Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Wildlife & Habitat Management Update

December 6, 2022

SCCF’s Wildlife & Habitat Management Program was one of the first responders to Sanibel and Captiva after Hurricane Ian.

Land Conservation Steward Victor Young and Field Technician Dustin Lucas were on the islands within a few days to help search and rescue residents in need. The department has also been heavily involved in the clean-up of SCCF’s facilities, from removing ruined office contents from the buildings, such as appliances and drywall, to cutting and piling fallen trees and limbs. This labor has also been conducted at around 20 residential homes — most belonging to SCCF volunteers — to help the community as much as possible.

“We’ve been making heavy use of our skid-steer by moving piles of debris to the street and clearing areas of dead vegetation. With this use comes frequent repairs and maintenance that have all been done in-house,” said Chris Lechowicz, director of the Wildlife & Habitat Management Program. “We’re now assessing the fire lines and public trails on our properties to evaluate what it will take to clean them up.”

In between all-staff clean up days, Lechowicz and Wildlife Biologist Mike Mills have been catching up on wildlife research and monitoring projects across Sanibel, including documenting wildlife sightings with the help of the public through our wildlife reporting form to verify the continued presence of our known species post-hurricane.

A boardwalk at SCCF’s Erick Lindbland Preserve

“We’ve also been collecting readings at numerous wetlands to document changes in salinity over the dry season since our entire freshwater system took on saltwater from storm surge,” Lechowicz said. “We’re working with other agencies to find ways to help island wildlife survive the dry season given the limited freshwater.”

Lastly, radio telemetry of several turtle species has resumed, and the department is continuing to mark and collect data on Florida box turtles (Terrapene bauri), among other species.


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