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Collier County

Caracara Prairie Preserve

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Trail Map

  Trail Map (click here to download )

 

Pasture and wetlands at 
Caracara Prairie Preserve

Caracara Prairie Pasture

Address/Location: 2320 Corkscrew Road, at the Lee/Collier County Line, in section 30, Township 46E, Range 28S.  the northwest corner of the property is approximately 13.5 miles east of Interstate 75 on Corkscrew Road. 

 Caracara Prairie Location Map

 FGCU Environmental Education

Florida Gulf Coast University students visit the preserve on a field trip to gather information for an environmental project.


Manager Contact Information
Preserve Manager:
Melissa Hennig
E-mail:  MelissaHennig@Colliergov.net
Phone: 239-252-2957

Preserve Size: 367.7 acres

Date Acquired: December 17, 2007

Cost of Acquisition: $5,032,000.  The preserve was acquired in partnership with the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Trust, who contributed $300,000 towards the purchase price. 

Public Access Status:  The preserve is now open to the public. The Caracara Prairie Preserve “red” trail connects with the adjoining CREW Cypress Dome Trails approximately 1 mile from the CREW Cypress Dome Trails parking area off of Corkscrew Road. Recreational hunting is also available at Caracara Prairie Preserve through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Crew Cypress Dome Trails

Click here to download trail map

Available Printed Materials:

Public Access Facilities:  No restroom facilities are planned.

Plants and Wildlife:  Native vegetation communities within the preserve are shown below.   Undeveloped before the 1950s, the property was historically composed of pine flatwoods dotted with freshwater marshes.  From the 1950s through the 1970s, portions of the property were cleared and  used for agriculture.  Furrows used in row crop cultivation can still be seen within cleared areas.  Pasture lands since the 1970s, the open prairies still have cattle grazing there to provide an interim management tool until they can be restored.  Because they are extensive, the prairies also  provide long-range scenic views.  The preserve is located within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Panther Focus Area with 2/3 of the preserve in the Primary Zone and 1/3 within the Secondary Zone, both critical habitat for the endangered Florida panther.

 

 

  

Habitats found at Caracara Prairie Preserve

 

Caracara Prairie Pasture

Caracara Prairie depression marsh

Mesic flatwoods

 

Caracara Prairie Preserve contains  three distinct native vegetation communities:

  • Prairie (currently improved pasture lands),
  • Depressional marsh wetlands, and
  • Mesic pine flatwoods

The dominant vegetation type on the preserve is prairie/pasture. Formerly agricultural fields, pastures have been improved with bahia grass for cattle foraging but they also contain many native grasses and forbs.   In addition to cattle,  pastures provide habitat for native Florida wildlife species  including the sandhill  crane
and crested  caracara, both protected bird  species.   Gopher tortoises, also protected, live in dryer portions of the prairie.

Gopher Tortoise

Depressional marshes  are the second most extensive vegetation community at the preserve. These circular wetlands dot the landscape and can be easily identified on the aerial map above.   They are dominated by wetland plants and  are flooded for most of the year.  Native plants growing within the marshes include maidencane, pickerelweed, sedges, and marsh pennywort.

Marshes provide water and foraging habitat for wildlife year-round, except in times of severest drought. Many wetland-dependent bird species depend on them to survive, including protected species like the woodstork, limpkin, and snowy egret, all documented on the preserve. Alligators are also commonly found within the marshes.

Mesic pine flatwoods cover the remainder of the preserve and are mainly composed of slash pine but also include cabbage palm, saw palmetto, oak, wax myrtle, broomsedge, grasses and forbs. 

Flatwoods provide habitat for the endangered Florida panther and it's primary prey species, white tailed deer.  Also present are the Florida black bear and invasive wild hogs.  At left you can see the exotic plant removal work that has been done to restore the habitat.

 

crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii)

Crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii

 

Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pratensis)

Florida sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pratensis)

 

Florida panther caught on  camera at Caracara Prairie Preserve

Florida panther (Puma concolor coryii

Reason for Acquisition: This preserve was acquired to protect the existing native habitat, to provide surficial aquifer storage, to provide habitat for protected birds and mammals, to buffer and protect adjoining state-owned conservation lands, and to provide opportunities for at-cost restoration as a mitigation for County projects, in order to save taxpayer money.  Although not large enough for a stand-alone hunt program, the preserve is included within the surrounding state wildlife management area for limited hunting opportunities.

Management goals:  These include protection and restoration (as appropriate) of the native habitats on site, monitoring management actions as they affect the Florida panther, gopher tortoises, native vegetation and other wildlife, and providing appropriate nature-based recreation and educational opportunities for citizens and visitors.

Hunting:  The preserve is part of the CREW Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) and will be regulated by FWC.  Please go to http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/cooperative/crew or http://myfwc.org/hunting/wma-brochures/s/crew/ for more information.