St. Vincent NWR, is an incredibly bio-diverse island refuge. We are lucky to participate in a variety of national programs designed to protect and propogate endangered and threaten species. Red wolves, migratory shore birds, gopher tortouises and sea turtles are a few species lthat live or nest on the island. The pristine and uninhabitated ecosystem is also home to a number of research projects at any given time..
Photo Credit: Refuge Watch
Photo Credit: Lynn Harding
Least Tern with eggs.
Photo Credit: Tulsa Audubon
One of the ongoing projects on St. Vincent Island is the Red Wolf Tracking program. USFWS (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) employees and trained volunteers are working hard to keep track of the red wolf population on the island. The red wolf is an endangered species and efforts are being made to protect them and increase their population. In the fall of 1989, St. Vincent NWR was selected as an island propagation site for these wolves. January 1990 saw the arrival of a breeding pair of wolves raised in captivity from the Tallahassee JuniorMuseum. The red wolf propagation program has continued uninterrupted since that time. One breeding pair is kept on the island to produce pups each spring. In the winter, they are trapped, their health checked, and they are fitted with radio tracking collars. The pups will stay with their family for 18 months before they are trapped and relocated to the Alligator River NWR in North Carolina. Here, they are reintroduced into the wild. The St. Vincent program has been very successful and produced many litters.
St. Vincent NWR is home to many endangered nesting shorebirds. Snowy Plovers and Least Terns are among a few we survey each year. Protected habitats are critical to the survival of these birds and if you visit the island you will see there are many areas of the shoreline that are designated NO ENTRY and are roped off and marked in order to keep out foot traffic. Adults and their nests and chicks rely on camouflage for protection and the slightest disturbance—even accidental can be devastating to these already imperiled species. In partnership with US Fish and Wildlife Service, Deep Water Horizon and the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Office in Fairhope Al are fortunate enough to have a part time technician working on this project for the next several years.
One of the ongoing projects on St. Vincent Island is the Sea Turtle Patrol. USFWS (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) employees and trained volunteers are working hard to protect our sea turtle population. Each year from May through October, the beaches are checked for sea turtle nests and hatches. Whenever a new nest is found, the species of the sea turtle is determined by examining the characteristics of the tracks the turtle left. Three species of sea turtles nest on St. Vincent – Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. The majority of the nests on the island belong to the Loggerhead sea turtles.
When a nest is found, the staff member or volunteer dig down in the sand to locate the eggs. If eggs are found, a wire cage is placed over the nest to deter wild hog or raccoon predation. The nests are marked, recorded, and then monitored for signs that baby turtles (hatchlings) have emerged. Much data is collected so that trends,egg counts, and survival rates can be documented.