Florida Guide > Other Florida
Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve
Being approximately only a fifty-minute drive from central Orlando, Merritt Island wildlife reserve is an easy drive away and a fabulous place to visit. Located on the space coast on a 140,000 acre overlay of the John F Kennedy space centre, Merritt Island is home to over 500 species of wildlife with fifteen being listed as federally threatened or endangered. There are several wading bird rookeries, ten active bald eagle nests, numerous Osprey nests, up to 400 Manatee during the spring months and an estimated 2,500 Florida scrub jays.
With an informative visitor centre open from 8.00am to 4.30 Monday to Friday, Saturday 9am-5pm and Sundays November-March 9am to 5pm which shows an informative 20 minute video about the refuge and also has a staffed information desk which really helps you get the most out of your visit.
The best place to see wildlife is Black point wildlife drive, a seven mile crossing several shallow marsh impoundments and is an excellent place to see a variety of species including Wading birds, shorebirds and raptors, Alligators, river otters, bobcats and snakes. The best times to do this drive are one to two hours after sunrise and one to two hours before sunset. Merritt Island offers some great advice to help you get the most out of this drive such as
- Drive slowly (25 mph or less), stop frequently and quietly look and listen.
- Take along binoculars and wildlife identification guides.
- Timing your visit is important. Early morning and later afternoon are the best times of the day. The best months are October – March
- Don't concentrate your search just in the open water areas where wildlife is most visible. Also search the mud flats, the edge of dikes, the trees and grass which provide cover, and in the air.
- Wildlife is accustomed to vehicle traffic on the drive. Getting out of your car to get a closer view or take a picture will probably scare away your subject. You are encouraged to stop, but pull over so others can pass.
Alligators are often visible and there is also a viewing platform located at the northeast side of Haulover canal where you might possibly get to see a Manatee. Otherwise known as the gentle giant.
The manatee was listed as an endangered species in 1967 (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973), meaning it is considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The manatee also is protected at the federal level under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.
With hiking trails, several boat launch areas, fishing, canoing and of course the drive all on offer then there is something to suit everyone and it really is worth the drive to enjoy this wonderful place.
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