Sanctuary Critters

Marine Science Center and its bird sanctuary in Ponce Inlet has reopened to the public. Shown are two baby Eastern Screech Owls.

Locals and tourists can rediscover the wonders of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, which has resumed public hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The center was closed to visitors throughout much of the Covid-19 pandemic, but employees continued to care for sick and injured sea turtles and birds. In fact, staff is rehabilitating a record number of baby birds, including screech owls, red-shouldered hawks and sandhill cranes.

Today, the Marine Science Center is looking after 70 birds and 27 sea turtles. Visitors can watch as the turtles receive specialized care from a University of Florida veterinarian and trained wildlife rehabilitation staff.

One of the more conspicuous residents is a 240-pound loggerhead named Sunrise, who stranded in Daytona Beach April 15. After arriving underweight and covered with barnacles and leeches, she has been treated with fluid therapy, antibiotics and supplements. She received IV nutrition and is now eating one her own.

In addition to visiting the turtle and bird hospitals, visitors can view bald eagles and wading birds, walk along the nature trail and learn about marine life in the center’s exhibit hall, which includes a touch pool, artificial reef aquarium, living reef, moray eel exhibit and gift shop.

Since opening in 2002, the Marine Science Center has cared for more than 25,000 sea turtles, gopher tortoises, freshwater turtles and snakes. The adjacent Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary has received more than 18,000 birds since it opened in 2004.

For more information, call 386-304-5545 or visit

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