Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area

Located on the Gulf of Mexico beach at the southern tip of Estero Island, the Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) is one of only 15 such designated wildlife refuges in Florida. A favorite spot for birders, Little Estero Island CWA is a significant nesting area for least terns, snowy plovers, willet and black skimmers. It is an important over-wintering area for at least 68 species of shore and wading birds. A designated nesting area is closed to trespassing from April 1 to August 31 each year, and posted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with signs, stakes, and ribbon.
Photograph from Carol A. Lis

During the spring and fall migrations, millions of shorebirds make their way to Florida. Many of these birds stop at points along our coastline and remain throughout the winter. Many more stop over for food and a brief rest before continuing their travels. Exhausted and hungry, they land on our shores, pushed to the very limit of their abilities. Many species of Florida's water birds also nest on the beach. They have adapted to the rugged coastal environment of temperature extremes, hurricanes, high winds and coastal flooding. As development of Florida's beaches and coastal islands increases, secure resting areas and nesting sites for shore and wading birds are becoming more and more scarce. Barrier islands and sandbars are favored nesting sites because they afford protection from traditional land predators.

Photograph from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Designation of Little Estero Island as a Critical Wildlife Area increases the chance for successful nesting by the birds, hopefully reducing the possibility of further population declines. The purpose of posting is to decrease human disturbance in the nesting colony, reducing the possibility that the birds will not nest successfully, thereby abandoning the site.

How can I help?
Enjoy your walk on Little Estero Island CWA, but remember that while you are here to recreate, other creatures' survival depends on your behavior. Please follow these simple rules to minimize impacts on our wildlife:

When you see concentrations of birds, a good "rule of thumb" is to stay at least 500 feet away. Minimizing disturbance to concentrations of birds is the key to conserving them.
  1. WALK AROUND! Please, do not ever intentionally force birds to fly. If you see birds on the beach, in the lagoon, or on a sandbar -- always give them the right of way.
  2. Always KEEP YOUR PET LEASHED when you are walking on the beach. This is an ordinance with the Town of Fort Myers Beach. Dogs are permitted on Fort Myers Beach EXCEPT in the critical wildlife area, though they must be leashed at all times.  
  3. When walking on the beach, never approach a bird colony with your dog. One dog - on leash or off - can destroy a colony of ground-nesting birds within a matter of minutes. 
  5. SUPPORT POSTING EFFORTS. Honor these closed areas and encourage others to do the same.
HELP SPREAD THE WORD. If you see others disturbing wildlife, let them know about the effects of their actions. Many people don't realize that their actions may be harmful to wildlife. If you see someone maliciously disturbing a bird colony, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (888-404-FWCC), the Lee County Sheriff's Department, or officials with the Town of Fort Myers Beach.
Thanks for your support! Photograph from Carol A. Lis

Educational Material
Estero Bay Pole and Troll Seagrass Protection Areas