Friday, July 30, 2010

St Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

While we were in Indian Pass I developed an immediate fascination with
St Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.


Named in 1633 by Franciscan Friars who were visiting the Apalachee tribes, St Vincent is an uninhabited barrier island between Apalachicola and the Gulf.

At about 9 miles long and 4 miles wide the island has approximately 12,000 acres which have been designated as a National Wildlife Refuge.


The idea of a completely uninhabited island of that size really appeals to me and the first thing I wanted to do was go exploring.

Our first destination was the island's western point.


We were on a seashell collecting mission and knew there would be some interesting stuff on the beach.

We saw this when we landed which meant there would be no walking up into the trees from here.



Not a problem. We were on a seashelling mission and we didn't have the bug spray you need to venture off the beach.

Immediately I realized we'd landed in shell lover's heaven.

Everywhere we looked were shells of all shapes, sizes and colors. Big ones, little ones, whole ones, broken ones - it was incredible.






Beautiful.


After spending quite a bit of time walking along the Gulf we were ready to venture to the north side of the island.


A dock on the western end of the island allows access to the interior so that's where we went.



This side of the island is dense, wild Florida and we knew it was going to be brutal in there but we plowed on, determined to see what we could see.

But not before we sprayed enough bug spray on ourselves to drown a horse.

We made it to just inside the tree line and got a good look at how beautiful it is in there.



And were swarmed by MILLIONS of Volkswagon sized mosquitoes.

The bugs were bad over at the campground but that was nothing compared to this.
These mosquitoes laughed at our DEET and laughed at my BIL's long sleeved shirt and if we hadn't started moving they would have killed us in under 10 minutes.

Killer, man-eating mosquitoes.

We hightailed it back down to the water and decided we'd walk along the Bay, looking at driftwood instead.



The mosquitoes were bad but managable along the water so we walked for about a mile marvelling at the wood and shells along the way.

And we'd stop from time to time to look into the interior and decided that the Indians who lived here must have been some seriously tough folks.


But we couldn't stand still for too long because as long as you're moving the mosquitoes aren't quite as bad.

We did manage a few quick family portraits. Pose, snap, move along.





Coming back to the dock we ran into a US Wildlife Officer who'd come over to make his rounds.

Really nice man who gladly stood in the heat and answered our questions.

We knew the island was home to a Red Wolf breeding program and he told us the project has gone well and there are a lot of wolves on the island.

There are also Sambar deer which are natives of Southern Asia. The deer were imported in the 1940s by the then owners of the island along with zebras, elands, and several other kinds of exotic animals.

The Sambar are the only surviving exotic with the exception of a type of Brazilian bat.

The cool thing about the Sambar is their size. Standing 40 to 60 inches tall and weighing between 300 and 600 pounds these deer are huge. The Wildlife officer told us they look much more like elk than deer and that it's really cool to see them running along the beach.

There are also wild boar, white tail deer, foxes, coyotes, bald eagles, alligators, several types of snakes, lizards, frogs and all kinds of birds.

The island was initially established as a refuge for birds and waterfowl but has since expanded to include everything there.

What an amazing place!

There are fresh water lakes, several sand roads, one old house, the grave of the first owner of the island and obviously all kinds of wildlife in there and I want to see it.

But July isn't the right time to do that.

Not without a beekeeper's suit.

So we'll be back in the fall when it's not 100 degrees out and the mosquitoes aren't quite so thick.

Looking at the island that night from our camp made me think of the Island of Dr. Moreau.


It's beautiful and I want to explore all of it but I wouldn't want to spend the night there.
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