Wildlife & Habitat


This unique refuge was established in 1931 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds. It is one of the oldest refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It encompasses 68,000 acres spread out between Wakulla, Jefferson, and Taylor counties along the Gulf Coast of northwest Florida. The refuge includes coastal marshes, islands, tidal creeks and estuaries of seven north Florida rivers, and is home to a diverse community of plant and animal life. 

  • American Alligator

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    On most warm days, you may see alligators from 10 inches long to 10 feet long, basking in the sun along refuge wetlands.  The female builds a nest from grass and plant debris often 4 feet wide by 3 feet tall, in which she lays up to 45 eggs in late spring. As the plants decay, heat is given off to incubate the eggs. The female will protect this nest and the young alligators upon hatching.  To estimate an alligator’s length, convert the distance in inches from the tip of the nose to the eye ridge into feet.

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  • American Bald Eagle


    The refuge supports over 20 active nesting pairs each winter. Several nests are easily viewed from Lighthouse Road or refuge trails. St. Marks’ eagles usually begin arriving at the refuge in early fall and depart the refuge to head north for the summer in late May.

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  • Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

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    Over 60 of these rare birds now live on the refuge, which is due to relocation from other areas, creation of artificial cavities for nesting, and planting and restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem.

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  • Longleaf Pine

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    Longleaf pine forests and savannahs include some of the most biologically diverse groundcover in the Northern Hemisphere 

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  • Freshwater Marsh

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    Freshwater marshes produce an abundance of vegetation the decay of which form deep layers of peat and other organic soils. A healthy marsh can support abundant wildlife.

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  • Saltwater Marsh

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    Saltwater Marshes are plant communities of the intertidal zone, the transition area between terrestrial and marine environments.  

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