News Releases

FWC requests public input at Critical Wildlife Area workshops

News Release

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Media contact: Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding public workshops to share information about and solicit comments on the proposal to designate new Critical Wildlife Areas and modify five existing CWAs throughout the state. The proposed designations are part of a statewide initiative to conserve some of Florida’s most vulnerable wildlife.

CWAs are established by the FWC under a Florida Administrative Code rule to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as breeding, feeding or migration.

In Citrus County, the FWC is considering designating a new CWA at the Withlacoochee State Forest to protect caves that are important roost sites for bats.

A public workshop for the proposed Withlacoochee State Forest Caves CWA will be held on Thursday, Aug. 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Withlacoochee Training Center, 24059 Childs Road, Brooksville.

“This initiative to create more CWAs throughout the state is not just for bird watchers and wildlife aficionados,” said FWC Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “This is something for everyone, and we want everyone to have an opportunity to be a part of the process.”

The FWC will use the feedback received at these meetings to help develop the recommendations for each of the CWA designations and modifications. These recommendations will be presented at the FWC’s September Commission meeting.

Caves within the Withlacoochee State Forest support bats including tricolored bats and southeastern myotis bats. Caves being considered for the CWA include Big Mouth Cave, Trail 10 Cave, Jackpot Cave, Morris Cave, Blowing Hole Cave and Werner Cave. These caves form only a subset of caves within the forest.

The entire area to be covered by the CWA will be small, likely only a few acres. At each cave site, the CWA boundary will encompass an area that will extend a short distance beyond the perimeter of the gate or fence surrounding the cave entrance and include all of the underground passageways that constitute each cave.

The Florida Forest Service restricts access to these caves year-round and some are already fenced to protect hibernating and breeding bats, but people still illegally enter them. A CWA designation for these caves would allow for additional management measures to help reduce disturbance.

Caves are fragile ecosystems and human disturbance is a major issue for the bat species that use the caves as roosting and maternity sites. Human disturbance either within a cave or even in the area surrounding the cave entrance can cause bats to abandon a cave. The caves proposed for CWA protection are some of the most important roost sites for tricolored bats and southeastern myotis bats on public lands east of the Florida panhandle.

Additionally, by protecting bats from other types of disturbance, FWC biologists can reduce potential impacts of white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that impacts hibernating bats. Although it has not yet been detected in Florida, the disease has caused serious declines in bat populations in many parts of the country.

To see the complete list of CWA public workshops, visit MyFWC.com/CWA and click on “CWA public workshops.”

For more information on bats visit MyFWC.com/Bats.



FWC Facts:
Gulf sturgeon can grow to a maximum length of about 8 feet and weigh approximately 150-220 pounds.

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