Since January 2017, the Refuge has been hosting Mackenzie Russell, a Stranding Biologist with the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s Aquatic Animal Health Program.
In conjunction with the UF|IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key as well as the Cedar Key Dolphin Project, the Aquatic Animal Health Program won a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to begin a new marine animal rescue and response network in Levy, Dixie, and Taylor counties of the Big Bend.
As a partner in the project, the Refuge provides Mackenzie with an office and storage space.
Historically, there are approximately 6-9 marine mammal strandings in this area every year, but it is expected that with increased vigilance and reporting, these numbers will rise.
Mackenzie is recruiting volunteers who will be trained to assist with live-stranded animals, deceased animals, necropsies (animal autopsies), and educational outreach including K-12 and general public education.
To report a sick, injured, or deceased marine animal, call or text the 24-hour UF Marine Animal Rescue Hotline at 352-477-0344 or the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-407-FWCC(3922).