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J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

This 6,300-acre Florida wildlife refuge, named for Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling, is at latest count -- home to 238 species of birds, more than 50 types of reptiles, and 32 different kinds of mammals.  The refuge features wonderful bird watching spots, bike and walking paths, winding canoe trails and a four-mile scenic drive, all of which are lush with seagrape, wax and salt myrtles, red mangrove, cabbage and sabal palms, and other native plants.  A booklet available from the refuge Education Center highlights points of interest, including an observation tower where naturalists will obtain the best view of flora and fauna.  The drive is open Saturday through Thursday from 7:30am to a half-hour before sunset.  Closed Friday.  Low tide, when birds feed, is the ideal time to visit.  The Education Center is open daily.  Hours are 9:00am to 5:00 pm from November through April, and 9:00am to 4:00pm May through October.  Fees are $5 per car, or $1 per cyclist or pedestrian; ages 15 and younger bike and walk free.  Interpretative tram tours of the sanctuary are scheduled through Tarpon Bay Explorers; reservations required at 239-472-8900.

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