With raptors, snakes, spiders and possums—the 10th annual Pints and Predators event will prove wild as always.
Held at First Magnitude Brewing Co. on Feb. 24, this year’s event marks a special decade of operation for the event. Tickets are available online for kids and adults, and the event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This year’s Pints and Predators will also be special in its dedication to Nan Soistman, founder of Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation and founding partner of the event. Soistman passed away in October, but her memory will stay at the event.
Special commemorative glasses will feature the outline of the overall-wearing Soistman. First Magnitude has also brewed up a one-time beer called “Stay Wild,” Soistman’s call to action.
Joe Soistman, Nan’s husband, said she enjoyed wearing the practical overalls that soon identified her in rehabilitation circles. But it went beyond comfort and dozens of pockets to keep supplies. It was about the animals.
“She was very basic in her approach,” Joe recalls. “And, it was all about the animals. But she also understood that if you don’t get funding and if you don’t have a brand, people won’t remember who to call. In the interest of the animals, she wanted people to know who to call.”
Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation, located in High Springs, participated in the first Pints and Predators at Wild Birds Unlimited—not sure anyone would show up. Joe said it was an instant hit with attendees packing the event.
The event has grown since, and 10 organizations that specialize in rehabilitation and education will be onsite—along with participating artists, exhibitors and food trucks.
Pints and Predators is about education and making connections—teaching visitors the long-term detriments of rat poison and the long-term benefits of a dead tree. The Sunrise crew also work hard to change perceptions about certain animals like possums.
Joe Soistman said many visitors return year after year and know the participating animals by sight.
“I’ll hear them across the way go, ‘Oh, look, Merlin is here.’” Joe said. “They know the animals, so it’s neat to have that kind of connection with the community that shows that people care.”
Merlin is a barred owl and one of 13 wildlife ambassadors that Sunrise keeps all year. These ambassadors are unable to return to the wild because of permanent injuries or because they have been domesticated.
Wildlife ambassadors from Sunrise will include the barn owl, Paisley, a female American kestrel, Scout, and the gopher tortoise, Maggie. Other organizations will also bring a bald eagle, rattlesnake and bats.
Joe estimates that 600 animals enter and leave Sunrise each year. The team of family members and volunteers work hard to ensure the animals “stay wild.” No petting, no names—just food, medicine and exercise.
“That’s what this is all about,” Joe said. “It’s giving that chance to get them back out there in the wild, to be a wild animal again.”
Rehabilitation work is seasonal and about to ramp up. Joe says spring is always packed as birds begin hatching and nature comes roaring back from winter. Much of the spring
“There are times when across that back porch, every single one of those cages has birds—not just a bird but two or three birds in each one,” Joe said.
Nests fall out of trees or greedy siblings give the runt a little shove. Sunrise cares for the birds from little, featherless lumps to viable bluebirds and woodpeckers.
It’s not just birds. Sunrise cares for turtles, possums, squirrels and more.
In fact, the Soistman family’s first rehab experience was with a baby squirrel their son, Adam, found. After nursing the squirrel back to the wild, a neighbor brought a brood of fox squirrels for care.
“I was mowing pastures, and they brought the six baby fox squirrels up to us,” Joe said. “It was kind of the next thing, and we decided that this is something worthwhile.”
Nan was volunteering with a rehab organization, and a few years later, she started Sunrise Wildlife Rehabilitation. Joe said she always answered the phone, ready to guide people through a rescue and help an animal “stay wild.”
To learn more about Pints and Predators and find participating organizations, visit the event page.