Did you know it’s National Refuge Week? What better way to celebrate and share this week than to highlight our very own Tampa Bay area refuges!
What is National Refuge Week? It falls on the second full week in October and celebrates the nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges protected wildlife habitat. These wildlife refuges habitats clean our air, filter our water and pollinate our crops. They also provide world-class recreational sports such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and kayaking. Most refuges will host public celebrations this month, check the special events calendar for Refuge Week events.
Here in Tampa Bay we are fortunate to have several refuges of our very own. Egmont Key, Passage Key, and the Pinellas Refuges. And just about an hour and a half north of Tampa Bay you will find Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
Egmont Key was established in 1974 and once the site of the former United States Army Fort Dade Military Reservation. It is located at the mouth of Tampa Bay and there are no bridges connecting it to St. Petersburg or Anna Maria Island. Access to the island is limited to watercraft only, but there are private charters available in both Manatee and Pinellas Counties for a fee.
Passage Key, one of the first national wildlife refuges was established in 1905. A 30-acre barrier island was once a mangrove island with a fresh water lake. The hurricane of 1920 destroyed most of the island. Because of the size and the importance to wildlife the refuge is close to all public use.
Pinellas Refuge, was established in 1951 as a breeding ground for colonial bird species. Tarpon Key, one of the islands making-up the refuge hosts the larges brown pelican rookery in the state of Florida. The green sea grass beds around the island are protected from motorized boat activity and due to the small size and importance to wildlife the refuge is close to public use.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, was established in 1983 specifically for the protection of the endangered West Indian Manatee. The springs provide a critical habitat for approximately twenty percent of the nation’s manatee populations. The temperature of the springs remains a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Manatees are susceptible to cold and hypothermia and cannot survive from extended periods when water temperatures fall below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. You can view the manatee anytime by webcam. The camera is operational annually during manatee season from November 1 to March 31. Click here to watch the manatee cam.
Get out this week/weekend support your local refuge, send us your pictures, we would love to see them!
Passage Key information site from: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=41563
Pinellas Refuge information site from: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=41564
Crystal River information sited from: http://www.fws.gov/crystalriver/
Photo credit for Manatee photo- Jim Reid USFWS: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast/4586550451/in/photostream/