Resource Management


To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values.

Blackbeard Island is a barrier island containing a variety of maritime habitats including beach, dunes, savannas, and upland forest. Several freshwater impoundments were constructed to provide waterfowl habitat. Artesian wells that once provided a source of water for these ponds dried due to mainland industrial demands on the Floridan Aquifer, and water management is now strictly rainfall dependent.

The island has one of the highest number of sea turtle nests (primarily loggerhead) on the Georgia coast. An active management program is conducted each year to document, relocate(if necessary), and protect the nests. Nesting success and number of hatchlings are recorded.

Standardized surveys for waterfowl and shorebirds are conducted on Blackbeard Island throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use.   

White-tailed deer are the most common resident mammals on the island. Archery hunting is used as a management tool to keep the deer herd size in balance with the habitat. Harvest data have been studied by University of Georgia biologists, resulting in published research on the island's white tailed deer subspecies.

Invasive Species Control

In recent years, invasive, exotic plants and animals have become a serious threat to national wildlife refuges throughout the United States. Each year, three million acres of land are lost to exotic, invasive plants, and billions of dollars are spent battling their infestation. Chinese tallow tree, water hyacinth, and alligator weed are species from another area – often from another continent – that have been introduced here, locally. They reproduce rapidly, have few predators, and have low food value for wildlife. 

On Blackbeard Island, feral hogs have become one of the most problematic invasive species concerns for refuge staff. These are exotic animals; either domestic pigs that have escaped captivity, Eurasian wild boar (introduced to North America), or a hybrid of both, and are not a natural part of local ecosystems. They are incredibly destructive to habitat resources and are a threat to endangered species like loggerhead sea turtles and piping plovers, due to nest predation. As the hog population has continued to grow, management efforts have ramped up over the years from opportunistic removal by refuge staff and deer hunters to a more intense baiting and trapping system.

Prescribed Fire

Fire has shaped the local landscape for eons. Because of the Georgia coast's long history of lightning and man-made fires, natural systems are adapted to fire and depend on frequent fire to remain healthy. Prescribed burning plays a natural role in local ecosystems and is a vital tool for managing public lands. The extraordinarily high plant species diversity of the coastal ecosystems is maintained by fire, which reduces competition from woody plants and recycles nutrients. One of the greatest benefits of prescribed fire is that it reduces “fuels” – the underbrush, branches, pine needles, leaves, and dead plant debris that have built up on the forest floor over time. If fuels are not reduced every few years, wildfires can become intense, hot, and destructive.