St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

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St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
The Endangered Red Wolf By Carole Robertson.jpg
Endangered red wolf
Map showing the location of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge
Map showing the location of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge
Location Franklin and Gulf counties, Florida, United States
Nearest city Apalachicola, Florida
Coordinates 29°38′40″N 85°07′47″W / 29.64435°N 85.1298°W / 29.64435; -85.1298Coordinates: 29°38′40″N 85°07′47″W / 29.64435°N 85.1298°W / 29.64435; -85.1298
Area 12,490 acres (51 km2)
Established 1968
Governing body US Fish & Wildlife Service
Loggerhead sea turtle
Bald eagle
Green sea turtle
Wood stork in flight
Florida alligator
Painting on the beach

The St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in northwestern Florida, on the barrier island of St. Vincent, off the coast of Apalachicola.

The 12,490 acre (51 km2) refuge was established in 1968.

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge occupies a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Little more than a quarter mile out in the Gulf, the refuge is a short distance from the mainland. Because access is limited to boat traffic, the refuge rarely sees large concentrations of people. Visitors can enjoy long solitary walks on the beaches or venture into the interior of the island and explore the ten habitat types located here. Very limited development of the island (primarily during a time when it was privately owned) has left it virtually pristine. The earliest documented visitors to the island dates to the year 240 (from pottery shards) when Native Americans lived on the island. St. Vincent Island has had a very colorful past through numerous owners and, in 1948, was even stocked with imported zebra, eland, black buck, ring-necked pheasant, Asian junglefowl, bobwhite quail and turkey. The island was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1968 for $2.2 million and U.S. Fish and Wildlife repaid them with proceeds from Duck Stamp sales and the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge was established.

Depending on the season, many species can be observed with a number of them being endangered and threatened. Springtime reveals nesting and reproductive behavior in many animals seen on the island such as osprey, softshell turtle and wood duck. In addition, white-tailed deer bucks shed their antlers and young bald eagles are taking flight. Summer brings loggerhead sea turtles to lay eggs on the beach and alligator females on nests in the marshes. Many bird species can be seen including wood stork, snowy plover and American oystercatcher. Fall brings migration and the refuge is inundated with waterfowl, shorebirds and songbirds. Peregrine falcons have been spotted during this time. White-tailed deer are readying for the rut which happens in the winter season. Also in winter, waterfowl numbers are at their highest and bald eagles and great horned owls are nesting. Alligators, other reptiles and many other animal species are found year-round on the island. Since 1990, St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge has been one of several coastal islands in the southeast where endangered red wolves are being bred. The wolves are allowed to roam the island and the pups raised here are taken (after weaning) to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

As it is an island environment limited in size, visitors are asked to be very cognizant of wildlife and behavior. Visitors should leave no trace on the island, other than footprints.

Access[edit]

The closest public boat ramp to the island is located 22 miles west of Apalachicola at the end of County Road 30-B. From that boat ramp it is one-quarter of a mile across to the island. Boaters should be sensitive to winds, tide fluctuations, currents, storms, and oyster bars. Private shuttle service to the island is operated by St. Vincent Island and Fishing Charters.

Red wolf recovery program[edit]

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) participates in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s red wolf recovery program. St. Vincent Island has the capacity and features to allow a free roaming “semi-wild experience” for this endangered species. Here red wolf pairs have the opportunity to breed and raise pups without significant human interference in a natural habitat. Because the island is not trying to establish a permanent wolf population, most of the pups around 18 months of age are transferred to the 1.2 million acre five county red wolf recovery area in eastern North Carolina.[1]

St Vincent NWR was first approved as a red wolf island propagation site in the fall of 1989 and has since been home to 21 adults with 25 pups born on location. Adults that are sent off the island for any number of reasons such as age or health concerns have gone to places such as The Tallahassee History and Natural Sciences Museum, the Wolf Conservation Center of New York, and Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington. Likewise adult red wolves have been sent to St. Vincent Island from all over the United States.

Red wolves are identified by number (e.g., 1548, 1124, 982). The last pair prior to December 2013, female 1729 and male 1565, were not successful for over four years in their ability to have pups; so, in December 2013 male 1565 was sent to the Wolf Conservation Center of New York in South Salem, New York, http://nywolf.org/ and one of their male red wolves was sent to St. Vincent Island in exchange. New male 1804 and female 1729 were placed in a large acclimation pen on the island for a short time in an effort to both introduce the pair and help male 1804 adjust to his new environment. Encouraging video evidence of their subsequent pair bonding there and now in the wild leave biologist Bradley Smith and Refuge Manager Shelley Stiaes hopeful there will be a new litter of red wolf pups roaming the refuge soon.

St. Vincent NWR boasts an amazing history and support of this beautiful endangered species. For more information on the red wolf recovery program there are a multitude of websites you can visit including more information on 1804 at http://nywolf.org/home?p=9066 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service red wolf recovery program at http://www.fws.gov/redwolf/ Red wolf recovery team social media sites abound as well so please be sure to like and share the red wolf recovery team on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/redwolfrecoveryprogram, check out their blog: http://trackthepack.blogspot.com/ and follow them on Twitter @redwolfrecovery

References[edit]

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