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The Wildest Woman in America

Will Harlan

Carol Ruckdeschel may be the wildest woman in America. She wrestles alligators, eats roadkill, rides horses bareback, and lives in a ramshackle cabin that she built by hand in an island wilderness. A self-taught scientist, Ruckdeschel has become a tireless defender of sea turtles on Cumberland Island, a national park off the coast of Georgia, just across the Florida line.

On Friday, Feb. 24, Will Harlan, author of Untamed: The Biography of Carol Ruckdeschel, will be presenting two free programs about her work and life at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., part of the 2017 “Ding” Darling Lecture Series at J.N. “Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

Ruckdeschel has been termed “the Jane Goodall of Sea Turtles,” having spent 45 years collecting data on sea turtles. Living off the grid and off the land, she saved Cumberland Island, formerly held by wealthy landowners such as the Carnegies and Rockefellers, from development.

Harlan’s biography Untamed was a New York Times Best Seller and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award finalist. It was named one of The Daily Beast’s Top Ten Books of 2014 and one of Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2014. It also won the Society of Environmental Journalist’s Rachel Carson Book Award and the Langum Charitable Trust’s Malott Prize.

Harlan will sign copies of the book, available in the Refuge Nature Store, following his lectures. Proceeds from Nature Store sales directly benefit refuge wildlife, education, and research.

Seating for the lectures in the “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center Auditorium is limited and available on a first-come basis. Early arrivals can save one seat each and then may explore the Visitor & Education Center or Indigo Trail before the lecture starts. Saved seats must be filled 15 minutes before lecture time.

As usual, Wildlife Drive closes on Friday, but visitors are welcome to enjoy the center, Indigo Trail, and recreational opportunities at Tarpon Bay Explorers, the refuge’s official recreation concession located at its Tarpon Bay Recreation Area.

For more information, call 1-239-472-1100 ext. 241 or log on to dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/lecture-and-film-series.

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