~Annual supporters group meeting Feb. 16~

The Supporters group is currently preparing for another year full of activity on St. Vincent Island.  With the annual meeting in February and the open house on the island in late March, we hope to expand our Supporters group and increase the number of volunteers that help preserve this unique wildlife refuge.  It should be a very interesting year.  Last year there were a record number of turtle nests on the island and a new male red wolf has been introduced to the island in hopes of producing a new litter of pups for the Red Wolf breeding program.  But first a few words about the upcoming annual meeting and a speaker that you don't want to miss.

The Supporters Group of St. Vincent Island NWR will be holding its annual meeting from 1-4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 16 at the St. Joseph Peninsula Bay Buffer Preserve on State-30A.  This is a wonderful time to join this dedicated group.  The Buffer Preserve is 4.5 miles south of the junction of U.S. Highway 98 and State 30-A and five miles north of the Indian Pass Raw Bar.  We are excited to have Jack Rudloe, founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory as our speaker this year. 

Lunch will be provided by Paul Gant.  Memberships to the Supporters of St. Vincent NWR will be sold at the door - $15 for individuals and $20 for families.

For over 35 years Jack Rudloe has dedicated his life to helping conserve the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem earning him the unofficial title “Mayor of the Gulf of Mexico” that is displayed on a T-shirt he occasionally wears.  Jack’s illustrious career spans from working on shrimp boats across the Gulf of Mexico to author and most notably to his work here in the panhandle of Florida with the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory.  This laboratory collaborates with thousands of scientists around the world and supplies marine life to over 1,300 schools and research institutions (more than 300 scientific papers credit them as their source of specimens).  The Public Aquarium at the lab has 1,800 visitors each year and is a major tourist attraction in the Florida panhandle.

Inspired by John Steinbeck, who he met in his early 20’s, Jack has written nonfiction books on the sea and two novels. With his wife Anne, who has written two books of her own, they have published often in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon and Sports Illustrated along with a dozen scientific, peer reviewed articles on subjects ranging from sea turtle biology, culturing marine animals that produce anti-cancer drugs, and the aquaculture of electric rays and slipper lobsters. Jack Rudloe has been interviewed four times on the NBC Today Show, Good Morning America, National Public Radio, Fox News and has twice been on the cover of the Wall Street Journal and was featured in the New York Times.  We are indeed delighted to have him featured as our speaker at our annual meeting in February.

The final count of turtle nests on St. Vincent in 2013 was 104 and that was a record-setting year for the island. Interestingly, all the nests were loggerhead sea turtles this year. Nineteen hardy souls, volunteers and St. Vincent staff members monitored the nests and collected the following data:

            *25 nests were negatively affected by predators, ghost crabs, raccons and wild                         pigs

            *15 nests were negatively affected by storm surge from Tropical Storm Andrea                         (June 6, 2013) 

            *6,284 hatchlings emerged and left their nest

Twenty nests were adopted last season through Adopt-A-Nest program.  That program will begin looking for 2014 turtle nests sponsors at the annual meeting.  You can also contact the Supporters Group at 229-6735 to go ahead and adopt a nest for the 2014 season.

There are three managed hunts each hunting season on St. Vincent Island.  The November hunt (Nov. 20-24) is an archery hunt and 35 hunters harvested four White-tailed deer (two bucks and two does), one feral hog (boar), and five raccoons (two males and three females). 

The Sambar deer hunt took place on Dec. 5-7 with 107 hunters participating.  Eight Sambar deer were harvested (four hinds and four stags with 4-6 points) with dressed weights of 122-370 lbs.  Also one feral hog (88 lb. sow) and two raccoons were harvested..  The January hunt (Jan. 23-24) – a primitive weapon hunt (muzzle loader and bow) – had 123 hunters participating. They harvested 35 White-tailed deer (17 does, 18 bucks) and 10 feral hogs (five sows and five boars).

The monthly island tours are taking reservations for the spring 2014 season. All regularly scheduled tours are on the second Wednesday of each month.  Due to the popularity of the island tours, several additional dates have been added to the schedule.  Upcoming tour dates are Feb.12, Feb. 26, March 12, March 26, April 9, and May 14.   

Our enhanced website will give you a lot of details about the tours plus a convenient place to sign up.  Just click on “Island Tour Sign Up”.  The tour is free, but participants must make a reservation on the web @ www.stvincentfriends.com and seats are filled on a first come, first served basis. There is a small charge for boat transportation to and from the island. Bring everything you need, including drinking water – and leave only your footprints behind.  

This article is provided by the Supporters of St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Please visit our web page for more information and volunteer opportunities – www.stvincentfriends.com - and never miss an opportunity to visit St. Vincent Island.