“The responsibility of having an animal like this is great,” she said. “You can’t just call your neighbor and ask them to come over and feed them when you’re gone. There’s a lot to know with these animals. You have to have a fish and game license, which takes 1,000 hours per species to acquire. If you buy them illegally and you don’t have a license the FWC will find out. Then they will come in and confiscate the animal. That’s when they come to places like ours.” January/February • 2017 • GASPARILLA ISLAND 47 noise. She also explained the odd story of the peacocks. “We have around 20 of them,” she said. “They just wandered down the driveway one day and stayed for about a year. They suddenly left for about two weeks, then came back, then left again for another week. Then they came back and haven’t left since.” Lynn surmises it’s because the birds couldn’t find a more hospitable place to stay in the area. At her sanctuary there are no dogs running loose to chase them. “They’re the peacock police patrol,” she said. “They wander around and yell when someone comes on the property.” Tours are taken either on foot or by golf cart. Starting out around the main entrance you’ll also find blue and gold macaws – about eight in all – who had to be surrendered after the couple who was breeding them let the situation get out of control. You’ll also see Igor the lemur, who was given up after his owner found a girlfriend. Igor and the girlfriend didn’t mix well, and Lynn explained it was because so many exotic animals kept as pets bond with only one person. Needless to say, that person was not the girlfriend. Walking a little further down the property you’ll find an albino raccoon that came from Miami. He was used as a novelty at children’s birthday parties, but it didn’t take long for the handler to realize there might be some liability involved. You’ll also meet a very friendly fellow named John Deere. He is a deer who came from a boys’ camp and was used to having about 150 children handling him every day. He is quite saucy when new people come up, obviously looking for a handout and scoffing when none is offered. There are other deer in his enclosure as well, most of them were left at the sanctuary after being found as fawns. “People find the fawns in the grass and think they were abandoned,” Lynn explained. “We consider ourselves to be an educational facility; we want people to learn about these animals, not just look at an animal in a cage. At least they go away with some extra knowledge. So I tell visitors if and when they see a fawn in the grass, mark the spot with two sticks. Come back 24 hours later, and if the fawn has moved, mama is around. She can’t take the fawn with her when she forages for food because it’s not quick enough to get away from predators.” Ironically, living right next door to the deer pen is a hybrid wolf dog that someone tried to raise in an apartment. A coyote lives there as well. “It’s against the law to release a coyote,” Lynn said. “He came from a facility where he was being rehabilitated, and they couldn’t keep him.” Traveling a little farther down the line you’ll find a Canadian lynx and Siberian lynx sharing a cage together. They’re both about 13 years old, and came to Lynn from someone who lost their house to foreclosure. “You really have to have an outdoor area for a lynx,” she explained. “They really like to mark their territory.” Next you’ll find Kody the 700-pound black bear in his large enclosure. He’s not much for conversation, and will sometimes come right out and tell you that. He’s also about 14, and came from the picture trade. “There are tourist businesses out there that will get baby animals like these and allow people to have pictures taken with them,” Lynn said. “Once the animals get to be more than 30 pounds, though, they can’t use them anymore. They’re simply cast aside. But luckily it’s getting to the point where less and less of that is going on now. People are becoming more educated, they’re realizing they’ll have to get their animal fix in other ways.” It’s easy to see how emotional this topic is for Lynn. Her love for her animals – many of which she can’t even touch – is very apparent. People’s poor treatment of these animals truly offends her. Black bears are about 85 percent vegetarian. While polar bears and grizzlies are almost primarily meat eaters, black bears love to eat junk food and veggies.
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