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March 16, 2023

Wildlife Drive and Visitor Center Open April 4

To celebrate the 120th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System on March 14, Ding” Darling announced the rollout of its post-hurricane reopenings. On September 28, Hurricane Ian, a near category-five storm, ravaged Refuge habitat and facilities, triggering the closure of all its waters and land to public access. February 1, “Ding” opened its Tarpon Bay Recreation Area, and on April 4, it will open the gate to Wildlife Drive for the first time with a chamber of commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony. The “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center will also reopen that day.


“The ‘Ding’ team, with help from refuge crews around the U.S., has been working nonstop to get parts of the Refuge open so the public can once again view the wildlife, which has made a remarkable comeback since Hurricane Ian, especially the birds,” said “Ding” Refuge Complex Project Leader Kevin Godsea. “It’s fitting READ MORE

March 25: Sounds of the Sand - Plan to Attend!

DDWS has announced added fun and activities on the agenda for Sounds of the Sand fundraiser at Bell Tower in Fort Myers on Saturday, March 25, from 1 to 7 p.m. Joining guitarist/vocalist Danny Morgan with steel drummer John McLane in the performance roster, The Lineup Band and Peter Kolter will play warm-up for the main act. A stilt-walker and other local bands will also be on hand for the free event.


Suncoast Beverage Sales, distributor of Two Lane American Golden Lager Beer brand, will sell beer, profits going directly to DDWS. Other Bell Tower merchants, including several displaced from their Sanibel locations, will be offering in-store specials and participating out on the plaza. Activities will also include archery instruction, face-painting, axe-throwing, a bounce house, lawn games, themed photo ops, and cotton candy.


Event Partners: Two Lane and Bell Tower Shops.

Additional sponsors: Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille; Bubbly Latitude a Sanibel-based Bell Tower merchant; R.S. Walsh; and Dixie Fish Company.

For more information on how to become a sponsor, contact event organizer April Boehnen and follow the event on Facebook.

Hurricane (and Related Environmental) Update

We consistently update our Resource Page and include a hurricane update each week in our "Ding" on the Wing. Call us with any Refuge questions at 239-292-0566.  Here is a printable pdf of resources. We are trying to keep it updated and hoping it helps. 

Here are a few NEW links: 

  • TODAY: City of Sanibel Mobile Blood Drive - March 16, 2023
  • TODAY  Lecture March 16 at SCCF Bailey Homestead Preserve pavilion at 4 p.m. to discuss Sanibel Plan Creation
  • St. Patrick’s Day Lunch with corned beef & cabbage at Sanibel Community House March 17th 12 pm – 2 pm while supplies last. In collaboration with FISH and Operation BBQ
  • Two disaster recovery centers will close in Lee County" article.
  • All future in-person needs for FEMA or SBA will take place at Lakes Regional Library, 15290 Bass Rd, Fort Myers
  • Guidance provided through City of Sanibel on temporary signs and construction hours.
  • "Insurers slashed Hurricane Ian payouts far below damage estimates, documents and insiders reveal" article
  • "What if your Florida home is insured but you still weren’t really covered after Ian?" article
  • "Sanibel’s Beloved Lighthouse Shines Again, Some Attractions Reopening — What You Need To Know"
  • Sanibel Fire and Rescue District honored
  • The POD Program distribution (furniture and household items) happens every Friday from 1-2 at FISH on Sanibel, 2430 Periwinkle. They are also accepting Easter donations now through April 3. FISH is also looking for someone with a forklift to help move items.
  • News-Press: "I took a break from spring training in SWFL and found resilience where Hurricane Ian hit" article.
  • "Tower Gallery reopens on Sanibel after Hurricane Ian" article.
  • The latest Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce tool for finding island businesses back in operation after Hurricane Ian.
  • News Press: "Sanibel Island's ‘Ding’ Darling announces reopening of Wildlife Drive" article
  • As of Saturday, March 18, the Sanibel Public Library will be open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • "Florida residents need solutions before next hurricane" article
  • "FEMA shares updated numbers regarding Hurricane Ian recovery in SWFL. Here's what we know"
  • View Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper HERE
  • Red Tide Status readings and daily sample maps can be found for our area by clicking HERE
  • "Tracking red tide along the beaches of Southwest Florida" article
  • "Did red tide contribute to 2 dead manatees washing ashore in Boca Grande?" article
  • SCCF, others investigating how red tide impacts sea turtles
  • "Lee County launches website to track post-Ian recovery progress" article
  • "International treaty to protect world’s oceans will help SWFL" article
  • "Red tide in Florida causing respiratory concerns" article
  • "Naples Botanical Garden creates floral swale for parking lot runoff" article
  • "New Senate bill passes to help workforce housing" article
  • News-Press: "600-pound great white shark Rose pings off Sanibel, Cape Coral waters" article.
  • "Venomous man o’ wars found washed up on Sanibel beach"
  • "As Florida’s legislative session begins today, here are the water bills we’re watching"
  • "La Niña is gone. What does that mean for Florida and hurricane season?" article
  • "Lee joins Collier, Hendry in enacting county-wide burn ban; Cape Coral also limits fires"
  • "Study: Increased wildfire risk could delay ozone layer's recovery" article.
  • "FWC encourages safe water and boating practices in Florida" article.
  • "The world needs more water flowing where it’s needed most" article.
  • "Chamber of Southwest Florida to host panel discussion on 50% rule March 29" article.
  • "Large seaweed blob floating toward Florida coast"
  • "US Coastal Wetlands Are Rapidly Disappearing. Here’s What It’ll Take To Save Them" article.
  • "New group SanCap Citizens for a Resilient Future looks to build back better on the barrier islands"
  • News-Press: "Listen Now! Clean Water petition gives Florida glimmer of hope as waterways continue to suffer" article.
  • Captiva Community Panel outlines revegetating rules
  • Climate Change and impact on Florida trees
  • "EPA proposes first standards to make drinking water safer from ‘forever chemicals" article
  • "Homes in flood zones are overvalued by billions, study finds"
  • "Growth UNLEASHED?" article
  • "First look: HUD invests billions in equitable disaster recovery" article

Remember, profits from all Nature Store sales go directly to the Refuge for educational programs, wildlife research, and overall conservation efforts.

SanCap Volunteer Expo

Local residents who have pondered how they can assist Sanibel and Captiva Islands recover and rebuild from Hurricane Ian are invited to the inaugural Get Inspired! SanCap Volunteer Expo hosted by the Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI) at Sanibel's BIG ARTS on Thursday, March 30, from 4 to 7:30 p.m.


Fifteen local nonprofits and community organizations from Sanibel and Captiva will participate, including DDWS and the Refuge. Guests will receive a directory with an overview of the participating nonprofits and will learn about volunteer opportunities available at the many nonprofits supported by CFI. A discussion led by Porter and Chauncey Goss begins at 5 p.m. Organization representatives will answer questions and sign up interested volunteers from 4 to 5 p.m. and 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. This is a free event, but registration is required due to limited space. Online registration

Spotlight: Friends Rebuilding


As a regular feature, “Ding” on the Wing spotlights a business on the islands that has strongly supported the Refuge in the past and now needs us all to rally behind it as it navigates the long road to recovery.


The Island Sun, Sanibel and Captiva’s hometown newspaper, has long supported the Refuge and its events with in-kind advertising donations and coverage of all things “Ding.” It took a hard hit with Hurricane Ian. Not only did five feet of flood water demolish its office in Lime Tree Center on Sanibel, owner/publisher Lorin Arundel also suffered damage to her home, which prevents her from setting up temporary online operations at this point.


“We will reboot the Island Sun, hopefully in early summer,” she said. “Once we get our office back, I can get to work on new computer equipment, furnishings, etc. Fortunately, all data from hard drives was recovered. We are counting down the days to get back to work with our island friends. The Sun will shine again.”

Artist-in-Residence Program

“Ding” Darling began its Artist-in-Residence Program in 2019 as part of a 75th Anniversary Celebration, with plans to continue in years to follow. For the 2023-2024 season, the Refuge, with support from DDWS, holds over award-winning Miami artist Jacqueline Roch due to Hurricane Ian’s interruption of her 2022-23 term.


Born in California and raised on Miami Beach, Jacqui terms her style “tropical realism.” Her greatest local inspiration had been the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve, where she spends much of her time painting plein air. She has now found inspiration, too, at “Ding” Darling.


“I am so thrilled to be able to call myself artist in residence at this wonderful, natural oasis,” Jacqui said. “It's like getting the backstage pass to meet your favorite band. You really get to immerse READ MORE

Conservation scholarships help replenish our world with young wildlife ambassadors.

DDWS Conservation Scholarships Available. Application deadline soon

Application deadline is March 31 for 13 DDWS scholarships amounting to more than $20k. Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each, the scholarships are available to high school seniors, college students, and graduate students in or from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties pursuing degrees in environmental-related studies. This year’s named scholarships include READ MORE

WoW Update: Teacher’s Thank You

Educators at Title-1 schools continue to rave about the effectiveness of WoW (Wildlife on Wheels), in helping students become excited about and engaged and invested in nature. Recently, Monica Glewa, Science Coach at G. Weaver Hipps Elementary in Fort Myers’ Tice community, sent a thank-you letter after WoW’s first visit to the school:


“Each grade level that participated had their own standards-based lesson that was on-point. The lesson mixed content with heart. Helping our students to understand content is obviously important, however, helping them to understand the ‘why’ we need to care is just as important.” READ MORE


Now, more than ever, Refuge community outreach needs your help. Donate today to support the upkeep and programming for WoW efforts. Thank you for helping us spread the conservation message to those with limited opportunities so they can experience and appreciate wildlife and its habitat.

Refuge Programming & Events

The Visitor & Education Center and Wildlife Drive remain closed due to hurricane damage but will REOPEN on April 4th. Read DOTW for news of activities that are still being planned.

Photo caption: Give your mind a break every Friday from 12 to 12:30 with seated Mindfulness Meditation.

Feel-Good Finds

If you have a photo, poem, video, or other feel-good find and you'd like the chance to be highlighted in our "Ding" on the Wing, please email it to April Boehnen .

Karl and Sandy Greenbaum shared a beautiful photo of their "Ding" ornament to help keep the happy memories alive.

The Prindle Family showing off their #DingStrong merch in Ann Arbor, Michigan



As part of our Nature Wellness Program for 2023, watch here for tips and advice on how to center your mind and improve your wellbeing both outdoors and indoors.

30-Day Challenge


If you’ve ever tried to build or break a habit, you know that it takes time and consistency and, for most, involves trial and error. This article from Psychology Today gives interesting insight on habit-building and -breaking and the how-to of sustainable good habits that will stick.  


This week’s tip: Choose a habit that you are trying to sustain, and engage with it daily for 30 days. The habit can be anything from flossing to stretching for five minutes. Whatever it is, ensure that the habit is reasonable and achievable.


One trick is to “stack” the habits on top of things you do already. For example, if you are trying to drink more water, place a full, reusable water bottle on your bedside table and drink from it upon waking.

These are just snapshots of some of the things taking place at your Wildlife Refuge. Please check our website to learn more. Thank you for caring about the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.


Birgit Miller, Executive Director

"Ding" On The Wing composed by Chelle Koster Walton. Designed by Ali Reece

Darling Dose of "Ding"

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