Description - Located north of Sanibel Island, this rookery-rich island conglomerate is home to hundred of species of heron, pelicans, egrets, ibis, cormorants and more. The refuge stretches from Cayo Costa to Pine Island offering protective habitat to sea turtles, tortoises, manatee, dolphins and an assortment of other wildlife and plant life. Mangrove forests are the predominant forest type. Boat access to the surrounding waters is permitted. Islands are closed to public.
Copyright: - US Fish and Wildlife Service
Common Birdlife at National Wildlife Refuge
Bird Island and Middle Island (now known as Bird Key and Middle Key) were established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The refuge was home to thousands of herons, egrets, and pelicans that were being hunted to support the plume trade in the early 1900's. Through the executive order, these islands were set-aside as a migratory bird refuge that prohibited the taking or killing of native birds.
Today, the refuge is a designated State Aquatic Preserve, located on the southwest coast of Florida north of Sanibel Island in the Pine Island Sound. The Refuge has been expanded to over 17 islands and consists of densely forested red and black mangroves with little uplands habitat.
Whoopee, Benedict, and Patricio Islands are the only islands within the Pine Island Refuge able to support upland vegetation. This is due to the higher elevated upland sand ridges or shell mounds. Indian shell mounds located on Benedict Island show evidence of Calusa Indians once inhabiting the area at the time of European exploration.
Several of the islands, including Hemp Island and Bird Key, are important nesting and roosting areas for colonial birds, particularly the Brown pelican. Lack of human disturbance increases the importance of these reserved areas for these species.
Raccoons are the primary mammal found on the islands and dolphins can be seen frolicking in the area waters. Small colonies of gopher tortoises may be found on some of the larger islands.
Several endangered and threatened species benefit from the habitats described including bald eagles, wood storks, sea turtles and manatees.
Recreation - Boating and fishing are the two recreation opportunities offered surrounding Pine Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Climate - The climate in southern Florida is subtropical, with mild winters and hot, wet summers. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit with averages reaching above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild and dry with temperatures averaging above 64 degrees Fahrenheit (above 18 Celsius). Yearly precipitation for the southwest area is more than 56 inches. Lightweight clothing for hot temperatures is suggested. Long sleeves, pants, sturdy shoes and bug repellent are recommended if hiking.
Located along the Gulf coast, the refuge region (17 islands) sits above Sanibel Island between Cay Costa and Pine Island.