An abundance of natural spaces and undeveloped coastline means Nature’s Place to Play is brimming with wildlife. A sunshine state outdoor recreation mecca, it’s also home to some unique species and their vigilant protectors.
From habitat defense and rescue to boosting public awareness, committed individuals and human networks help preserve ecosystems found nowhere else.
Recently established, The Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve officially protects about 400,000 acres of seagrass, much of which lies off of Florida’s Adventure Coast. Seagrass is vital habitat for fish, manatees, sea turtles, scallops and more. In addition to advancing sustainable recreation, the Preserve will maintain its biological, scientific and aesthetic value for future generations.
Florida’s Adventure Coast is at the forefront of artificial reef deployment. These strategic seafloor structures help protect marine ecosystems. Focused on the future, in 2018, Hernando became the first county in Florida to incorporate a Coastal Management Element into its official county comprehensive plan.
The coastline of Florida’s Adventure Coast is comprised of tidal tributaries and spring-fed estuaries. This sensitive environment is largely undeveloped and teeming with life. A leader in its protection and awareness is UF/IFAS SeaGrant.
From planting a living shoreline and building oyster reefs to installing fishing line disposal tubes, shoreline wildlife awareness signage and more, SeaGrant is a key coastal protector. SeaGrant researches Florida bay scallops, horseshoe crabs, fish and other marine species, sharing insights with the community via media and public workshops. In addition to helping protect resident manatees with boater communications, SeaGrant also leads manatee, dolphin and sea turtle rescues and trains local volunteers.
Throughout Florida’s Adventure Coast, rescuers and rehabilitators team up on behalf of injured or orphaned wildlife. With large natural spaces and areas shared by humans, wildlife specialists are vital. Like a chain with many links, skilled and caring people stand ready to help day and night. Based in Nature’s Place to Play, there are 10 licensed wildlife rehabilitators with a range of species specialties.
Among the abundant wildlife in forests, meadows, waterways and backyards, some are federally protected. Many native species thrive in Nature’s Place to Play; it is also home to those that are endangered or threatened such as gopher tortoises, Eastern indigo snakes, bald eagles, red cockaded woodpeckers, Florida scrub jays, West Indian manatees, green sea turtles and Sherman fox squirrels.
On Florida’s Adventure Coast, everyone plays a role in protection of abundant wildlife found nowhere else. From boaters who spot sea turtles, manatees, dolphin or other marine life in distress to hikers and homeowners, the first line of defense is the public. An immediate report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission hotline by phone at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC or #FWC starts the response chain. Another way to help is to contact the nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitator from those listed on MyFWC.com. A well-established local wildlife rescue, foster and rehabilitation center is 100 Acre Wood.
To learn more about nature on Florida’s Adventure Coast, Brooksville – Weeki Wachee and its Gulf coast, coexisting with wildlife and helping when they are in need, visit MyFWC.com/Conservation and FloridasAdventureCoast.com