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The First National Wildlife Refuge

By Linda Tancs

A host of threatened and endangered species, including Florida’s venerated manatee, call Pelican Island home.  Situated in the middle of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon on the Atlantic coast, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is the first wildlife refuge in the country and has the most diverse bird population in North America.  Established in 1903, the site provides a habitat for 700 species of fish, 310 species of birds, and 36 endangered species.  The refuge features three trails for nature lovers.  The shortest hike is wheelchair-accessible Centennial Trail, a paved path that served as the centerpiece of a nationwide celebration of the refuge system in 2003.  The other two mangrove-lined trails are Bird’s Impoundment Trail and Pete’s Impoundment Trail.


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