Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Feeding Visitors, Residents and Creatures Alike: Sanibel Chef loves to Nurture

Dave Krajnak is the Chef at the Island CafĂ©.   He is has been there for 26 years serving up savory breakfast and lunch treats for visitors and residents.

But most do not know that the Chef has some very special friends right in his own backyard that he cares for as well.

The backyard of Dave Krajnak's home, which began as a sanctuary for many animals recovering from an injury, has become a forever Island home for many varieties of birds, turtles and iguanas over the years.

He and his wife, Blanche,  worked with CROW for many years, helping rescue animals and on occasion provided a foster home for them. A number of their African sulcata turtles, the third largest tortoise in the world, came from CROW.

The backyard has been turned into a sanctuary for the tortoises, providing ample opportunities to walk into huts Krajnak built to provide shelter. The yard, which is now sand, also gives the tortoises the opportunity to dig when they are feeling dehydrated.

The tortoises eat eight or nine cases of romaine lettuce a week, an excellent water source for them. They also eat vegetables like zucchini and squash, as well as prickly pear. Toby is the couple's biggest sulcata tortoise, weighing in around 275 pounds. Others that share a smaller portion of the backyard include the red-foot and yellow-foot tortoises.

Cuban, blue rhino (otherwise known as a blue iguana), and regular iguanas can be found in large cages right off the back porch of his home, all ranging in size from small to large, and have many levels to enjoy in their habitat. Krajnak said after you work and spend time with the iguanas, they become tame, which affords him the opportunity to hold them when wearing gloves.

The Island chef said he developed a love for animals as a young boy growing up in Wisconsin due to the proximity of farms surrounding his folks home. Krajnak said his wife, Blanche's, love of animals is partially why many of the animals were adopted, because she fell in love with each one as they took care of them.  Falling in love is , indeed, easy to do on Sanibel.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Low flying Owls on Sanibel Island

One of Sanibel's best and biggest claims to fame is its heart for our winged and four legged creatures.

Every road on the island is posted with caution signs.

Tortoise crossings are well marked.

Bayous all have "beware of alligators" designated in signage.

Snowy Plover nests are protected with roping and warnings.

Postings on beaches clearly demonstrate that collecting shells is fine, as long as they have no living inhabitants.

And the whole Island, end to end, has no street lights to assure that the sea turtles do not get distracted and lose their way to the water.

Sanibel is a tropical spot designed to protect and preserve non human species of all kinds.

And now, there is one more feathered friend under the Island's safety net.

The Screech Owl.

This small and  beautiful owl was being reported as road kill in record numbers.  And an alert Sanibel resident already interested and active in its preservation on her own property, made the connections of place and timing and took an advocacy role in making her findings known.

She eventually was in contact with the Sanibel Natural Resource director Holly Milbrandt about the increasing screech owl deaths occurring by car strikes between mile markers five and seven.

Milbrandt said the number of screech owls being killed as result of flying low to the ground during the night hours was alarming. "Although we don't have any records of screech owl population on the island, anytime there is that much reduction, it is concerning," Milbrandt added. The Sanibel City Council voted 5-0 to install two lighted signs, with the warning of: "Slow! Low Flying Owls" between mile markers five and seven. The LED lighted signs are 30-inch across, with eight lights framing it. The lights are solar powered and will have a dusk to dawn sensor to activate it, and a motion sensor to stop blinking 30 seconds after a car has passed it.

We are happy our resident was so aware and willing to fight the battle for these owls and appreciate the efforts made by the Sanibel Natural Resource Director and the Sanibel City Council.  Now , we are hopeful that the sign is observed and we can witness an increase in the number of Screech Owls on our little island.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lots to C.R.O.W about on Sanibel Island

Those of us who know Sanibel well, know that even on our small peaceful island, danger and death for wild life is part of the normal cycle.

Many of the island's creatures, such as sea turtles and several bird species, have very large numbers of offspring to ensure that some of them make it to maturity.  Predators in the sea and on land create the need for prolific reproduction.

But attacks do not always kill and the number of accidents that our sweet animals and birds encounter are not always caused by other wild life.  In some instances, they are caused by cars, some by careless fishing habits and in a few situations, there is no readily explainable cause for the injury.

The one thing that remains constant, however, is that when an injury does occur, we are not left wringing our hands in frustration.  Sanibel's Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, CROW is always there to help.

In just the last few months alone, heroic efforts were made to save a wide variety of creatures. 

There was the simply adorable bobcat kitten who was saved from the brush fire and nurtured by CROW. 

And the gray fox who had a bad leg wound , again rescued and rehabilitated.

Any number and variety of birds, such as pelicans,  have been pulled out of the sea with fishing line hooks creating such problems that they never would have survived in those situations.  Their conditions improved significantly as a result.

And, of course, the celebrity of rescues, Ozzie the American Eagle, found the greatest care at CROW.  It probably brought tears to a lot of eyes to see so magnificent a creature pulled back from the doors of death and then released into the wild again.  What a joy that was!

For those interested in where, when and how CROW does its magic , their website does provide updates on all their patients and there are daily details of happenings on their website as well.

We love all our neighbors on Sanibel, most especially those who are stewards of our land and our wild life.  Those are the most special of all.