Spirit-of-the-Wild - Natural Communities

photo cabbage palms

Historically, the natural communities at Spirit-of-the-Wild were dominated by wetlands associated with sloughs connecting the Caloosahatchee River to the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and the Big Cypress National Preserve to the south. To satisfy the demand for flood protection and dry ranchlands, ditching and canal construction began in the region in the late-19th century.

At Spirit-of-the-Wild, water flow in portions of the site was diverted through a series of canals. Pine flatwoods and other uplands were converted to open pasture. The disruption of natural fire cycles and planting of cattle forage and vegetable crops further altered plant communities. Despite these changes, the existing slough, pastures, pine flatwoods, cypress swamps, freshwater marshes and hammocks offer excellent wildlife viewing and other recreational opportunities. As management restores some of the historical water flow to the property and replants native species, these opportunities will increase in scope and variety.

 

See Major Natural Communities.

 

Management

photo of prescribed fire

Spirit-of-the-Wild will be managed to protect natural habitat important to the Florida panther and other listed species and to restore and preserve the hydrological connection with adjacent protected lands. More than half of the property has been modified by past human activities including the exclusion of fire and conversion of native habitats to improved pasture and winter vegetable crops.

The hydrology of Spirit-of-the-Wild has been drastically altered and will require large scale restoration. This will involve coordination with the South Florida Water Management District, the Wetlands Reserve Program and local water management authorities. Natural water regimes will be reestablished on approximately 40% of the WMA's modified habitats.

photo of feral hogs

Prescribed fire is the primary tool for managing vegetation on pastures and flatwoods communities and will consist of 80% winter burns and 20% growing season burns. Invasive exotic vegetation such as Brazilian pepper, hydrilla, tropical soda apple, cogongrass, torpedo grass and smutgrass will be removed by mechanical or chemical means.

The population of feral hogs will be controlled through hunting. Though this exotic species causes great harm to vegetation when it uproots plants in search of food, it is a preferred prey of the Florida panther. The level of hog removal will be set in consideration of the needs of the panther while providing hunting opportunities.



FWC Facts:
The oystercatcher is one of the largest and heaviest of Florida's shorebirds. It is striking in appearance: dark brown, black and white, with a bright red bill.

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