CRESTVIEW The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, but several of its animal ambassadors paid a visit to the Crestview Public Library for its December First Tuesday lecture.


CRESTVIEW Residents, including moms with children from the Lap-Sit program, attending the Crestview Public Library's First Tuesday lecture now know more about local wildlife.



Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge assistant director Susan Leveille introduced attendees to Blossom, a skunk; a corn snake named Butch; Landlord, a gopher tortoise; and April, a barred owl.



Click here to see photos of the animal ambassadors>>



None of the animal ambassadors some of which have been imprinted, or have had a close relationship with humans can be released into the wild.



They are permanent residents of the refuge, which helps native wildlife through education, conservation and rehabilitation.



However, Leveille said some of her message of wildlife conservation and protection may not sit well with homeowners hoping to rid their yards of "nuisance" animals.



For example, the law prohibits collapsing a gopher burrow and removing the tortoise. Gopher holes can be habitats for up to 300 other species, making it a "keystone species" on which other animals depend for survival, Leveille said.



It's also illegal to trap and relocate a raccoon; "(when) you remove one, there is another animal ready to move in," Leveille said. However, you can legally remove the food source, such as pet food bowls, that attracts pesky native critters.



As for Butch and his friends, "if you see a snake hanging around your house, you may have a rodent problem," Leveille said.



Leveille said the wildlife refuge welcomes volunteers, adding work at the former Sasquatch Zoo, east of Crestview off U.S. Hwy. 90, "is very physical." 



WANT TO HELP?



The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge welcomes volunteers. Call 682-3949 for details.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.