Department of Fish and Wildlife
Long-time Salato Wildlife Center manager drowns while on vacation
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Salato Wildlife Education Center Manager Laurie Davison drowned Sunday morning while vacationing with her family near Garden City, South Carolina.
Davison, 52, had managed the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ signature wildlife education facility in Frankfort for more than 15 years. South Carolina officials say Davison was pronounced dead at Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet after being pulled from the ocean surf.
She joined the department in May 2000 and immediately began building the agency’s still new wildlife education center into one of the most visited attractions in Frankfort. She opened Salato’s doors to more than 100,000 visitors each year.
Davison grew the Center’s reach exponentially by inviting volunteers to reinforce her small professional staff. Her passion for wildlife and nature attracted volunteer workers by the hundreds throughout any given year. They constructed and maintained Salato Center exhibits and became lifetime loyal Salato Wildlife Center supporters.
“Laurie shared her love of nature and the outdoors with everyone who loves nature,” said former Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Tom Bennett, who originally brought her into the agency. “She had that special and unique ability to speak to diverse groups of people who all love wildlife and nature. She was able to explain complex ecosystems in terms that the average person could understand. Her loss will surely be felt.”
Salato Conservation Educator Brent McCarty worked with Davison for the past seven years. “She truly believed it was our responsibility to reach out to all groups – not just our traditional customer base – and make the outdoors as accessible to them as possible,” said McCarty. “She believed our Salato Center was an opportunity to reach those people and those groups, and she tried to make sure that everyone had access to the outdoors that she had such a passion for.”
“Most people in this line of work aren’t in it for the pay,” said department Information and Education Division Director Tim Slone. “They are in it because they truly value the enjoyment wildlife adds to our daily lives, and believe instilling that value in others makes our world a better place for all. Laurie embodied that to the fullest.”
Each year, on National Public Lands Day, Toyota employees volunteer by the hundreds to complete projects at the Salato Center. “We always looked forward to our work at Salato and giving back to the community,” said Ashley Chatham, Toyota’s coordinator of National Public Lands Day for Kentucky. “Laurie was great to work with. Always had a big smile. Very enthusiastic. She loved Salato and the opportunity to provide environmental education. She believed in what she did and what Salato meant to the community.”
Department Veterinarian Iga Stasiak called Davison “one of a kind.”
“She had a rare way of conveying her passion and sharing her knowledge with the general public and reminding us that wildlife and wild places are essential to our well-being, a vital part of our lives and worth preserving for future generations,” Stasiak said. “She had a way of reminding us that things will get better. Her passion for wildlife and the wild places we all cherish was infectious and impacted the lives of the many people who visited the Salato Center.” Davison is survived by her partner, Mary Daniels, and their young children, Cathey and Yakob.