Give thanks for Florida’s great outdoors, those who protect it this holiday season

Dec 02, 14 Give thanks for Florida’s great outdoors, those who protect it this holiday season

Media contact: Katie Purcell, 850-459-6585

Spending time with family and friends. Hunting. Hiking. Many of us are looking forward to these activities as we enter the holiday season. A lot of the officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be enjoying them as well, yet chances are we’ll see some of them out working while others are recreating.

Florida boasts abundant hiking, fishing and hunting opportunities year-round. The state has one of the largest public hunting systems in the country, and its wildlife management areas (WMAs) are prime spots to view wildlife or hunt. (You can check out our other monthly columns for great information on what to do and where to go this fall!) However, these valuable natural resources don’t just take care of themselves.

To preserve these habitats, we need biologists and officers, researchers and volunteers. It takes a team to keep Florida healthy and beautiful! Many of these people will be working right on through the holidays.

In addition to looking out for the flora and fauna, FWC officers protect people. During fall, they focus a lot of their efforts in WMAs and wildlife and environmental areas as well as rural areas around private hunting leases. This is so they can make sure people are hunting legally and ethically, but also to help keep hunters and hikers safe. Each year, FWC officers rescue people who have gotten lost in the woods. Also, unfortunately, they respond to tragic hunting accidents as well.

Recently, FWC officers caught two individuals who drove in on a closed road and shot a spotted fawn in the Lower Econfina WMA.

Farther west, an officer was patrolling in Eglin WMA when he encountered an all-terrain vehicle travelling the wrong direction on the road. When the officer tried to stop the driver, he fled into the woods on the vehicle. The officer caught up to him and found that he was part of a large group of people riding ATVs all over Eglin WMA, damaging pristine areas.

Down south in J.W. Corbett WMA, officers performed two search-and-rescues. They towed two people back to a main road after their vehicles had broken down and helped another person out of a ditch after he took a turn too fast and ran off the road. Despite issuing citations for operating off-trail and driving recklessly, the officers made sure the people got the help they needed.

In addition to routine patrols this time of year, FWC officers continue working with their communities to create opportunities for people to recreate on public lands. Last month, they helped with a youth deer hunt on Camp Blanding WMA and participated in a deer and hog hunt for wounded veterans in Belmore State Forest.

The efforts, both big and small, of FWC officers across the state make public and private lands better places to recreate.

So get out and enjoy all Florida has to offer this fall and give thanks for those who help us do so safely. And remember, you can call on these officers when you need them – day or night. If you see a suspected violation or need assistance, call 888-404-FWCC (3922), text Tip@MyFWC.com or go online to MyFWC.com/WildlifeAlert.

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