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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, a 100,000 acre oasis filled with unique wildlife

St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge Alligators
Posted at 8:01 AM, Feb 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-28 13:06:15-05

ST. MARKS, Fla. (WTXL) — An hour south of Tallahassee, a beautiful wildlife oasis brings travels from all around the world.

From land to water, 100,000 acres make up the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

On average, about 350,000 people visit every year.

"It was just a natural landscape that the native-Americans lived in and the landscape looked quite a bit different," Refuge Ranger David Moody said.

In the 1930s, the St. Marks Refuge land was purchased and used by timber companies for wood.

"The 1940s and 50s is when the federal government would buy this land for conservation habitat," Moody said.

Over the decades, rangers conduct prescribed burns every three years to maintain some of the natural ecosystems.

"That burning replicates what nature does with lighting strikes, plus it helps these animals that live and thrive in this ecosystem it gives them support," Moody said.

He said the landscape used to be mostly a Long-leaf wiregrass ecosystem.

Refuge Manager said there are two main species native to this area.

"We have an endemic species called the frost flat wood salamander," Peacock said. "We have reintroduced red-cockaded woodpecker woodpeckers. There were original colonies of red-cockaded woodpecker woodpeckers to the north of the old refugee boundaries we just purchased."

Peacock said there are also 300 species of birds that migrate through the area.

Bird watching is enjoyed by many visitors, especially photographers looking for a unique bird.

Peacock said you may even run into a Flamingo.

"We thought that he got blown off course from hurricane Michael because Flamingos are not native to the panhandle," Peacock said. "He then stayed through 2018, and then showed up again in 19 and then again in 20."

Whether people enjoy walking one of the many trails or enjoying the shore by Apalachee Bay, Peacock said she wants people to "remember it's their refugee and we want people to come out and enjoy the wildlife in their habitat".

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