Vero’s Wildlife: Not Just Sharks Prowling Our Beaches and Living In Our Midst

Vero Bob Cats

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Many of us spend time in the early morning hours on Vero’s beaches to enjoy a sunrise, some solace, the surf, shells, casting a line or even a bit of exercise.  So imagine the surprise Lexi Parker received one morning last week while heading to the beach in Seagrove:  three bobcats perched on the walkway’s railings.  Not only do sharks swim amongst us, but bobcat routinely roam all over Vero Beach, including the barrier island. Vero Beach is home to all sorts of wild critters.  While we revel in the tropical flora that surrounds us, we often recoil from the tropical fauna.  Not many of us enjoy being surprised by a snake, let alone a bobcat.  While the Treasure Coast is a haven for many wild land and sea creatures, it is also a sanctuary for both native and non-native wildlife at a place called Critter Haven. Fifteen minutes southwest of town, along a sandy lane, nestled among small ranches and citrus groves there are aviaries, herpetariums, paddocks and even lemur “dens”.  This haven is a true critter heaven, founded and supported by a man passionate about animals.  Gary Brady, Vero’s version of Marlin Perkins or Jim Fowler from “Wild Kingdom”, is currently “wall to wall with animals” and couldn’t be happier.  Critter Haven began when Gary brought a hermit crab home to his late wife and has grown into a state of the art sanctuary on ten acres.  The haven is home to dozens of animals from all over the world.  Gary’s mission is to provide a safe sanctuary to these animals. Sadly, there are many animals left with no place to go and Gary’s critter family is continually growing.  Critter Haven’s animals come from law enforcement, animal control, pet shops and humane societies.  Many of these animals are sick, injured and feral.  Here they are housed, fed and provided with the medical care they deserve.  Gary has supported this haven over the years out of his own pocket and the commitment of dedicated volunteers. Critter Haven’s residents include a Kinkajou native to the treetops of the Brazilian rainforest and two very spirited and rare Madagascar Brown Lemurs named Buckwheat & Darla.  A small Degu, native to Chile, shares a dormitory with dozens of singing birds.  There is a larger aviary where Umbrella and Malakin cockatoo’s (native to Australia) compete with Blue & Gold macaws (native to South America) for the loudest “hello”.  Cleo, an Umbrella cockatoo seems to win every time. A herpetarium houses Fluffy, a Black-throated monitor lizard that is twice as dangerous as a crocodile or alligator of the same size.  Fluffy’s bite carries potentially fatal blood poisoning. Nearby is a Blue Tegu (Argentina) and Mango & Argyle monitor lizards from Australia.  There is also a brilliant green Indo-vine snake from Indonesia and several incredibly large pythons. Outside, Gary has built fenced zones for box turtles; Red foot tortoises from South America; African Leopard tortoises; and two African Spur tortoises named Simon & George.  A large paddock is shared by a male emu, a ram called Hurricane and a mule charged with keeping Hurricane in line.  The largest paddock, almost two acres in size, houses several female emus and dozens of grazing goats.  There is a caged run for several wolves and a separate one for Gary’s favorite boar.  Two dieting pot-bellied pigs also call Critter Haven home. At “Critter Haven there is always constant construction and expansion in order to meet the needs of these wonderful creatures.”  These days the need is growing far beyond one man’s abilities to provide for all the animals and their needs.  Gary is concerned about the future of Critter Haven and hopes the support of the Vero community will keep Critter Haven humming for years to come. ______________________________ FOR MORE INFORMATION, QUESTIONS or to DONATE visit:   Learn More:
Sherry Nist