Wildlife & Habitat


Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center for the protection of migratory birds.  Consisting of 140,000 acres, the Refuge provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks that provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals and 15 federally listed species.

  • Birds

    Painted Bunting

    The refuge's coastal location, tropic-like climate, and wide variety of habitat types contribute to the refuge's diverse bird population. To date, 358 species have been identified on the refuge.

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  • Endangered Species

    Image of Florida manatee

    The refuge manages habitat for over 500 species of wildlife. These habitats support one of the highest numbers of endangered and threatened species found within the National Wildlife Refuge system.

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  • Fish

    Photo Gallery Great Blue Heron

    More than 140 species of freshwater and saltwater fish are known to use refuge impoundments, estuaries, and freshwater wetlands. Fish within the refuge are important to the ecology of the area and recreation.

  • Habitats

    Pine flatwoods 150x118 Correct

    The habits of the refuge include wetlands (both salt and fresh water), upland shrubland, wetland forest, mesic and upland forest, and beach and dune.

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  • Invasive Species

    Feral Hogs

    Exotic, invasive, and nuisance plant and animal species is one of the priority management issues for the Merritt Island NWR. Nuisance animal species have a negative impact on threatened and endangered species.

  • Mammals


    There are many species of mammals on the refuge. Some of the larger ones include bobcats, otters, manatees, and deer.

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  • Reptiles

    American alligator closeup

     Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of habitats and wetland ecosystems and can be found in many areas of the Refuge.

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