Discovering beauty in Breton National Wildlife Refuge

Pierre St-Jean

St. Bernard Parish, LA – Find the hidden beauty at Breton National Wildlife Refuge . Founded in 1904, The Breton National Wildlife Refuge is the second oldest refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Refuge is made up of several barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, including Breton Island and the Chandeleur Islands.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Breton Island Reservation as a refuge and breeding ground for these birds and other wildlife as he learned of the over-harvesting of waterbirds and the destruction of birds and their eggs on Chandeleur and Breton Islands in the early 1900s. In June 1915, Roosevelt visited the islands; it was the only refuge visited by the "Conservation President." In 1938, the reserve's name was changed to Breton National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

The Refuge's goals are to provide a safe haven for nesting and wintering seabirds, to protect and preserve the wilderness character of the islands, and to provide sandy beach habitat for a numerous wildlife species.

Breton NWR serves for nesting wading bird and seabird colonies, as well as wintering habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl. Over twenty-three different species of seabirds and shorebirds visiting the Refuge, and thirteen of them nest on the islands. Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Royal, Caspian, and Sandwich Terns are the most common nesters. The Piping Plover, which is threatened, uses the Refuge as a wintering habitat. On the Refuge, over ten thousand Brown Pelicans have been observed nesting. Waterfowl spend the winter near the refuge islands, where they can feed and find shelter in the nearby shallows, marshes, and sounds.

The Refuge islands are now open barrier islands with sand and shell beaches, overwash areas, and a few marsh and dune grasses and vegetation. Nature is taking its course, eroding some parts of the islands and depositing sand in others.

To learn more about Breton NWR click here.

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