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St. Vincent
National Wildlife Refuge

479 Market Street
Apalachicola, FL   32320
E-mail: saintvincent@fws.gov
Phone Number: 850-653-8808
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Aerial Photograph of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS
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St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, in Franklin County, Florida, is an undeveloped barrier island just offshore from the mouth of the Apalachicola River, in the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is managed to preserve, in as natural a state as possible, its highly varied plant and animal communities. Ten separate habitat types have been identified: tidal marsh; freshwater lakes and streams; dunes dominated by live oak/mixed hardwood understory; scrub oaks; relatively pure stands of cabbage palm; and four different slash pine communities, each with its own unique understory species. St. Vincent is an important stop-off point in the Gulf of Mexico region for neo-tropical migratory birds. The island is a haven for endangered and threatened species, including bald eagles, sea turtles, indigo snakes, and gopher tortoises. Wood storks use the refuge during their migration. In addition, the refuge serves as a breeding area for endangered red wolves

Getting There . . .
The Refuge Office/Visitor Center is in the Harbor Master Building at 479 Market Street, Apalachicola, Florida. Refuge signs on Highway 98 will direct you to the Center. The Center is open Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:00 E.S.T. St. Vincent Island is 9 miles southwest of Apalachicola and is surrounded by water. 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.

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Wildlife and Habitat

A Haven For Endangered Wildlife

St. Vincent provides sanctuary for a number of endangered and threatened species. Bald eagles nest in pines near the freshwater lakes and marshes. Loggerhead green and leatherback sea turtles come ashore to nest on the pristine beaches. Wood storks stop here during their migrations.

In 1990, St. Vincent became one of several south-eastern coastal islands where endangered red wolves are being bred. When they have been weaned, the wild pups raised here are taken to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. These solitary animals once roamed the Southeast, but predator control programs and habitat loss decimated their populations.

The Seasons of St. Vincent

Spring (March- May) Ospreys are nesting in dead snags around the fresh-water lakes. Soft-shell turtles are laying eggs in sand roads. Wood ducks can be seen around nest boxes. White-tailed deer bucks are dropping antlers. Young eagles begin to test their wings.

Summer (June-August) Loggerhead sea turtles are laying eggs on beaches. Female alligators are protecting nests in the marshes. Wood storks are passing through. Snowy plovers and American oystercatchers are feeding on the beaches. White-tailed bucks are in velvet.

Fall (September-November) Waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds, are migrating. Peregrine falcons may be seen. White-tailed bucks are polishing antlers, approaching rut.

Winter (December-February) Waterfowl populations peak. Bald eagles and great horned owls begin nesting. On warm days alligators can be seen basking in the sun. White-tailed deer bucks are in rut.

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A Look Into the Past

240 Oldest pottery shards found on St. Vincent indicate Indians inhabited the island at this time.

1633 Franciscan Friars named the island while visiting Apalachee Tribes.

1750 Creeks and Seminoles, offshoots of the Creek nation, entered area and inhabited the island.

1868 George Hatch bought the island at an auction for $3,000.00. Hatchs grave is the only marked grave on the island.

1908 New owner, Dr. Pierce, spent about $60,000 importing Old World game animals.

1920 Island-grown beef cattle were sold to Apalachicola markets.

1940 First oyster lease granted. Pierce Estate sold first pine saw timber. St. Joe lumber Company built a temporary bridge to island for timber removal.

1948 Loomis brothers bought island for $140,000 and imported zebras, elands, black bucks, ring-necked pheasants, Asian jungle fowl, bobwhite quail, and semi-wild turkey.

1968 St Vincent purchased by Nature Conservancy for $2.2 million. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service repaid Conservancy with money from Duck Stamp sales. Established as St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
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Management Activities
Management of upland habitats is accomplished primarily through the proper use of both prescribed and naturally occurring fire. Native vegetation evolved in a fire-maintained ecosystem. Prescribed fires reduce midstory and overstory vegetation on ridges and maintain early successional species. Prescribed burning reduces hazardous accumulations of flammable fuels and kills invasive woody vegetation in marsh habitats.

Wetland habitats are managed occasionally through water level manipulation and control of vegetation. Vegetation encroachment, dissolved oxygen, and salinity in the lakes are monitored regularlythroughout the year.

Refuge staff survey wildlife populations to monitor numbers of migratory birds, their breeding success, and to establish population trends for many species. Staff and volunteers monitor colonial bird nesting, shorebird nesting, alligator abundance, and bald eagle nesting success. The Gulf of Mexico beach is checked from May to September for the crawls of nesting sea turtles. Nests are caged to protect eggs from raccoon and feral hog predation. Nest success and hatching rates are monitored.

Endangered red wolves, native to the Southeast, are raised on St. Vincent NWR as a part of the recovery program. Wolves are allowed to roam the island to gain "wild experience." Wolves are transferred to mainland wild release sites and captive sites, as needed. Island wolf numbers are maintained at an adult pair or family unit.