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- Located on the John F. Kennedy Space Center, east of Titusville, Florida.
- Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) was established on August 28, 1963. The Refuge, managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provides a buffer zone for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in their quest for space exploration.
- Approximately one half of the Refuge's 140,000 acres consists of brackish estuaries and marshes. The remaining lands consist of coastal dunes, scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks.
- The refuge is a gateway to the Great Florida Birding Trail.
- The Refuge co-hosts the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival each January.
- The refuge is part of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. Portions are closed during the launch of shuttles.
Florida Scrub Jay
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| Objectives of MINWR are:
- to provide habitat for migratory birds;
- to provide habitat and protection for endangered and threatened species;
- to provide habitat for natural wildlife diversity, and
- to provide opportunities for environmental education, interpretation, and wildlife oriented recreation.
- Refuge Rangers provide educational programs in the Visitors Center and in the field.
- Private tour operators are licensed to give educational programs and outdoor experiences.
- Partnership ventures with organizations to like the Brevard Zoo to use Refuge facilities.
The coastal location of MINWR, tremendous variety of habitats, and position between the subtropic and temperate climatic zones contribute to the Refuge's importance as a major wintering area for migratory birds, including 23 species of waterfowl.
A REMARKABLE VARIETY OF SPECIES
A total of 1,045 plant species has been identified on the Refuge. More than 500 species of wildlife have also been documented including 330 species of birds, 117 fishes, 65 amphibians and reptiles, and 31 mammals. Of these, 16 are currently federally listed as threatened or endangered.
|ENDANGERED/THREATENED SPECIES NOTES:|
- In 1994, a 10,500 acre no-motor zone was established in the northern Banana River. During spring months, up to 400 manatees have been observed using this area for feeding, breeding and cavorting. Public entry for fishing and canoeing is allowed from the SR 528 area just south of the zone.
- Ten active bald eagle nests were recorded during the January 1997 aerial survey. Since the early 1960's, an estimated 150 eaglets have fledged from Refuge nests.
- A record 107 green sea turtles nested on the Refuge in 1996. Also, 1,546 loggerhead sea turtle nests were recorded.
- A Sea Turtle rescue - January 2003
- An estimated 5,000 alligators inhabit the Refuge.
- A project designed to entice wood storks to again nest on MINWR was completed in February 1997. Twenty-five artificial nesting platforms were constructed and placed in an historic nesting area where specific water level management objectives can be met to provide optimum feeding habitat.
Management of MINWR involves several multifaceted programs including biology, forestry, fire mangement, and public use. Current priorities include the following:
PUBLIC USE AND RECREATION:
Refuge lands are open daily from sunrise to sunset, except for periods during shuttle launch operations. The Refuge normally closes at the Titusville entrance and just south of Haulover Canal on SR3 24 hours prior to launch.
||VIC - A Visitor Information Center - located 4 miles east of Titusville offers Refuge information, educational displays, wildlife exhibits, and a 20 minute video about the Refuge. A 1/4 mile, universally accessible boardwalk located behind the VIC crosses over a pond, through an oak hammock, and leads to a freshwater marsh overlook. Special interpretive programs are offered November-March annually. The VIC is open Monday-Friday 8:00-4:30 , and 9:00 -5:00 on Saturdays and Sundays (closed Sunday April-October).
Black Point Wildlife Drive is a 7 mile, one-way , self guiding tour through impounded marshes. The drive offers several numbered stops which are described in a brochure that can be picked up at the entrance to the drive. Wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, waterfowl, alligators, otters, and other species of wildlife frequent the area. The Cruickshank Tower located at Stop 8 offers a view of the surrounding marshes from a 10' tower.
HIKING TRAILS - In addition to the Boardwalk Trail at the VIC, five other trails are offered: Oak Hammock Trail (1/2 mile), Palm Hammock Trail (3 miles), and Cruickshank Trail (5 miles). The Hammock trails are typically wet following periods of rain, while the Cruickshank trail (dike) is dry. Newer trails include the Scrub Ridge Trail (Florida Scrub-Jays), the Pine Flatwood Hiking Trail (1 mile) and the Wild Bird Trail (1/4 mile). Bug repellant is recommended for all trails, especially from March - October.
FISHING - The Indian River, Banana River and Mosquito Lagoon offer fishing for species such as red drum, spotted sea trout, snook, tarpon and black drum. Boat launching access is available at several sites throughout the Refuge for smaller watercraft. Larger boats (18'+) usually launch at Haulover Canal or from the near-by Parrish Park on SR 402/406. Night fishing is allowed by boat only and a permit is required. All fishing is in accordance with state regulations. Commercial fishing operations require a permit which can be purchased at the Refuge Headquarters/VIC complex for $150.00 annually. Commercial fishing guides require a permit as well. Sport Fishing Regulation
Hunting for ducks and coots is allowed in accordance with state regulations in four specified hunt areas totaling 36,000 acres. A hunter safety card is required for all persons in areas 1,2 and 4. Persons hunting in area 3 do not need a hunter safety card unless they are required by state law to have one in order to purchase a hunting license. Hunting occurs on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday during the state set season, plus Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. All hunting stops at 1:00 p.m. Common species bagged includes blue-wing teal, green-wing teal, pintails, widgeons, shovelers, scaup, and mottled ducks. Hunter check stations are frequently manned by Refuge personnel.
Merritt Island Wildlife Association - The support group of local volunteers who promote conservation, awareness, and appreciation of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and who provide assistance to Refuge programs. You are invited to join them.
- Refuge Volunteers - Opportunities range from staffing the Visitor Information Desk to trail maintenance, from Naturalists for interpretive programs to restoration projects.
- Information (in PDF format - 8.5x14)
- Application (in PDF format - 8.5x14)
Since 1993, the Refuge has been involved in a multi-agency, multi- phase marsh restoration project. Seventy-six impoundments originally created from 1959-1966 to help control salt marsh mosquito populations are being restored to more original conditions by reconnection to near-by lagoons using culverts or by breaching the dike. This will enhance wildlife habitat, allow for greater species diversity, and control species such as cattails and willows which have invaded the impoundments. This project is part of the overall effort to protect and better manage the 156 mile Indian River Lagoon.
MINWR has a very active fire management program. Each year, thousands of acres of upland and marsh habitat are prescribed burned to rejuvenate the vegetation, add nutrients to the soil, and control woody vegetation such as willows that invade impoundments. Fire is a very useful tool in managing scrub oak habitat where species such as Florida Scrub Jays, eastern indigo snakes, and gopher tortoises occur. Without fire, this type of habitat becomes too overgrown to successfully support scrub jays. Wildfires often result from passing thunderstorms, especially during summer months. These fires are controlled as soon as possible in critical areas, and are frequently allowed to burn in areas where prescribed fires were scheduled to be conducted.
Surveys are conducted for many species of wildlife including sea turtles, bald eagles, ospreys, wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and alligators. Data collected on these species is used to determine use and population trends for management purposes.
INDEX OF WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTIONS
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, CONTACT THE REFUGE HEADQUARTERS:
Merritt Island NWR
P.O. Box 2683
Titusville, Florida 32781
U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service