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Lake Wales Ridge - Wildlife

Look for wading birds along the shores of lakes and ponds on the Lake Wales Ridge. Nesting pairs of osprey occur at the Lake Placid Scrub tract and the Royce Unit. Lake Istokpoga may have the densest concentration of nesting ospreys in the world. Bald eagles nest at the Lake Placid Scrub site and the Royce Unit. A restored freshwater marsh on the Royce Unit fills with seasonal rainfall and attracts scores of wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl.

The threatened Florida scrub-jay was relatively common on some of the tracts of the WEA when surveyed in 1992-1993. However, a 2011 report showed a serious decline. Aggressive, ongoing management practices have stabilized some jay populations in the WEA, which contains nearly 10 percent of the entire population of jays that still exist in Florida. 

Check out other species recorded from Lake Wakes Ridge WMA, or add observations of your own, by visiting the Lake Wales Ridge WEA Nature Tracker Project.

Add your bird observations to the following Lake Wales Ridge WEA eBird Hotspots:

Carter Creek Tract

Frostproof Tract

Lake Wales Tract

Royce Unit

Wildlife Spotlight: Sand Skink

The presence of the rare sand skink (listed as threatened by both FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is best detected by the distinct wavy trails it leaves in the sand as it “swims” just below the surface. Slender, shiny and light in color, the sand skink reaches a length of about five inches and feeds mainly on beetle larvae and termites. The sand skink is rarely seen above ground, and is endemic to sandy ridges of seven Florida counties in central Florida. The sand skink appears to do best in areas free of abundant plant roots, with open canopies, scattered shrubby vegetation and patches of bare sand. Its future is threatened by habitat loss from conversion to agricultural and residential uses and from habitat degradation due to fire exclusion.

sand skink

Sand Skink Photo Credit: Kevin Enge