Pioneer Park Wildlife Refuge
Wauchula, FL - Events of Sunday, April 16 to Thursday, April 20, 2017
Although there was an Easter dinner at the clubhouse (the last official event of the season), we decided as we usually do to have quieter holiday dinner either with one or two other couples or by ourselves. This time it was by ourselves. We went to dinner on Easter at Texas Roadhouse near Bradenton.
One reason we chose Texas Roadhouse was to take advantage of a coupon we recently received for a free appetizer for Margery's birthday. She chose a Cactus Blossom, which is a battered, deep-fried onion.
We both had a 6-oz. sirloin for dinner. We usually get the 6-oz. sirloin as an early bird special for $8.99, but the special isn't offered on weekends so we had to pay the regular price of $10.49. Even at the regular price, the meal still seems like a bargain because it includes two sides, rolls with cinnamon butter, and all the peanuts you can eat. Margery had a salad and baked potato for her sides, and Paul had a salad and mashed potatoes. Everything was yummy!
We have been taking advantage of our more relaxed schedule recently to do some sightseeing. Two weeks ago, we went to the Center for Great Apes, which provides care for chimpanzees and orangutans that have been retired or rescued from research facilities, from the entertainment industry or from the exotic pet trade. Last Thursday, we went to the Hardee County Wildlife Refuge, which is another place that provides a permanent home for rescued animals. Admission is $4 plus tax for adults.
The refuge is located just down the road at Pioneer Park along the banks of the Peace River. We visited the Cracker Trail Museum, which is also located in Pioneer Park, with Paul's former co-worker, Roger, and his wife, Paula, when they stopped to visit us back in January. It was too late in the day to see the the refuge back then, but we knew we wanted to go back to check the refuge out. Click here to read about our January visit to the Cracker Trail Museum.
Most of the animals at the refuge are native to Florida, although they do have a couple of exotic species. In fact, the first thing we came to was a group of about half a dozen emus, which are native to Australia. Emus are flightless birds that weigh around 80 pounds and can reach a height of around 6 feet.
The second animal was another import - an African spurred tortoise. These animals can grow to be 3 to 3½ feet long and can weigh up to 150 pounds.
From the African tortoise, we continued to a large, fenced-in pond where there were a couple of very large 'gators sunning themselves on the far bank.
Visitors stroll around the refuge on an elevated boardwalk that provides a nice vantage point from which to view the animals - provided the animals aren't trying to hide which was the case with some of them. The photo below shows Paul on the boardwalk.
The pond had a number of turtles sunning sunning themselves on submerged logs. In the south, freshwater turtles, especially those of the genus Pseudemys like the ones at the refuge, are known as cooters. The cooter in the next photo looks like he was enjoying a nice stretch with his back feet sticking straight out.
The pond also had several large carp.
The refuge has two cougars. The cougar, also known as a puma, panther, or mountain lion, is quite a large cat. They are the second-largest cat by weight in the Americas behind the jaguar.
Quite a few other animals make their home at the refuge. We weren't able to get any photos of their black bear since it was inside its house because they were working on the fence for its outer enclosure. Some of the other animals include several raccoons, a red fox, white tail deer, river otters, and a bobcat.
Pioneer Park also has a boat launch along the Peace River. It is located adjacent to the wildlife refuge so we headed to there next. Since we have had a dry fall and winter, the water level in the river is down; but the river is still a good place to do a little kayaking or fishing.
After visiting the wildlife refuge and checking out the Peace River, we headed back to the co-op to relax for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We are down to our last couple of weeks in Florida, but we planned to get out sightseeing at least one more time. Stay tuned.