Environmental Stewardship on the Islands



On Land

Create a wildlife habitat in your own backyard. Plant native vegetation to attract butterflies, birds and other indigenous creatures. Native vegetation will also reduce the need for irrigation and use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. SCCF’s Native Plant Nursery can help you with information and supplies. 

Refrain from feeding wildlife. Doing so can be harmful to wildlife and humans. It is against City regulations to feed any wild animals. Alligators can be particularly dangerous if they have been fed. Federal, state, county and city laws prohibit the feeding of alligators. 

Manage dogs and cats.  Keep your cats indoors. Birds can be harmed by these natural predators. Lizards can be poisonous to cats. Alligators and raccoons have the potential to cause harm to your pet. Keep your dogs on a leash. Both City and County regulations require dogs to be on leashes outside a fenced yard and even on the beach. Small dogs have been mistaken for prey by some natural predators.  Dogs can disturb nesting wildlife, especially on the beach.

Help injured wildlife. The Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is located at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road. CROW has a cadre of volunteers that assist highly trained wildlife veterinarians. Wildlife is brought to the clinic from all over Lee County and neighboring areas. Stop in for a program or call them for advice at (239) 472-3644.

Drive carefully. You are responsible for the safety of others including wildlife on roads and roadsides. Islanders frequently stop to allow a gopher tortoise to pass safely. Bobcats, river otters and other wildlife can be harmed trying to get to the other side of the road. 

Recycle and put litter in its place. Research indicates the tidier a place is kept, the more likely visitors are to keep the place clean. Join hundreds of your neighbors for one of the island cleanups. 

At the Beach

Leave only footprints on the beach and take all refuse with you. Litter attracts predators, which prey on sea turtle eggs, hatchlings, and shorebirds. Sea turtles can become tangled in beach furniture and equipment. Fill in any deep holes you or others may have dug on the beach. Adult and hatchling sea turtles and flightless chicks have been observed trapped, unable to climb out. 

Watch where you step. Several species of birds nest directly on beach sand. Camouflage is their defense against predators but it means beach goers may unknowingly step on eggs or chicks. 

Allow sleeping birds to rest. Often flocks of birds can be seen along the shore line. Birds may be in the middle of migration that will require thousands of miles of flight. Energy spent avoiding humans and dogs can mean they do not have enough to complete their migration. 

Blinded by the Light. Nesting and hatchling sea turtles mistake artificial lights for the light of the moon and crawl off-course into the dunes, where they often die from predation or dehydration. Lighting on the beach is the number one threat to sea turtles while they’re on the beach. Turn off all lights , including flashlights, visible from the beach between April 15-November 30.

On the Water

Know your fish. Size and catch limit laws are in place to manage fish populations for the future enjoyment of anglers. Current regulation brochures are available wherever you purchase your fishing license. Even Florida residents need a fishing license.

Boat responsibly. If you run aground, push, pole or paddle your way off the grass flat. Propellers damage important seagrass habitat. Have a designated lookout on board to watch for sea turtles at the water’s surface.

Be safe on the water. Know the rules of the road as they apply to boating. Children 6 and under must wear a life jacket and it is a good idea for all passengers to do the same. 

Retrieve your fishing line. Abandoned strands of fishing line can entangle birds, manatees, and dolphins. Dolphins have been observed with fishing lures snagged in their mouths. Unable to feed, these beautiful animals can perish.   Learn more at Mind Your Line.




Thousands of people visit Sanibel and Captiva Islands every year and have done so for centuries.  With the pandemic and abilities of twenty-first century technology, more and more people are choosing to move to the islands full time.  What were once essentially island hamlets of a few dozen are now home to close to 8,000 full time residents.  SCCF welcomes our many new seasonal and permanent friends and neighbors.


Respecting, enjoying and preserving our local marine and terrestrial ecosystems and the wildlife within have been central to the concept of the “sanctuary islands” of Sanibel and Captiva even before Sanibel’s incorporation in 1974. From as long ago as the time of the Caloosahatchee culture and native Calusa peoples thousands of years ago, inhabitants of the area have valued local lands, waters and wildlife. Human behaviors and choices made exhibit the belief that our environment has worth in its natural state.  


Some reference the “Sanibel way” when describing how people live on Sanibel and Captiva. This manner of living is being environmentally conscious while enjoying our local ecosystems.  We are connected to nature and with that relationship comes the responsibility to behave in ways that value and honor the environment.


Sanibel and Captiva are referred to as the “Sanctuary Islands.” They are quiet and purposely less-developed than other areas of Florida.  The Sanibel Plan is the land use plan adopted in the 1970s and amended several times since. This land use plan limits development and restricts certain types of development altogether. This is why one will not see a multi-story high rise condominium or a franchise burger restaurant on the island. The idea of living with nature is evident in the hundreds of acres reserved for wildlife and the miles of nature trials available to visitors and residents alike.  Even certain waters are protected. These actions have been taken to allow for residents and visitors to coexist with the migratory and resident marine and wildlife.


Helpful things to know related to living with nature:


Wildlife abounds on the islands. Iguanas, alligators, coyotes, bobcats, racoons, dolphins, manatees, sharks and countless species of birds call our barrier islands home.  All are frequently sighted and feeding or approaching wildlife is strongly discouraged.


It is dry in the winter months and the area can quickly enter drought conditions.  Please be mindful of water consumption and adhere to local ordinances.  Ideally, yards have drought-resistant plantings and little-to-no grass.  Fertilizers are harmful to our water supply as well as wildlife.  Please contact the SCCF Native Landscapes and Garden Center for ideas of how to have a beautiful yard without the need for large amounts of water or fertilizer.


Late spring and summer months bring hot temperatures and high humidity. This time of year tends to be rather wet.  Average daytime temperatures between May and September hover in the 90s and rainfall averages between 6-10” a month during summer.  Afternoon thunderstorms build inland and erupt on the coast regularly. The combination of standing water and humidity is a perfect environment for bugs, particularly mosquitoes and no-see-ums.  Removing standing water around your home may attract fewer bugs.


The waters around Sanibel and Captiva are extremely shallow.  Please be mindful of water depths as well as posted “Manatee Zones” and “No Motorized” zones.  Our seagrass beds are home to various marine species and it takes years for the prop scars from boat engines to heal.  If you find yourself in shallow water, please poll or push your vessel into deeper water before using your engine.


Please contact the SCCF Education Department at (239) 472-8585, ext. 2302 with any questions about island history, native plants, wildlife management, or environmental conservation.  Welcome to Sanibel and Captiva.  We are glad you are here!