Published: Jan 01, 2013 5:13 PM EST
Updated: Jan 01, 2013 9:44 PM EST

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -- Manatees, bald eagles and burrowing owls. They're all protected animals you can find in Cape Coral. But some people say the city isn't doing a good job of advertising its wildlife, and is missing out on thousands of dollars from eco-tourism.

At Sirenia Vista park which literally means "manatee viewing," it's here you can find amazing wild animals including an osprey nest. But some people say, these animals are the city's best kept secret, and while they are mentioned in some magazines the city needs to step it up

From moving manatees, brown burrowing owls, to the majestic bald eagle nesting near Ida Baker High School, Cape Coral has a wealth of wildlife. Some aren't afraid to come out for a close-up.

Pascha Donaldson is with the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, a non-profit dedicated to protecting these animals. She says many people don't know they exist in Cape Coral, and will leave the city in search of them.

"Last week we read about Manatee Park a famous park to go see the manatees (in Fort Myers). And I tell people why are you leaving the Cape? We have them here! And they go 'we do?' she said.

She's pushing the city to do more advertising nationally and internationally in hopes of increasing eco-tourism, and with it, the city's economy. "When people come to see our little burrowing owls, literally from all over the world, they have to have a place to stay so they stay in a hotel. They have to eat so they go to a restaurant," she explained.

Cheryl Walk and her family come here in search of mother nature's free show, and say people who don't are missing out. "You forget how lucky you are when you get in the work mode, to take the time to relax, and enjoy what we have here, it's really beautiful," Walk said.
"It's a win-win for everybody when you're bringing people over the bridge," said Donaldson.

But according to Pascha, things are moving in a good direction. WINK-TV has learned that the city will be building a manatee obervation area here in Sirenia Vista Park this year.

For information about the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, visit this site.

You can also find a burrowing owl cam on the city's webite: