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January 19, 2023

Citizen Refuge Clean-up

On Saturday, January 14, 100 volunteers with Keep Lee County Beautiful showed up at the Refuge to help staff pick up debris that Hurricane Ian left behind. A big thanks to Ranger Katy Hosokawa for arranging the clean-up and to the volunteers from all over Lee County who pitched in.


Every Wednesday, a limited number of volunteers also donate their time for the Refuge Clean-up with a Ranger program. The slots fill fast, so register far in advance.

Hurricane Update

We consistently update our Resource page and include a hurricane update each week in our "Ding" on the Wing. Please access sites doing a better job with on-the-ground updates, such as the city of Sanibel. Please call us with any questions at 239-292-0566.  

For residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Ian, here is a printable pdf of resources. We are trying to keep it updated and hoping it helps. 

This week's new information: 

  • Florida Weekly: "New property insurance law leaves little recourse for consumers" article.
  • News-Press: "Byron Donalds to U.S. postmaster: 'We need alternative solutions now'" article.
  • News-Press: "Lee School District: Latest on Hurricane Ian damaged schools" article.
  • Periwinkle Park update.
  • News-Press: "Where's the mail? Where's the aid? Sanibel's recovery marathon grinds on" article.
  • USA Today: "What part of the US has the most disasters? See a county-by-county breakdown" article.
  • Gulfshore Business: "Lee County accepts $5 million in emergency recovery grant funds to place beach sand" article.
  • News-Press: "'Climate change is not a 'spectator sport': More than 200 meet in Naples to explore solutions" article.
  • City of Sanibel A & AC Beach Parking Permits FOR SANIBEL RESIDENTS & SANIBEL PROPERTY OWNERS ONLY will be available for purchase starting 8 a.m., Thursday, January 19, at the Sanibel Recreation Center
  • City of Sanibel B & BC Beach Parking Permits FOR NON-RESIDENT/NON-PROPERTY OWNERS will be available for purchase beginning Tuesday, January 31.

Urban Outreach Snapshots

"Ding" Darling Urban Education Leader, Melissa Maher starting the day with two excited students ready to learn at the WoW. (Wildlife on Wheels)

Typically, the WoW will spend a week at Title 1 schools in Lee County. They bring every grade level at that school through the WoW mobile classroom to learn about the environmental sciences in an experiential way. Here, the WoW is ready to greet students throughout the day. In 2022, when more than 10k students experienced the WoW.

The "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society has supported Lee County teachers and schools with environmental grants for decades. Here, Hancock Elementary worked with the Refuge team on its grant for installing a Pocket Refuge. They worked with the students to plant native plants and incorporate lessons outside at the Pocket Refuge.

Wildlife Drive Repair Work Continues


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service crews from up north – inactivated by the cold - began working last week on shoring up wash-outs and safety hazards caused by Hurricane Ian on September 28 along Wildlife Drive, the trails, and Tarpon Bay Explorers. Refuge complex leader Kevin Godsea hopes to see the Driv e open by February. A loud shout-out to Crab Orchard NWR for itshard work helping the Refuge rebuild. For 14 days the crew of three has been working 14-hour days to repair buildings and pavement. 

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 road to recovery.


Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts often comes to the rescue when we need accommodations for visiting speakers and VIPs and other support for events. As a collection of four resorts plus vacation rentals throughout Sanibel and Captiva, it offers a multitude of lodging options, even now as the islands recover from Hurricane Ian’s wrath.


‘Tween Waters Island Resort opened shortly after the storm to house restoration crews. By late November, it was welcoming guests from Sanibel and Captiva and beyond to its cottages, rooms, suites, pools, beach, and Old Captiva House restaurant. (The beach is open also to day-pass holders.) Watch for news of its forthcoming Shipyard restaurant.


Sanibel Captiva Island Vacations is accepting reservations for a growing list of available homes and other rentals, and also is helping property owners across Sanibel and Captiva get their listings back online to rent as quickly as possible. Beachview Cottages and Castaways Cottages will rebuild and reopen at an undetermined time. SCBR is still assessing the future of West Wind Island Resort.

Photo caption: Even Santa was back at ‘Tween Waters in time for its traditional November Tree Lighting and a chamber ribbon-cutting.

Make your reservation today for Annual Fundraiser

Reservations for DDWS’ annual fundraiser Go Bully for “Ding” – An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt are open and tickets are selling quickly..

The event takes place Monday, March 6, at Broadway Palm in Fort Myers. In consideration of the hardships many island residents and business owners have suffered since the hurricane in September, DDWS has lowered the price of tickets to $75 per person this year. Thanks to all our fabulous sponsors (see below). Learn more about supporting the event as a business or individual.

Current sponsors:

Call of the Wild Sponsors: Gretchen Banks, Jim & Liz Birmingham, The Bluedorn Family, Jim & Patty Sprankle

Champion Sponsors: Wayne & Linda Boyd, Bill & Laurie Harkey, Jo Smith, In Memory of Boomer Duvin

Guardian Sponsors: Milestone Auctions, Willam & Barbara Millar, Bill & Heather O'Keefe, Doug & Sherry Gentry

Protector Sponsors: Mike & Terry Baldwin, Tiffani Kaliko & John Silvia

Defender Sponsors: A Friend of the Refuge, HighTower Advisors Fort Myers, Chip & Nancy Roach, Hank & Linda Spire, The Gresham Family, Bob & Kathy Wiesemann, Sanibel Captiva Islander

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

WoW Update: Adaptation

WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) has been spending a couple of weeks at G. Weaver Hipps Elementary, a Title-1 school in Lehigh Acres. Last week’s rain had the WoW team adapting by bringing exhibits and information from the mobile classroom indoors to the school’s third- and fourth-grade classrooms.

Upcoming scheduled visits:


January 23-February 2: Orange River Elementary in Fort Myers


February 6-16: Harns Marsh Elementary in Lehigh Acres


February 21-March 16: Oak Hammock Middle School in Fort Myers (Tice)


March 20-24: Spring Break


WoW currently operates with a reduced team because of the hurricane’s impact on staffing. 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 to experience and appreciate the wonder of nature.

‘Ding’ Partners for Solar Power


DDWS is partnering with Solar United Neighbors (SUN), a non-profit co-op whose purpose is to provide residents and businesses in Lee and Collier County with collective buying power to affordably convert to solar energy. Based on the prior success of its SanCap Solar Connect campaign in 2015, DDWS has firm faith in community solarization efforts. Read more about it in Santiva Chronicle.

Photo caption: Original solar panels on the Visitor & Education Center

Florida Junior Duck Stamp Contest


This month, the Refuge Education Team has begun making its round of school visits to get students excited about the Florida Junior Duck Stamp Contest. The contest judging traditionally takes place at “Ding” Darling, but this year, because of hurricane damage, will move do a different refuge in our complex, Florida Panther NWR. Art submissions must be postmarked by March 15 and mailed to Ranger Toni Westland, Florida Panther NWR, 12085 SR 29 South, Immokalee, Florida 34142. Email or call (239-940-0169) Ranger Toni for more information.


Watch this video, created by “Ding” rangers, to learn more about the contest and how to draw a duck.

Photo caption: Last year’s Florida Junior Duck Stamp Contest judging.

Refuge Programming & Events

The Visitor & Education Center and Wildlife Drive remain closed due to hurricane damage until further notice. Consequently, many programs and events have been canceled. Read DOTW for news of activities that are still being planned.

  • The Nature Store will pop up at the Rachel Pierce Gallery marketplace from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Check our Event page for exact dates.

  • Refuge Cleanup with a Ranger takes place every Wednesday at 9 a.m. Participation is limited; preregister on Eventbrite.

Photo caption: Join Mindfulness Meditation every Wednesday

Wellness Tip


Work Hard, Play Harder


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.


If you’re reading this, chances are you enjoy, or have at least tried, birding. In this busy world we live in, however, traditional forms of birding can feel less like leisure and more like another list to manage. While it’s thrilling to spot a “lifer” (a once-in-a-lifetime bird sighting), what about those of us who want to create fewer lists in 2023? Is there a place in birding for us? The answer is yes.


The wellness tip this week: Try a nontraditional, slowed-down approach to birding known as “mindful birding.”


In this blog post, coauthors Ornitherapy author Holly Merker and Refuge wellness volunteer Dr. Joseph Blanda explore mindful birding, its wellness benefits, and simple ways to implement it into your everyday life. 

#DingStrong Shirts & Fans

Thank you to everyone who has purchased their #DingStrong merch! For a chance to be highlighted in "Ding" on the Wing, send in a photo of yourself wearing your #DingStrong merch to April Boehnen. Our "Ding" family is all around the world and we thank everyone for their love of the Refuge and our natural world.

Diane Wien Bombay Hook NWR Smyrna, DE

Paul Christy Cincinatti, OH

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 .

A Poem by Meghan Prindle



Clear-eyed and wide-eyed

the windows at Yost come alive;

the morning sun shines 

off the aluminum seats and fresh ice;

just a slice
(an hour for our Mites)

with empty stands and full, frosted glass.

These are just snapshots of some of the things taking place at your Wildlife Refuge. Please check our website to learn more!


Birgit Miller, Executive Director

"Ding" On The Wing composed by Chelle Koster Walton. Designed by April Boehnen.

Darling Dose of "Ding"

#DingStrong Shirts

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