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Matlacha Pass
National Wildlife Refuge

1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL   33957
E-mail: dingdarling@fws.gov
Phone Number: 239-472-1100
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The American Oystercatcher feeds on abundant shellfish in the Matlacha NWR. Many beach nesting and resting birds utilize refuge islands.
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Matlacha Pass National Wildlife Refuge

Matlacha Pass NWR, administered as a satellite refuge of J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR, is located within the Matlacha Pass Charlotte Harbor estuary, Lee County, Florida, approximately 8 miles northwest of Fort Myers. On September 26, 1908, three small islands were established as a ". . . preserve and breeding ground for native birds" by President Theodore Roosevelt through Executive Order 943.

Since then, the refuge has grown to 23 islands encompassing about 512 acres. The most recent addition of lands to the refuge was on April 10, 1991, when Public Land Order 6843 withdrew approximately 312 acres of public lands from surface entry and mining for 40 years for use by the USFWS. Designated by the State of Florida as an Aquatic Preserve, the refuge islands are part of a highly productive estuary which supports a diverse array of wildlife. The islands contain two basic vegetative zones, upland sand ridges and mangroves.

Fisherman Key, one of the largest islands of the refuge, once had fish camps and permanent residents on it. Several islands of the Matlacha Pass Refuge are used as roosting and nesting sites for a variety of wading and water birds. The beaches and shores provide loafing, feeding, and nesting areas for migratory ducks, shorebirds, gulls, and terns.

Ospreys, which are listed as a priority species in the Regional Resource Plan, can be observed nesting and feeding in Matlacha Pass area. Several endangered and threatened species benefit from the habitats described including: bald eagles, wood storks, sea turtles, and manatees.

Getting There . . .
Access to the waters surrounding the islands that make up Matlacha Pass NWR is by boat only. The islands are not accessible to visitors. Boaters should consult navigational charts and tide schedules before attempting to visit any waters surrounding the refuge. Numerous oyster bars and shallow back bay/estuary waters are difficult to navigate and fragile seagrass beds must not be damaged. The refuge can be located by boat via the intracoastal waterway south of Charlotte Harbor between the eastern boundary of Pine Island and western boundary of Cape Coral. For more information, contact the J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR, 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, Florida 33957 or call (239) 472-1100.

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The refuge is closed to the public.

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Management Activities
The refuge uplands and wetlands are maintained in their natural condition in order to provide undisturbed habitat for birds, fish, invertebrates, and other animals. Periodic biological and wildlife population surveys are conducted by staff to assess wildlife communities utilizing the area.

Occasionally, the upland habitats on Skimmer Island are treated for exotic plants, primarily Australian pines, via prescribed burns, chemical treatment, and/or hand pulling. Skimmer Island has been managed in such a way to try and attract nesting black skimmers and least tern away from construction sites on the mainland. Colonial bird nesting surveys are conducted annually from April through August on Lower Bird Key, Upper Bird Key, and Lumpkin Key. Colonial bird roost surveys are conducted quarterly on Lower Bird Key.

All islands are closed to public access due to the fact that they are roosting and nesting islands for a variety of birds. Law enforcement patrols are routinely conducted for the protection of wildlife species and Calusa Indian sites.