions of these trails are created, so even Betty got turned around a few times as we headed in the general right direction. The trails are also used by the cows that are allowed to graze on the county owned lands. Poachers on airboats invade every so often and help themselves to a side of beef. It was disconcerting to encounter the head of a cow tied in a tree; the rest of her was long gone. Betty has taught us a lot about palm trees. These big trees have tiny roots and can blow over easily in the wind. But as long as some of the roots are still in soil and the leaves can photosynthesize, the tree can carry on. We saw a tree that had made two right turns as it grew along the ground, seeking more sunshine. Unlike deciduous trees, only the center of the tree carries water and nutrients. Even if much of the trunk is removed, a tree can continue to grow perched on that spindly center.
Today we made our weekly pilgrimage back to Black Point at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Every time we go we see what have become familiar friends as well as something new. Today we watched a bald eagle perched high on a snag tearing the feathers off of a bird with gusto as he prepared it for lunch. You can tell the tourists from the locals and wanna-be's like us. They clog the road whenever they see an alligator. Once you've seen a few they all start to look alike.