Wildlife and Habitat Management
The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge achieves its goal of conserving wildlife by managing wildlife habitat. Refuge managers and biologists make concerted efforts to restore, enhance, and protect habitat types against the ever changing conditions found on the refuge.
In the late 1960s the refuge built a dike through the estuary to create two areas of impounded water in an effort to control mosquito populations.
For many years, the water level was kept high during the mosquito breeding season in an attempt to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs on the exposed mud flats. Unfortunately, this also degraded the overall health of the habitat in the impoundments and reduced their usefulness for all wildlife.
Today, the water levels follow the natural tidal fluctuations. The water levels in the impoundments are artificially lowered only to coincide with the spring and fall shorebird migrations in order to provide optimal feeding habitat for the hundreds of birds that use the refuge as a refueling area.
Exotic plants can quickly invade refuge lands and out-compete native plants, degrading habitat necessary for wildlife. To combat the invasion, the refuge staff with the help of the Region 4 Ivasive Species Strike Team, chemically and mechanically treats hundreds of acres of non-native plants such as Brazillian pepper and Australian pine.
Scientists from the refuge and partner organizations study wildlife populations and habitat conditions to ensure management and public use actions benefit a healthy ecosystem. The refuge is part of the greater Everglades region and is a partner in the Comprehensive Everglade Restoration Plan .
Prescribed fires are used to maintain a variety of plant communities, mimic natural fire cycles, and reduce devastating fire conditions. Controlled fires help wildlife by enhancing new plant growth, eliminating thick undergrowth, and controlling non-native plants.