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Florida Guide > Other Florida

Merritt Island, Brevard County

If you haven’t visited Kennedy Space Centre you may not realise it is actually a wildlife refuge with over 15, 000 plants and animals – give or take a little disruption every now and again for a Shuttle lifting off.

Since 1963 manatees have grazed quietly whilst endangered sea turtles lay eggs at night, birds take a break to feed safely in the marshes and salt water estuaries of the 200 square miles, 140, 000 acres making up Merritt Island. Over 15, 000 plants and animal live here on this barrier island in harmony.

Merritt Island is home to the West Indian Manatee, the Wood Stork, various turtles such as the Leatherback and Atlantic Hawkesbill turtle. Snakes such as the Florida Salt Marsh snake and Eastern Indigo snake are threaten along with the American alligator – all endangered species needing protection

If you’d like to visit Merritt Island and view some of the wildlife, try the Black Point Wildlife Drive, a 7-mile, one way drive. This takes approximately 40 minutes with the best time of day being one or two hours after sunrise or sunset, to see the most animal activity. Follow the dike road through marshes, and pine flat woods where you can view all types of birds – shore birds, waders and birds of prey. Look out for the five or so Bald Headed eagle nests – rather hard to miss once you are aware of where they are. They are huge - over six feet in diameter! Here they produce approximately 2 chicks per year. If you look carefully along the roadside you will see water ditches and water run-offs where alligators bath in the sun, river otters busy themselves, bobcats hide and, snakes slither in the dry grasses.

Alternatively it is possible to see animals and birds from strategic bird and wildlife observation decks. If you wish to see the huge, gentle manatee, try the manatee observation deck. If you’re there May through September turtles visit from the sea to the sand to lay their eggs at night, grateful of the protection this refuge offers their young. If you’re into fishing or waterfowl hunting there are opportunities to do this in four designated “hunt areas” three days per week during the state waterfowl season. A permit is required. If your thing is hiking, enjoy the hiking trials – details of these can be found at the Visitors Centre - come prepared to hike with the correct shoes and plenty of water!

If you’d like to visit, daily opening times are from sunrise to sunset, although closed for space shuttle launches. The refuge’s visitor information centre is 4 miles pas the refuge entrance. From Cocoa Beach its 37 miles, Daytona 39 miles, Orlando 52 miles, Tampa 126 miles. The Centre is open from 8am – 4. 20 Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, November to March 9am – 5pm.

Take a trip and see a natural side to beautiful Florida.

Author: Denise and Nigel Taylor (Villa link: click here)
Other articles by this author: click here

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Page added on: 4 October 2008
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