The new year looks like it will be another busy one on St. Vincent Island. February brings the annual meeting for the Supporters Group of the refuge and then in March the open house on the island takes place. The winter hunts are over and the focus shifts to turtle monitoring, wolf tracking, and island maintenance. This year we hope to have more local faces joining the activities on St. Vincent Island.
The annual meeting of the Supporters of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge will take place 1-4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 17. It will be held at the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve (3915 State Road 30A) which is 4.5 miles south of the junction of U.S. Highway 98 and County 30-A (Port St. Joe) and five miles north of the Indian Pass Raw Bar.
Eric Lovestrand, Education Coordinator of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, will be the guest speaker. He plans to educate the group on “The Snakes of Florida”. Food will be catered by Paul Gant's Bar-B-Q. Memberships ($15 for individuals and $20 for families) will be sold at the door and you will need to be a member to attend. We hope to see many new faces this year!
Another date to put on your calendar is Friday, March 22. That is the day when the St. Vincent Island Supporters Group will welcome visitors to the island to explore and learn more about this beautiful island wildlife refuge. Free transportation to and from the island will be provided. More about this special event next month.
The three hunts that took place on St. Vincent Island this winter had mild weather and dry conditions which produced three very successful hunts. The white-tailed Deer Archery Hunt was held Nov. 15 -17 and had 57 hunters participate. Thirteen deer were harvested – four bucks and nine does. Five feral hogs were also harvested – four females and one male that weighed 103 pounds, the heaviest animal harvested in that hunt.
The Sambar Deer Hunt took place Nov. 29 – Dec. 1. The Sambar deer, an elk from India, was brought to the island in the early 1900s by Dr. Pierce who was using the island as a private exotic hunting preserve. This imported deer was the only non-native animal permitted to remain on the island after the island became part of the National Wildlife Refuge system. The Sambar deer, which can measure up to 6 feet tall weigh up to 700 pounds, acclimated to the island terrain and does not interfere with the natural habitat of the island. One hundred and 28 hunters turned out for this hunt which harvested 12 Sambar deer.
The deer included eight stags and four hinds with dressed weight ranging from 191- 368 pounds and 2 – 6 points. Three feral hogs were also harvested weighing 30 – 60 pounds.
The Primitive Weapon Hunt took place Jan. 24 – 26. One hundred and eighteen hunters harvested 28 white-tailed deer, seven feral hogs and one raccoon during this hunt. The January hunt concluded the 2012 – 2013 winter hunting season on St. Vincent Island.
Volunteers are still needed by the St. Vincent Island NWR. Both outdoor and office-based volunteer work is available. At our Apalachicola office you can help with visitor services, assist with administrative tasks, or help write grant proposals. On the island you can help track the red wolves, join the sea turtle patrol, participate in bird counts, clean up trash on the island's beautiful beaches, remove invasive plants, or assist with maintenance projects. To volunteer or learn more about how you can help please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The monthly island tours have several more months before the summer heat and bugs arrive. All tours are on the second Wednesday of each month – Feb.13, March 13, April 10, and May 8. Our enhanced website will give you 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 . Seats are filled on a first come, first served basis. There is a small charge for boat transportation to and from the island. You can also visit the island on your own. Do remember that the island is primitive – bring everything you need, including drinking water – and leave only your footprints behind.
This monthly column 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.