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Critical Wildlife Areas

Close up of an adult Tricolored Heron, emphasizing its red eye, blue lores, and blue and white plumage.

Critical Wildlife Areas are established by the FWC under the Florida Administrative Code to provide needed conservation at locations that support significant concentrations of wildlife. CWAs are discrete sites, such as mangrove islands or sandbars, where species gather daily or seasonally for essential activities, such as breeding, feeding or resting. The FWC establishes CWAs at sites where there is already documentation of human disturbances interfering with these activities.

CWAs are an important conservation tool for imperiled species. Many CWAs are established for the protection of wading birds and shorebirds during the breeding season. Both types of birds can be easily disturbed if people approach too closely. Such disturbance can cause birds to flush from their nesting sites, exposing eggs and chicks to predators, sun exposure and other harm. State rule specifically prohibits dogs, vehicles, vessels and fishing within areas posted as “Critical Wildlife Area - Closed to Public Access” (68A-19.005 F.A.C.). 

For each site, the CWA designation must be supported by the landowner. The boundary distance and closure season for each CWA is dependent on site conditions and is described in the CWA establishment order. At some locations, the CWA boundary may be larger than areas posted closed to allow for shifts in wildlife use over time. Visitors should look for CWA educational and regulatory signs when recreating near CWAs.

Learn more about CWAs:

For additional information regarding Critical Wildlife Areas, please contact the CWA coordinator.

Financial support for many Critical Wildlife Area in-water markers was provided by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. through the Conserve Wildlife Tag grant program.