Endangered Species on the Range
APAFR is home to over 12 federally threatened and endangered and numerous state species of special concern. Although the habitat of all species is managed to enhance their survival, the Avon Park environmental stewardship program has focused on following three listed species:
- The Red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) occurs in mature pine forest. RCWs excavate cavities in live pine trees, as opposed to excavating cavities in the softened wood of dead trees. RCW are found in longleaf pine forests with low understory (known as “flatwoods”). The RCW feeds on beetles, ants, insect larvae, spiders, wood roaches, some fruit and seeds.
Management of Red-cockaded woodpecker populations has been ongoing since the 1970’s. Our goal is conservation of our longleaf pine forests by replicating the natural fire regime with prescribed fires. Artificial nest cavities are installed in live longleaf pines where natural cavities are in short supply. Also, birds are captured from other Florida populations and released in APAFR to maintain genetic diversity.
- The Florida Scrub-Jay (FSJ) is found only in Florida and is restricted to dry oak scrub. Jays are omnivorous, eating fruits, seeds, invertebrates, reptiles, birds, eggs, and small mammals. Acorns, a crucial food source in late winter, are cached in the fall in open spaces between shrubs.
Overgrown scrub (unburned for 15 years or more) becomes unsuitable for FSJ; acorn production and open ground decrease while predators and competitors increase. Our goal is to maintain the oak scrub habitat in prime condition for FSJ by periodic application of prescribed fire. Over-mature scrub is treated with saw and tractor so that fire can once again play its role: preserving a natural scrub ecosystem.
- The Florida Grasshopper Sparrow (FGS) is small nondescript bird endemic to the dry prairie habitat of Avon Park. It is found in only two other protected locations: the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve and Three Lakes Wildlife Area. FGS will avoid areas near tall trees or shrubs. It nests on the ground in clumps of low shrubs, palmetto or grass from April through August.
The bird requires a large expanse of dry prairie with low vegetation, one foot in height or less. Natural fires are needed to maintain habitat in good condition. Our management actions for this species include prescribed fire, grazing management to avoid overuse of crucial prairie habitat, and reduction of off-site slash pines, oaks, and other plants which encroach on the historic prairie habitat.