The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island embarks upon a new era of conservation and education as its community outreach team prepares to introduce its latest tool, the Roving Ranger, starting April 8.


“Building on the success of our WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) mobile classroom, we discovered a need for a smaller community-outreach vehicle,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland. “Our new Roving Ranger mobile visitor center will be able to attend more festivals and events with this easily moveable vehicle.”


The refuge will unveil the colorfully wrapped Roving Ranger – designed by former refuge art intern May Jernigan – for public viewing for the first time on Monday, April 8, in the Visitor & Education Center parking lot. Visitors will be able to take advantage of its hands-on educational tools, big-screen monitor programming, selfie station, and other photo ops during its refuge visit from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day through April 10.


April 11 and 12, the Roving Ranger takes to the road with two stops on Sanibel Island. Thursday, April 11, it will park at the SanCap Chamber at 1159 Causeway Blvd. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Friday, April 12, at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille at 2500 Island Inn Rd. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Refuge staff will be handing out giveaways and announcing chance drawings at both appearances. On April 17, the Roving Ranger makes its first off-island public appearance at the SanCap Chamber’s Islands Night Parade and Mighty Mussels baseball game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.


Roving Ranger will be the first such vehicle in the national refuge system, which includes some 600 refuges. Compact, nimble, and easy to set up, it will be visiting libraries, churches, parks, and events throughout Lee and Collier counties to share information about the refuge and educate the public about conservation issues.


Refuge educators will greet visitors through a window on the side of the truck and at informational tables and hands-on exhibits outside of the vehicle. It also will serve as a starting point for tours and other activities. The selfie station on the back side of the Roving Ranger will showcase a framework of refuge creatures, including a manatee, a roseate spoonbill, and other birds.


“Our goal is to introduce the importance of our natural world and the wonders that can be found at the refuge and locally, and to create stewards for our wildlife and the land and water they need to survive,” said Westland.


“We are so grateful to the Fleischner family and our other generous donors for bringing the refuge’s dream of a Roving Ranger to fruition,” said Ann-Marie Wildman, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), which funds and supports the project. “We see it kicking off an exciting and successful era of the refuge’s full post-hurricane comeback and fulfillment of its mission to spread the conservation ethic beyond refuge and island boundaries into the greater community.”


To learn more about donating to support the Roving Ranger and its programs, contact Wildman at 239-789-8991 or [email protected].



As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop profits. To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit or Ann-Marie Wildman at 239-789-8991 or [email protected].