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Caracara Prairie Preserve

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Address/Location: 2320 Corkscrew Road, at the Lee/Collier County Line, in section 30, Township 46E, Range 28S.  Access to the public hiking trails is from the CREW Cypress Dome Trailhead. The northwest corner of the property is approximately 13.5 miles east of Interstate 75 on Corkscrew Road.

 DB Caracara
Federally-Threatened Audubon's Crested Caracara nest on the preserve.


Manager Contact Information
Preserve Manager: Molly DuVall
E-mail:  Molly.DuVall@colliercountyfl.gov
Phone: 239-252-2960

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 Caracara Prairie Preserve is open to the public from dawn till dusk. Visitors to the Caracara Prairie Preserve will park at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails and access the preserve trailhead via the 1 mile hike from the parking area. The Caracara Prairie Preserve “red” public hiking 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 opportunities are available at Caracara Prairie Preserve and managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) CREW Wildlife Environmental Area (CREW WEA).

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 taxpayers money.

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.

 Caracara Prairie Location Map

Caracara Prairie Preserve Public Hiking Trails

 Trail Map
Trail Map (click here to download

Caracara Prairie Preserve managers utilize cattle grazing on the property for land management through an active cattle lease.

Cwo

DB Cranes

State-Listed Florida Sandhill Cranes (pictured above) utilize nesting and foraging habitat found throughout the preserve.

Crew Cypress Dome Trails
          Click here to download trail map

The Caracara Prairie Preserve public hiking trails join the adjacent CREW Cypress Dome Hiking Trails. Public access to the Caracara Prairie Preserve is via the CREW Cypress Dome Hiking Trails parking lot.

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The Caracara Prairie Preserve Trails are seasonally wet in some locations from approximately June-November.

Caracara Prairie Preserve

Available Printed Materials:

Public Access Facilities:  No restroom facilities are planned. Port-O-Potty's are available at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails parking area.

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.

 Caracara Prairie Preserve3

 DB egrets

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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.

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.