Dinner Island Ranch - Natural Communities

Originally, Dinner Island's dry prairies, cypress domes, freshwater marshes, pine flatwoods and hammocks were a part of the Kissimmee/Everglades Watershed. Slow moving water flowed from Lake Okeechobee's southern end and continued south and southwest down the peninsula, through the Big Cypress Swamp and eventually into Florida Bay. To satisfy the demand for flood protection and dry ranchlands, water flow across natural landscapes such as Dinner Island was altered by ditching and canal construction that began in the mid-19th century.

Prairie

The disruption of natural fire cycles and planting of cattle forage, citrus and sugarcane further altered plant communities. Despite these changes, Dinner Island has continued to attract and sustain many resident and migratory wildlife species. Planned restoration will create habitat diversity and link the site to a growing mosaic of publicly-owned land that provides critical habitat for the Florida panther, Florida black bear and other listed species. Hydrological restoration in portions of the management area have been completed.

See  Major Natural Communities.

 

Management

Landscape

Plant and animal communities at Dinner Island have been modified by past human activities (i.e. drainage, exclusion of fire, conversion of native habitats to improved pasture, sugarcane and citrus groves). 

Portions of the property are under contract with private companies to continue cattle grazing and citrus production.  The long term goal is habitat enhancement and restoration for Florida panther and other listed species. 

The short term, cattle grazing is used as a tool to manage plant succession and maintain wildlife habitat diversity. To increase the value of this range for native wildlife, areas will be restored with pine flatwoods, wetlands, hardwood hammocks and other native plant communities where appropriate. 

Prescribed fire is also used to manage existing desirable plant communities and increase the diversity of native groundcovers on flatwoods and wetland communities. Invasive exotics such as Brazilian pepper, tropical soda apple, wetland nightshade, Australian pine and smutgrass are controlled through chemical or mechanical means. 

Feral hogs exist at moderate to high densities. Though this exotic species causes great harm to vegetation when it uproots plants in search of food, it is a food source for the Florida panther. The level of hog removal will be set to meet the needs of the panther and provide hunting opportunities.



FWC Facts:
One of Florida's smallest owls, the burrowing owl lives in open, treeless areas.

Learn More at AskFWC