(I thought I had published this blog post. I’m taking you back in time!)
Several people had recommended we go to Ellie Schiller and based on the website and the brochure I saw it was definitely on our agenda.
It did not disappoint – in fact it far exceeded all our expectations. I think we were all a little worried after yesterday and only seeing one manatee at Three Sisters. We didn’t know exactly what to expect at Ellie Schiller. From the website and brochure it seemed like it might be kind of like a zoo, but it was a preserve, and so far, at most preserves we had seen a few birds and not much else.
Ellie Schiller did start out as an attraction. Then the state of Florida bought it and decided to make it into a wildlife preserve. They gave any non-native animals to other zoos, etc. The only non-native animal that is still there is Lu the Hippo. Everyone loved Lu and petitioned for him to stay. The Governor made Lu an official Florida resident so that he could remain at Ellie Schiller. Other animals are here because they were injured or abandoned as babies and couldn’t be released for some reason. They do not breed here, but if nature happens, then an occasional baby is born.
Our first surprise came because we drove to a different entrance than I had planned. I’m so thankful for that mistake – it meant we got a free boat ride to the park and we learned about Anhingas and the Homossassa area and native people on the way!
There are educational programs at certain times throughout the day, so much like our visit to the Zoo, I kept watch of the schedule so we could see and experience as much as possible in one day. 🙂
First off the Wildlife encounter. We were all surprised to learn about opposums! They are so interesting and cute! There were gators – lots of gators! And we learned so much about them in another ranger session. Actually it made sense why we haven’t seen that many. They are resting during the winter season and do not eat (in fact can die if they eat below a certain temperature.) And they don’t move around much during the cold.
Another section had birds galore! So many different types of cute owls and hawks. I wish we had taken more pics. We did take quite a few pics of the water fowl being fed – that was entertaining!! There was a reptile building. A cute otter and a couple bears were in another area of the preserve. One visitor was particularly loud and she thought she could get the bear to come (which it did) and sit (which it didn’t). Even Brielle could tell the lady was annoying the bear.
The manatees were neat. We saw a ranger session feeding the 2 manatees that are permanent residents. (There used to be 3, but sadly one passed away.) We decided to eat lunch at this pavilion on the other side of the park. I’m so glad we did! There is a covered dock there and we were able to observe probably a dozen WILD manatee over the course of 30-45 minutes. It was so fun to see them! Some were alone, most were in groups of 2-3. One looked like a baby, mama and dad. We were so excited! And it made up for yesterday’s disappointment. It was so neat to see the kids fascinated by these creatures.
This was such a fun day learning a lot about animals we didn’t know much about! And, like most other places, the rangers are passionate about their job, the animals, and the area. Ask a question and the floodgates of information open!
Me and Brie
Its a gator!
Cute kids and cute opossum
He is sorta cute
We loved this presentation
Rub rub rub
Watching the birds
Checking out the eagles
Lu the hippo
Watching Lu eat
Huck the volunteer
Brie and a manatee
Pelican with eggs