Located on Sanibel Island in western Lee County, encompassing much of the island north of Sanibel?Captiva Road. Between the Gulf of Mexico and San Carlos Bay, and connected to the mainland by a bridge and causeway at the eastern end of the island. It is near the Cayo Costa?Pine Island IBA to the north.
The Refuge was established in 1945 to protect tidal habitats. It consists of several separate parcels, of which the largest is the Darling Tract that contains the famous 5-mile (8-km) long wildlife drive. The Bailey Tract (100 acres; 40 hectares) is just to the south of the Bailey Tract. One of the most popular birding spots in Florida, Darling Refuge receives over 750,000 recreationists annually.
The Refuge contains extensive acreage of tropical hammock. ? Other listed animals include the indigo snake, American crocodile, all four species of sea turtles, and Florida manatee. A listed plant that occurs onsite is the beautiful pawpaw. ? Cultural resources include Calusa Indian mounds.
The Refuge is most important for wading birds and shorebirds, with lesser numbers of waterfowl. Neotropical migrants are found in the hammocks in spring and fall.
Exotic vegetation is the primary concern. Because of the small refuge staff size, control is difficult. Present goals are to achieve a maintenance level status. ? High human use also is an issue, causing disturbance to wildlife. ? Monofilament fishing line kills birds at roosting or nesting sites. ? Runoff from the road surface could impact water quality in the estuary.
*tropical hammock, *mangrove forest, *estuarine, tidal marsh, artificial