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Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Panther on boardwalk
Lucky Visitors See a Florida Panther on the Boardwalk!
A beautiful March morning on the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk usually entails sounds of wrens and woodpeckers and views of sleepy alligators or an occasional Great Egret plucking a meal from the Lettuce Lake. On March 16 it included much more for a few lucky visitors.

“I was astonished!” said Irene Shetler of Fairhope, Alabama. She and her son Chris, a Marco Island resident, never expected to see a Florida panther during their very first visit to the Sanctuary. They saw the panther near the shortcut trail… Read more.
Florida panther on the boardwalk. Photo: Jeanne Swope
Little Blue Heron
Water Levels Are Dropping
After a relatively wet fall, our water levels have been dropping quickly through the winter and into the spring. The Sanctuary received only three-quarters of an inch of rain in March, two inches less than our March average. We have already recorded two inches of rain in the first two weeks of April.

Many people ask about the “feeding frenzy,” which describes the gathering of wading birds as they take advantage of the small fish that have become concentrated in the remaining dry-season pools. While the exact timing is uncertain, the water level at the Lettuce Lakes has dropped to the point that we’re predicting wading bird activity will be increasing in the coming weeks. Without significantly more spring rain, the lakes will likely dry completely out by early May.
A Little Blue Heron. Photo: Arnold Collens
landscape view
SeaWorld Conservation Fund Continues to Support Sanctuary Restoration Efforts
We are excited to announce that Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was recently awarded a $50,000 grant for our marsh and prairie work from the SeaWorld Conservation Fund. We are so appreciative of their partnership. Over the past three years, SeaWorld has provided $300,000 to help restore our marsh and prairies to highly productive and biologically diverse wetland systems.

Healthy wetlands help clean nutrient pollution from our groundwater and watershed, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in our community, hold floodwaters during severe weather events, and provide habitat to many of our threatened and thriving wading birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals that call these wetlands home.

During a recent site visit, Sanctuary staff confirmed that prior restoration efforts are already showing progress. Huge flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks spent part of their winters here, attracted to the diversity of plants. They forage on smartweed, grasses, and sedges (amongst other things), and all of these species are filling in nicely in this area.

It costs approximately $2,300 to restore an acre of invaded marsh or prairie, and we have a goal of 1,000 acres. Thank you, SeaWorld Conservation Fund!
Wetland plants are resprouting in the restoration plot.
A man with binoculars
Blair Center Admissions Update
Have you gotten your “swamp fix” lately? If not, we look forward to seeing you soon. While many of our “regulars” know most of this, we wanted to take an opportunity to provide a few updates, reminders, and requests: 

1) Advance reservations are our new “normal.” We have found it to be most efficient when visitors arrive with their tickets in hand (or on their smartphones). It cuts down on people's wait time at the admissions desk and grants more space to people across the boardwalk, which is helpful for actually seeing nature in addition to keeping socially distant.

2) Our boardwalk is only four feet wide. Wearing a mask is required inside the Blair Center and also on the boardwalk when passing other guests. 

3) Monday maintenance: from 8 – 11 a.m. on Mondays, visitors may encounter our volunteer boardwalk maintenance team as they sweep, clean, or perform other functions vital to maintaining our world-famous wooden boardwalk. 

4) Quiet, please. We ask that all guests be respectful of other visitors and keep voices and other noises at a minimum.
Looking for wildlife.
A prescribed fire.
Prescribed Fire Conducted North of the Exit Boardwalk
On Thursday, March 25, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s prescribed fire crew, with support from North Collier Fire Department, conducted a 25-acre prescribed fire. The unit abuts the northern side of the exit boardwalk. Visitors on this day witnessed these operations first-hand and the day went smoothly.
Prescribed fire near the Boardwalk.
Aerial view of the sanctuary
Sanctuary Staff Incorporating Drones into Research and Restoration Activities
Now, more than ever, Audubon staff must get creative with technology to get the job done. At Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, research and land management staff regularly overcome a number of obstacles to study and protect 13,000 acres of swampy and otherwise rugged terrain. The team has recently introduced a drone to their collective toolbox as a creative way of helping to accomplish several goals. NOTE: recreational use of drones is not permitted at the Sanctuary. 
An aerial view of the Sanctuary.
Birdathon promo
Upcoming Events: Birdathon, Webinar, Earth Day
April 17 | Birdathon
How many Florida birds can you spot in one day? Count from home, from the beach, from the Sanctuary, or anywhere you choose, as long as you’re in Florida. You can also choose to support Audubon by donating in the name of one of our staff members. Find more info on Birdathon here. 

April 19 | A Legacy of Ornithology in the Sunshine State
Artists, scientists, hunters, poachers, and conservationists all played important roles in the preservation of birdlife in Florida. Join Paul Gray, Ph.D., Audubon Florida’s Everglades Science Coordinator, for this look at the history of ornithology and Audubon in Florida with a focus on the Okeechobee program. Register for this FREE webinar. 

April 22 | Earth Day
At the Sanctuary, every day is Earth Day! This year we are working to increase awareness of plastic pollution. Check our Facebook page or visit us on Earth Day to participate.
inthe news
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in the News
Outlet: Naples Daily News
Headline: Rare surprise: Florida panther seen east of Bonita Springs
Excerpt: Visitors to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary east of Bonita Springs were treated to a rare surprise Tuesday when they spotted an endangered Florida panther on the boardwalk. Lisa Korte, director of the 13,000-acre sanctuary, said the staff there occasionally spots the big cats out away from the boardwalk, but it’s rare when they’re on the path. “They typically like the hardwood hammocks,” Korte said. “As for near boardwalk, some of these marshy areas where they night find prey, where we see deer, would more likely be a place to see panthers.”

Outlet: WINK (CBS) News Ft. Myers

Headline: Tourists encounter Florida panther at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Excerpt: The visitors couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the big cat. We spoke to Irene Shetler about her and her son’s wild experience with a Florida Panther at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier County recently. Both of them hoped to see a panther on their first trip to the sanctuary Tuesday morning. “The odds were that, well, you’ll never see one,” said Shetler, who asked the sanctuary how likely it would be to see these big cats.

Outlet: FOX 4 News Ft. Myers
Headline: Rare photos of endangered Florida panther
Excerpt: The stunning photos were captured at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a reserve of old-growth cypress forest surrounded by encroaching suburbs on three sides; highlighting the need for Florida to continue balancing its tremendous population growth with preservation, and the continued conservation efforts to save the Florida Panther from extinction.

Outlet: Coastal Breeze News
Headline: Board of County Commissioners Meeting
Excerpt: County Commissioners took advantage of technology at their Tuesday, March 9 meeting. The Commissioners agreed to hear an update on the declining dry season water levels at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Dr. Shawn Clem, Research Director at Audubon’s Corkscrew Sanctuary, and Brad Cornell, Southwest Florida Policy Associate, Audubon of Florida, presented a Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Hydrologic Modeling Project.Commissioners agreed this is an important issue as “we all live downstream” and the integrity of this area is key to the health of our community. They moved to bring this back as an item with public input so they can possibly make some policy decisions to assist with the rehydration effort.

Outlet: WGCU News
Headline: New Study Determines Why Water Levels are Dropping at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Excerpt: As more and more land has been developed in Collier County over the decades, canals operated to drain water during heavy rains from low-lying communities have also pulled water faster out of Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and that’s causing significant problems for this 13,000 acre wetland of international significance that’s been protected by Audubon for more than 100 years.

Outlet: WGCU News
Headline: Environmental Roundup March 12, 2021
Excerpt: It’s Wood Stork nesting season! That’s good news, but the birds seem to be nesting in lower numbers than in previous years. The drying swamp could be one of the reasons—Corkscrew continues to be drier than it should be thanks to canals that drain it. 

Outlet: Coastal Breeze News
Headline: County Hires a New County Manager
Excerpt: The petitioner has been working with environmentalists as this area of development is close to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Environmentalists would like the farm field to be restored to a functioning habitat, including a wading bird habitat. Three environmentalists had comments on the development: Brad Cornell, on behalf of Audubon of Western Everglades and Audubon Florida’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, supported some parts of the proposal and opposed some others but looks forward to continuing dialogue with the petitioner.

Outlet: Naples Daily News
Headline: We're here! What now? Ten visitor delights to explore in the Naples area
Excerpt:  Corkscrew Swamp Nature Sanctuary is the forest you've seen in Walt Disney movies, but it's real. Look below your boardwalk and you may see a congregation of juvenile alligators lolling in the pockets of sunlight. Bring your camera-equipped phone because the creature watching and variety of plant life are fascinating. 
Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
375 Sanctuary Rd., Naples, FL 34120 USA
(239) 348-9151 | corkscrew.audubon.org

© 2024 National Audubon Society, Inc.