Crooked Lake - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Here at Crooked Lake WEA, high-quality native plant communities include pine flatwoods, basin swamp, baygall, sandhill, depression marsh, hardwood forest and scrub. Mesic and wet flatwoods, the predominant habitats, are interspersed with depression marshes, baygall and scattered dome swamps. Large basin swamps occur in the western portion of the WEA; sandhill and scrub in the northeastern portion. Cutthroat grass grows within seepage slopes and drainage swales from surrounding ridges. This rare plant community is restricted to just a few counties in central Florida.
Prior to its purchase, habitats on Crooked Lake WEA were managed for cattle and citrus production. Some habitats were cleared and planted with pasture grasses and fire was generally excluded from others. Today, management activities focus on the restoration and maintenance of critical habitats for the gopher tortoise, which will benefit other upland species such as Sherman’s fox squirrel and southeastern American kestrel, as well as the indigo snake, Florida mouse, gopher frog and other gopher tortoise burrow residents. Biologists are reintroducing fire, reconnecting wetlands and working to eliminate nonnative invasive plant species such as old world climbing fern, cogongrass, tropical soda apple, rosary pea, Guinea grass, Peruvian primrose willow and Caesar’s weed. Feral hog impacts are continually monitored and evaluated.
In addition to the management work described here, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rely on a wide range of techniques to ensure that natural areas throughout the state stay healthy for wildlife and inviting to visitors.