With the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex, we have a chance to help conserve and preserve specialized natural habits for permanent and migratory wildlife. We can experience “Nature Therapy” too, when we get up close and personal with the Florida Keys wildlife by exploring and experiencing the refuges ourselves. Coming up for two weeks in March, you can enjoy the wildlife refuges with several fun community events, collectively known as Outdoor Fest.
The first Outdoor Fest was put on last year and it was a great success, so much so that it’s happening again. Organized by FAVOR, Friends and Volunteers of Refuges, alongside the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges, Outdoor Fest is a two-week extravaganza of activities and events. We begin with an Outdoor Fair at Crocodile Lake in Key Largo, from March 11th and end with another Outdoor Fair in the Lower Keys at Big Pine Key on March 18th. Each Outdoor Fair will include live music, food, kids’ activities and silent auction. You will want to attend both as the experience will be completely different at each location.
Between these two big community events there will be a wide variety of activities and other events centered around awareness and enjoyment of our natural habitat refuges. Most of the events are free but some require registration, so be sure to check out the entire schedule at the FAVOR Eventbrite page. From guided nature walks, to group Kayak excursions or bike rides, butterfly encounters, reptile walks and more, there is something fun to do every day. Other popular Outdoor Fest activities include a 5k run on Big Key, a photography contest, special guest speakers on guided refuge tours and walks, and even a sunrise photography walk, just to name a few things you can expect.
Within the Florida Keys we have four National Wildlife Refuges. Crocodile Lake, not only has the American Crocodile, but also the Key Largo Woodrat, and Schaus’ Swallowtail Butterfly. Around the lake itself you will discover a unique plant ecosystem, known as a Tropical hardwood hammock, a critical habitat for many of the species found in the area.
Great White Heron Refuge is a vast habitat north of Key West, comprised of mangrove islands and Backcountry shallow waters. While boating is allowed, there are specific areas off limits in order to protect species such as the Great White Heron, the Magnificent Frigatebird and Sea Turtles, as well as the mangroves themselves. The Key West NWR also contains mangroves and Backcountry waters, and has been designated a Federal Wilderness Area. Wildlife here includes not only Sea Turtles but also the Miami Blue Butterfly, and Reddish Egret.
National Key Deer Refuge is home to our own protected and much-loved, Key Deer, one of the rarest species of deer in the world. It is also home to the headquarters of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which manages the operations of all four habitat conservation centers. Other protected species you can find at National Key Deer Refuge include the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit and Bartram’s Hairstreak Butterfly; a total of 16 endangered or threathened species of fish and wildlife find refuge here, a truly unique and special place worth protecting.
As wonderful as this area is for wildlife, our ecosystems are sensitive. The programs offered by the National Wildlife Refuges, and the efforts of supporters such as FAVOR, are what make ongoing preservation possible. When we support their efforts, everyone, including our amazing wildlife, wins. If you are ready to enjoy life in the Florida Keys year-round, or want to buy or sell a home in the Key West area, please contact me, Jimmy Lane, for all of your real estate needs.