I hope you are safe and healthy.
Following are some highlights of the status of the Lower Suwannee/Cedar Keys NWRs as we continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our outdoor facilities are open to the public - nothing is closed except buildings! In fact, the refuge is experiencing relatively high usage given so many other State of Florida and sister federal public areas are closed. My cell phone has been lit up with texts and phone messages asking for information on recreational access.
Staff designated as essential are working on station, while others are working from home.
Staff, along with the resident volunteers, continue to patrol Shell Mound and Shired Island, including cleaning bathrooms and picking up garbage. Unfortunately, duties on the Dixie side have involved addressing new graffiti on the Mainline Bridges.
While office routines and schedules remain in flux, much is being accomplished. You will hardly recognize the headquarters office and out-buildings, as staff and the resident volunteers have undertaken projects including treating the outside of the log cabin, sealing the wood on the building, rebuilding the education shed, mowing the grounds, cleaning offices and windows, and seemingly organizing everything! We are so grateful for their hard work.
I, along with the entire Refuge staff, extend best wishes for all of you, your families, friends, and our communities.
If you need me, give a call on my cell 703.622.3896.
Take care and stay well.
Recently, Friends members Ann and Ron Kamzelski visited the Lower Suwannee Refuge. Ann sends this report and all the gorgeous photos.
With the “stay at home” orders and concerns about the virus, I realized that I had spent over 4 weeks on Cedar Key without leaving the island. It was time. However, I didn’t want to go shopping, I just wanted to get out. I had heard that the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge was one of the places that was still open to the public. So, I got my husband Ron to be my chauffeur and headed off to the Refuge with my cameras.
We decided to stop at the Shell Mound on the way. When we got there, it was packed with cars, trucks and boat trailers. Not a parking spot to be had. We did an immediate U-turn and headed to the quiet of the loop road.
I had a project that I was working on for a friend and needed to get some landscape images. I wanted to portray the feeling you get when you visit our wonderful area. There are several different terrains in the Refuge from pine forests, to tidal creeks, cypress swamps, and the Suwannee River itself.
My focus was not on wildlife this trip, but wildlife “happens” when you take this drive. There were lots of turtles and baby gators in the ditches along the road. Dragonflies by the hundreds buzzed around the truck. A great egret flew down the road in front of us for about a half mile. We saw two piliated woodpeckers and I found a five-stripped skink. There was a racoon meandering through the cypress trees. Some of the bigger ponds along the road had larger alligators in them. One even lifted his head and smiled at me when I took his picture. Another pond had one each of a great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, little blue heron and tricolored heron. Oh, and there were lots of different flowers to be seen on the roadsides too.
We drove slowly along the loop road stopping here and there so I could take photographs. We went to the McCormick Creek launch area because I love the way the road just nose-dives right into the water at the end. I think we saw three cars the whole trip. Then we went to the headquarters area and walked the trail to the Suwannee River. We sat on the bench overlooking the river and just enjoyed the peace.
I came home with a whole bunch of photographs to sort through. It was a delightful morning spent in a perfect location. I am so glad that we have this place and that it is still open for us to visit.
Barbara Woodmansee has joined the Board of Friends. For many years, she has been surveying the butterflies of the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. With her expertise, Friends is adding a Butterfly of the Month page to the website. The first post is here, and all the months' posts will also be on the Science, Butterflies tab at the top of the page.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Wildlife Refuge System, comprised of approximately 550 refuges throughout the country, has a robust volunteer program for people looking for opportunities to work along-side refuge or hatchery staff. The program is designed for people who want to further conservation, learn more about nature and share their love of the outdoors. Volunteers, also known as resident volunteers, have a beautiful place to live for a period of time and are able to explore and experience the refuge or hatchery, as well as the local area. And, in return, the refuge or hatchery gains valuable volunteer assistance.
We are fortunate to currently have outstanding resident volunteers at our refuges.
Buzz and Donna Coller, from Wisconsin, have been providing support on the Levy County side. The Collers arrived in Florida to work at, and camp in, Florida state parks, but due to the COVID-19 closure mandates, they sought volunteer work with the Refuge. They’ve assisted staff on repairing and replacing signs that have been stolen or damaged, replacing the deck on the education building, as well as treating and sealing the outside of the log cabin.
Robin and Rick Gallup arrived on the scene from out West in April for their stint as resident volunteers and quickly lent much-needed hands to projects already underway. The Collers report that the log cabin would never have been finished so fast without the Gallups' help.
Needless to say, the NWRS Volunteer Program has been a tremendous asset to our facilities.
For more information on the NWRS Volunteer Program visit www.volunteer.gov
During the Friends Annual Meeting in February, many of the attendees visited nearby Vista for an informative, riverfront presentation about the property, which will eventually become part of the Refuge.
Bender and Associates Architects was chosen to do a historical and architectural survey of the Vista Property, with the work being fully funded by a Florida Division of Historical Resources grant. Although there have been some delays due to virus restrictions, the work has progressed and is about 90 percent complete.
The Friends Board looks forward to receiving the final report and sharing it with the Friends membership. Our grant administrator, Belinda Nettles, is now working with Bender Associates on submitting an application for a second Division of Historical Resources grant to begin the next stage of the project which will involve initial construction work to ensure the structural integrity and weather resistance of the historic structures on the site.
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Due to coronavirus concerns, the headquarters building is closed to visitors. However, staff are working as usual and the Refuge is open for appropriate recreational uses including boating, hiking, fishing, biking, and birding.
The Refuge Manager Andrew Gude can be reached by text or phone at 703.622.3896.
Hunting Information from the Refuge Manager
The print version of the 2019-2020 Hunt Regulations Brochure is now available at Refuge headquarters. For a digital version,
click on the photo below.
For Information about getting a Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Hunt Permit and a Deer Bag Report, Click Here
To Apply for a Permit to Hunt on the Lower Suwannee Refuge,
For a copy of the Deer Harvest Log, Click Here
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