The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today designated a sandbar in Collier County, known as “Second Chance,” as a Critical Wildlife Area. The island, which is part of a larger shoal complex, is an important nesting site for Wilson’s plovers and state-listed least terns and black skimmers.
For protection of these birds, the sandbar, which has ranged from half an acre to 5 acres in size, will be closed to public access during the least tern, Wilson’s plover and black skimmer nesting season from March 1 through Aug. 31. Second Chance hosted the largest least tern ground colony in the region for four of the last five years and is an important site for Wilson’s plovers and black skimmers.
“With broad public support and unanimous support from the Commission, the FWC is moving forward with this very important conservation effort,” said FWC Chairman Brian S. Yablonski. “This is the second CWA recently added to the system in more than 20 years.” Bird Island in Martin County was added in 2013.
In June, the FWC held two public meetings and invited local citizens and interested stakeholders to discuss plans for Second Chance. Attendees at these meetings supported protecting the area.
There are a number of uninhabited islands nearby that provide alternative sites for recreational activity during the closure period.
CWAs are established by the FWC to protect important congregations of one or more species of wildlife from human disturbance during critical life stages. People and dogs can cause shorebirds to fly from their nests, leaving eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation and overheating. In the long-term, human disturbance also can cause wildlife to abandon high-quality habitat that is necessary for their survival.
With the addition of the Second Chance sandbar there are now 20 CWAs throughout Florida that are managed for shorebirds, wading birds, gopher tortoises and bats.
The new CWA, approximately 1.5 miles off of Morgan Point, Cape Romano Island, is owned by the state of Florida and is managed by the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Second Chance received its name in 1997 when a local ecologist observed least terns nesting there for the first time. The sandbar was considered a second chance for nesting least terns, which had abandoned other nesting sites in Collier County.
For more on Critical Wildlife Areas, go to MyFWC.com/Conservation, click on “Terrestrial Programs” then “Critical Wildlife Areas.”