If you'd like to recycle your plump and fresh Halloween pumpkins, some playful possums, squirrels, and raccoons would be pleased to put them to good use.
For pouncing. For gnawing. And best of all, for poking around intriguing eye and mouth holes.
"It's entertainment for them and nutritious and just plain fun," said Sherry Schlueter, executive director of the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale. "They are fascinated by them."
The nonprofit organization provides veterinary and rehab services for about 12,000 animals a year representing about 255 species.
Whole and carved pumpkins are valuable as playthings, exercise equipment, and teaching tools for critters that are being released back into the wild, Schlueter said.
Staff members tuck fruits, kibble, and other tasty snacks in nooks for animals to work on their foraging prowess. Some of animals use the pumpkins to stash their own food.
Before dropping off pumpkins, it's a good idea to phone first to make sure more are needed, 954-524-4302, extension 10. Only whole and carved pumpkins that are fresh, all natural, and not rotting are accepted.
Not wanted are pumpkins with sharp edges, candle drippings, paint or other potentially dangerous or toxic elements. If in doubt, toss it out, Schlueter said.
The center, which also accepts a variety of other types of donations, is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., 3200 SW Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, southfloridawildlifecenter.org.