We are a group of dedicated individuals from all over the nation who are passionate about saving the Florida panther.
Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge supports and promotes the goals of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and promotes a better understanding and appreciation of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
We work to safeguard the Refuge through education, outreach, advocacy, and being an active partner in Refuge projects. We are also focused on protecting the native flora and fauna found in the Florida Panther NWR and its partner refuge, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Our projects center on restoring the Florida panther and its habitat within its historic range.
The Friends of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is a
non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Meet the Team
Nick Lefkow is a Biologist and Drone Pilot for Lee County’s Mosquito Control District. He spends his days flying around Cape Coral, tracking mosquitoes and balancing our desire to live in paradise with Mother Natures’ ability to drive us out.
Nick is proud to be a native Floridian, born in Miami, spending his childhood in Central FL, and finally settling in Southwest FL. Nick originally came to the Friends’ Board of Directors while working as the Primate Zookeeper at the Naples Zoo in 2014. After a few years away in California, he has returned to the Board, this time in the role of President. Nick has a BS in Anthropology from the University of Miami, and has so far seen zero panthers in the wild. His goal for 2020 is to change that!
Why a Friends Group?
A Friends group is a non-profit organization that is a representative of the community and offers assistance to a principal organization. So why have one for a National Wildlife Refuge? Refuges are threatened by insufficient funding, oil and gas exploration, development, and roads.
Budget cuts in the past decade have left the National Refuge System understaffed, and underfunded, resulting in cuts to educational programs, closed offices, and negative impacts on wildlife monitoring and recovery projects.
Friends groups help support local refuges by advocating for funding, conducting public events and connecting with the community, raising funds, restoring habitat, maintaining trails, and coordinating volunteers. You can read more about the role of Friends groups on National Refuges here.
The Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge helps provide funding for important biological projects and outreach events. We also provide funding for an intern Outreach Ranger position on the Refuge.