Florida Panther, A Love Story

With gratitude to Jay for sharing this educational video with IOF. Be sure to check out his website for more images of our beloved state.

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36 eye-opening facts about water

1. The average human body is made of 50 to 65 percent water.

2. Newborn babies have even more, ringing in at 78 percent water.

3. A gallon of water weighs

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Department of Environmental Protection does not just make rules

The Department of Environmental Protection does not just make rules. They provide needed funding to communities to protect Florida’s water for all of us.…/bulletins/18c170c

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Earth Hour

Earthy hour is this Saturday at 8:30 pm. Please participate if you can! Thank you!

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Manatees and their babies

On March 21, 2017 a mother manatee was seen swimming the waters of Pinellas County, Florida. Manatee babies known as calves, will stay with

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It’s Imagine Our Florida Night at Painting With A Twist – Painting with a Purpose

You asked for it and it’s here. Mark Your calendars. Wednesday April 12 at the Altamonte Springs Painting with a Twist. Bring your friends and family. Enjoy a wonderful night with your friends and meet new friends who care about Florida’s natural resources. A portion of the proceeds will benefit IOF. It’s a win – win for you and for our wildlife. Cost $35 each. Ages 10 and up.

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The Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act will be heard in the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee on March 28th. If your senator is on the EPC committee, (see link below) tell him/her how you feel about this habitat restoration act. Senators may sponsor bills. To ask your Senator to sponsor SB1304 find your Senator here:…/Repre…/myrepresentative.aspx
Read the Bill here:

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Celebrate Spring!

It’s a beautiful day to connect with nature.
Today is the day that begins the season of rebirth, new beginnings, longer days and warmer weather.
Take a walk in your yard or in a park today. What signs of spring do you see? New buds? Nests being prepared?
Our ancestors connected with the sun as their calendar. The spring equinox marked the first day of the season to plant seeds. What will you plant in your garden this summer? An edible garden? A native plant, shrub or tree? Will it offer nectar for the bees and butterflies or food and a place to hide for birds and other wildlife?
No matter what your plans, take some time to reconnect with nature. Imagine the possibilities this day of new beginnings will bring to you!

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Urban Coyotes

Did you know that there are coyotes in Florida? The coyote, a member of the dog family, is not native to the state and once could only be found living in the western area of the United States, but now live in every state except Hawaii. Coyotes were brought to Florida in the 1920’s – to be hunted – and have since spread to every county in the state, except the Florida Keys. Generally, the medium-sized animals present no danger to humans unless provoked. Rather, they prey on smaller animals, such as squirrels, rats, opossum, raccoons, rabbits, and snakes, and also eat fruit, and… neighborhood cats.

You may be wondering how to successfully coexist with these amazing animals. There are some very important habits to put into practice – whether dealing with coyotes, bears, or any other wild animals. These include: 1) securing your trash in animal-proof containers; 2) not letting small pets run free outside, particularly at dawn, dusk, and at night; always making sure the area around bird feeders is clean; and 4) not leaving your pet’s food outside, and 5) making sure there is no fruit lying on the ground in your yard. By following these practices, you should be able to minimize the possibility of attracting a coyote. However, should you see one, just stay calm and be prepared to shoo it away by making lots of noise. Chances are, the coyote will be more frightened of YOU and run away! Be sure to stand your ground until the animal leaves or it may become emboldened and return at a later time.

For information about coyotes in Florida, check out this interesting video series from the University of Florida and the Manatee County Extension Service.

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Illegal Eagles?

Did you know that it is against federal law to possess an eagle feather, if one is not Native American? Under 16 USCS § 668 (50 CFR 22), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act passed in 1940 (modified in 1962 to include the Golden Eagle), it is illegal to, “knowingly, or with wanton disregard for the consequences of his act take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or in any manner, any bald eagle commonly known as the American eagle, or any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof of the foregoing eagles, or whoever violates any permit or regulation issued pursuant to this Act…” Eagle feathers vary according to the age and species. For an idea of what these look like, check out the National Eagle Repository site at:

First time violators may face a fine of up to $5,000 or one year in prison. For individuals caught and convicted a second time, the fine increases to $10,000 and not more than two years in prison. So, should you see an eagle feather on the ground, respect its cultural meaning and admire its beauty, while allowing it to remain in its natural setting.

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Meet Rosie

Meet Rosie, IOF’s Education and Event Coordinator for the Ocala area. Rosie brings with her a lifetime of experience and wisdom which she freely shares with all of us. IOF is honored and grateful that Rosie has joined the team. We look forward to advancing our mission together with you Rosie!

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Your voice is important

Don’t ever think your voice is not important. When combined with others, together, you create a roar that’s hard to ignore. This is a recent email sent by Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine. “Citizens Can Win!”

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Oceanic White Tip Sharks

Not long ago the Oceanic White Tip Shark was abundant throughout the world and included waters surrounding Florida. Recently a drastic population reduction has occurred. As the Endangered Species Act petition states, ” an estimated 200,000 to 1,200,000 oceanic whitetips are killed annually to support the international fin trade (Bonfil, et al., 2008 at 7; E-CoP16-Prop-42 at 8; see also Clarke, et al.)” You can help this open ocean shark by making public comments. These sharks may seem scary but cleaner fish rely on them for food. When the sharks come close to reefs small fish like the one in this picture will feed off parasites that may be attached to the shark or other open ocean dwellers. If these cleaner fish don’t get access to these parasites regularly they will start to feed off the flesh of the fish within the reef areas. This can create open wounds and infections and can hurt smaller fish who naturally live in these areas. These sharks help to keep our unique ecosystems in balance and healthy. Please, make public comments at the link below and support the ESA petition to list these sharks.

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Thundering Spirit Pow Wow update

We had the great honor to be granted a space to pitch our tent and reach hundreds of folks at the Thundering Spirit Pow Wow. People of all ages, stopped by our tent and learned that without human intervention, Nature provides our bears with a way to assure their population will never outgrow their available food sources. It is with extreme gratitude that IOF wants to recognize our volunteers who helped table this event. Rosie Birnbaum, Lourdes Brown, Julia Sable, Stephany Gustafson and Alyssa, we couldn’t have done it without you!

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Robinwood Neighborhood gets Bear Resistant Trash Cans

Another win for Seminole County Bears! Thank you to Virginia Oros, ambassador for Wekiva Wild and Scenic and Kate McFall from The Humane Society of the United States,who partnered in this program after being inspired by Commissioner Lee Constantine’s active role in the human-bear conflict issues in Seminole. This is what happens when constituents work with lawmakers. It’s a good day for the people and bears of Seminole County.

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Lake Okeechobee Update from Florida Senate

——–Lake Okeechobee Update from Florida Senate——-

This statement was released March 3, 2017 regarding progress with Lake Okechobee and how to handle the water crisis.

TO: All Senators

FROM: Joe Negron, President

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had the opportunity to meet in Washington with Senator Rubio, Senator Nelson, Members of Congress, senior budget staff, and high-level representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the best way to reduce and ultimately eliminate the devastating discharges from Lake Okeechobee. After completing these meetings and reviewing related documents, here are five things I know:

1. If Florida advances funds to complete the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, the federal government will not repay the money to Florida. We will have simply spent hundreds of millions of dollars of General Revenue funds on what is unquestionably a federal responsibility.

2. As I have consistently advocated from day one, Florida’s best scientists should determine the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) and not the Army Corps of Engineers. Achieving this goal would take an act of Congress, a highly unlikely outcome.

3. Once the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation is complete in 2024, the Army Corps of Engineers is not committed to storing one more gallon of water in Lake Okeechobee. The LORS must go through a multi-year review process, with the Corps predicting only negligible modifications to the release schedule. The Corps wants to avoid expected negative impacts it believes would result if the Lake is managed at higher levels than the present.

4. Under both the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), redirecting damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges southward to improve the flow, timing, and distribution of water through the Everglades has already been authorized. The issue is not if we will have additional southern storage, it is when and where.

5. If the Florida Legislature approves and funds additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, the Army Corps of Engineers will reevaluate the order of priority in the 2016 Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS). Florida is a partner in Everglades restoration and its decisions influence and impact federal participation in the 50-50 matching program. An example of this reality is the Corps’ recent initiation of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed one year earlier than planned after adverse discharge events.

I look forward to discussing this important issue further when we reconvene in Tallahassee next week.

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Science has proven

Science has proven that a bear population, in the absence of human influence and when only natural food sources are available, will not outgrow its food sources. If food is scarce, bears will have fewer, and in some cases, no cubs.. With all of the conversions, revitalization work and other human disruptions in our forests, IOF believes that we should assess all of these projects and their impact on our Florida Black Bears. Please let your lawmakers know how you feel.
Find Your Senators and Representatives:
Find a Senate Bill, Committee, watch action on the floor:

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Occupational Safety

——-Occupational Safety——-

Commercial vehicle drivers have a tough job. Long hours, traffic, and deadlines to meet. Extra caution must be used when to avoid accidents. Wildlife often need to cross roads to avoid dangers and look for food. It’s important to keep a watchful eye. If you have commercial vehicle drivers at your place of business you can feel free to print this reminder to help keep our wildlife and our commercial drivers safe. The file can be downloaded from the following link.…

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Think like a Bear

——Think Like a Bear——-

This video by Bear Smart Society puts into perspective why bears take many of the risks they do when interacting with humans. Here in Florida there were 5,132 bear calls last year. Much work has been done in that time including $850,000 in grant money for bear proof trash cans awarded to various areas within bear prone areas. However, Florida has been experiencing a high fluctuation of new residents at an estimated 1,000 people a day. Education is the key to getting these new residents on board. Please, share this video with your community groups, friends, and family so we can work together and coexist peacefully with our majestic wildlife.

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Mt. Dora Pow Wow update

Last weekend, we had the great honor to be granted a space to pitch our tent and reach hundreds of folks at the Thundering Spirit Pow Wow. People of all ages, stopped by our tent and learned that without human intervention, Nature provides our bears with a way to assure their population will never outgrow their available food sources. It is with extreme gratitude that IOF wants to recognize our volunteers who helped table this event. Rosie Birnbaum, Lourdes Brown, Julia Sable, Stephany Gustafson and Alyssa, we couldn’t have done it without you!

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Update on Mediterranean Blue event

Mediterranean Blue hosted IOF for a night of good food and good company.. Thank you Jen for organizing the event, then inviting your family to celebrate your birthday with us. Thank you Arlene and Stephany for helping meet and greet. Thank you to everyone who came out and enjoyed the deliciously wonderful,authentic Greek food and learned about our iconic black bears. When you are in south Orlando, be sure to stop into Mediterranean Blue and show your gratitude by supporting Bob who so generously gave back to our state with his donation to IOF. 🙂 Thank You Bob!

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Pasco County Residents – Critical Feedback Needed

—-Pasco County Residents—-
—Critical Feedback Needed—
It is important to keep recyclables out of our ecosystems for the sake of our wildlife and humans too. Increased recycling will delay an approx cost of 190 million to Pasco County taxpayers. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey.

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Florida Panther population update Feb. 2017

Florida panther population estimate updated

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have updated the estimated number of endangered Florida panthers in their breeding range south of the Caloosahatchee River.

The updated population estimate is 120 to 230 adult and subadult Florida panthers, according to a February 2017 report from the agencies collaborating on conservation and recovery efforts. The previous Florida panther population estimate was 100 to 180 adult and subadult panthers in 2014. These population estimates do not include kittens, which are still dependent on their mothers.

The panther population report is available on

The report emphasizes both the importance and difficulty in obtaining accurate panther population estimates, which is similar to estimating other puma populations in western states. Currently, Florida scientists are evaluating several methods to refine their ability to estimate the panther population size, including the use of trail cameras and panther road mortality data. The current numbers, developed jointly by USFWS and FWC scientists, use annual counts of panthers primarily conducted on public lands. Density of panthers on these areas is then multiplied across the larger area that makes up the primary breeding range in south Florida. Although there are some panthers outside of this range in south Florida and in areas north of the Caloosahatchee River, they are primarily dispersing males and do not significantly contribute to the breeding population.

“This latest Florida panther population estimate is good news, an indication that conservation efforts are on track in helping recover this endangered animal,” said Kipp Frohlich, FWC’s Deputy Director for the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “In the 1970s and 1980s, it was estimated only 20 to 30 panthers remained in Florida.”

Larry Williams, the USFWS’s Florida State Supervisor of Ecological Services, believes the new numbers indicate things are trending in the right direction — due in part to a strong partnership with the state of Florida.

“Continued recovery will require a long-term concerted effort by many partners committed to finding common-sense solutions that balance many different and competing interests, yet are grounded in a shared purpose of conserving the lands that support Florida’s native wildlife and its ranching heritage,” Williams said.

The public is encouraged to report sightings of panthers or their tracks, and in particular photos, to to help with panther research and management. Biologists are especially interested in pictures of panthers north of the Caloosahatchee River, which runs from Lake Okeechobee to Fort Myers.

Floridians also can help panther conservation efforts by purchasing the “Protect a Panther” vehicle tag from local tax collector’s offices.

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New Life Village and IOF

Imagine Our Florida, Inc. partnered with Florida Skunk Rescue to bring an educational event to the community at New Life Village and educate the kids about animal behavior and to change their outlook on some animals that are typically misunderstood including the majestic bears and lovable skunks.

New Life Village (NLV) is an intergenerational community designed for families raising foster and adopted children. Its mission is to reduce the number of children in foster care by encouraging more families to adopt and by providing these adoptive families a loving, supportive place to call home. NLV residents have either adopted a child or are in the process of doing so. The Village was founded by Sister Claire LeBoeuf, CSC of the Congregation of the Sisters of Holy Cross. Sister Claire has spent her entire adult life advocating for abused and neglected children. Several seniors also call NLV home. They serve as surrogate grandparents and volunteers to the children and to the mission. The Village offers a reduced rent incentive to assist these families. The Village also offers several onsite programs to support parents and children

To learn more about the village visit the website at

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