Purple Lovegrass is a beautiful and eye-catching Florida native groundcover. It is a bunching grass that grows slowly with a fibrous root system. It grows on disturbed and undisturbed sandy soils, borders, embankments, meadows, dry savannahs, and prairies. Drought and salt tolerant, it thrives in sandy soils where other grasses can not be grown. Purple Lovegrass prefers full sun but is tolerant of partial shade. In the spring it displays is blue-green foliage. In the summer the plant displays purplish-pink spikelets. In the fall it develops a bronze-red color and the seeds have a beige color. The entire seed branch will detach and blow away like a tumbleweed in the wind.
Purple Lovegrass is used in gardens because it is a tough low maintenance grass that needs little care. This grass is a perennial that will reseed. The smooth leaf blades are 10 inches long and 1/4 of an inch wide. The plant is 2 feet tall with a 2-3 foot spread. Purple Lovegrass supports wildlife, that uses it as cover and as nesting material. It is a host to the caterpillars of the Zabulon skipper and attracts other butterflies and birds. Deer will not eat this plant but other small animals will forage on its seeds. From a distance, when planted en mass it offers a stunning display to the landscape.
Did you know:
Purple Lovegrass is widely used by internationally renowned garden designer Piet Oudolf and was listed as one of his “100 Must-Have Plants” in Gardens Illustrated magazine.
Photo Credit: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.
Coquina (“co-keen-ah”) is a sedimentary rock consisting of loosely consolidated fragments of both shells and coral. The cemented fragments are generally calcium carbonate or phosphate. The shells and coral are compressed and turned into a mass as rainwater filters through. The rainwater dissolves the shell’s and coral’s calcium carbonate which then glues them together. Coquina forms inshore environments such as marine reefs.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, coquina is a loanword from Spanish meaning “shell-fish” or “cockle” which is a type of bivalve mollusk. The word Coquina was first used as a reference to building stone in 1837 in the book The Territory of Florida by J.L. Williams.
There are many different kinds of shells and coral that can cement together. By identifying the shells or coral you can determine the age of the coquina. Sometimes the coquina may be covered in mud or weathered with age making the identification of the shell and coral difficult and that particular piece may remain a mystery. Many coquina rocks have only been formed in the last few thousand years but others can go back to different periods of time such as the Miocene age (20 million years).
Identifying the coquina and where it’s found is important to local geology. Since Coquina forms inshore environments, either marine or on land, determining the ages of coquina deposits can help reconstruct sea level rise and fall over time.
Florida has large deposits of coquina, and the soft, white rock was ideal for building. Coquina is a very soft building stone and needs to be dried out for a few years before it can be used. The Castillo of San Marcos Fort in Saint Augustine was built of coquina by the Spanish in the late 1600s. When the British attacked the Fort in 1702 during the Siege of Saint Augustine, they fired cannonballs at the Fort which had no effect. The cannonballs kept sinking into the soft coquina. Coquina is used as an ornamental landscape material today.
The Little Grass Frog (Pseudacris ocularis), is the smallest of frogs, they are 1/2 an inch long. They range in color from light beige to dark brown and tan. They have dark eye strips extending along the side of the body, and thin white strips above the lip and below the eye. They have tiny pads with slightly webbed toes. Despite its size, The Little Grass Frog can jump 20 times their body length.
The Little Grass Frog will lay between 1 to 25 creamy brown eggs on vegetation or submerged debris. The eggs hatch in less than 2 days. The metamorphosis happens in 10 days from tadpole to frog.
This frog can be found in wet prairies and flooded grassy meadows. They are active during the day climbing among the grasses.
The Little Grass Frog has a high pitched chirp which is difficult to hear. If you hear the chirping it is usually at night when the humidity is high or during rain and is coming from grassy areas.
To hear the Little Grass Frog call go to:
— Agatized Coral —
Agatized Coral (Cnidaria anthozoa) is Florida’s state stone. The Florida legislature designated it the state stone in 1979.
Coral is the limy outside skeleton of tiny ocean animals called polyps. Agatized Coral, AKA Fossilized Coral, is formed when agate, a form of chalcedony replaces the minerals in coral. This process takes 20-30 million years and is known as pseudomorphing.
These fossils are from the Oligocene-Miocene period. Agatized Coral is between 38-25 million years old. These fossils are found in a variety of colors, from white, pink, gray, brown, black, yellow and red. Trace minerals in the agate create these colors. They are found in ancient ocean beds, where silica-rich groundwater has percolated through the limestone around them. This may give the fossil a banded stone look.
Agatized Coral is most often found in the Tampa Bay area, the Withlacoochee/Suwannee River, and the Econfina River. Most Agatized Coral found in Florida lived in the vast Eocene seas which covered the state when Florida was part of the continental shelf.
Agatized Coral was used by the first inhabitants of Florida to make spearheads, containers, tools, knives. Remains have been found in archaeological sites dating back to 5000 B.C. The Agatized Coral is highly prized by collectors today
Sand Crabs are also known as mole crabs or sand fleas. Sand crabs are crustaceans that are smaller than a human thumb. The two species predominant on Florida beaches are Emerita talpoida and Emerita benedicti. They are silvery or white in color and seem transparent. The Crabs have antennae, which they use to catch plankton for food. They have no claws and do not bite or sting. The Sand Crabs live between two to three years. The crabs are food for fish, Florida shorebirds and water birds. They feed on micro-organisms found in the Florida beach sand. That means that they ingest any toxins that might be affecting the shore or the water. Environmental engineers and scientists are able to draw conclusions about the health of the ocean based on the condition of sand crabs.
Dolphin is a common name of aquatic mammals within the order Cetacea. Dolphins can be very large, reaching weights of up to 1400 pounds and lengths of 12.5 feet. They can live between 40 to 50 years and reach sexual maturity between 5 and 14 years. Like all mammals, dolphins reproduce through internal fertilization, and females give birth to live young. The gestation period is between 9 to 17 months, depending on the dolphin. Juveniles are able to swim from the moment they are born, but for two years they are dependent on their mothers for nursing. Dolphins are thought to be some of smartest animals on the planet. They are also extremely curious and their intelligence is both a result of and a driver of their complex social structures. They generally live in pods between five to several hundred depending on the type of dolphin. Their preferred prey includes small, schooling fishes and squids. There are over 40 species named as dolphins, from fresh water to salt water. Most species live in tropical and temperate oceans throughout the world. Five species live in the world’s rivers. They use echolocation to find prey and will hunt together by surrounding a school of fish, trapping them and taking turns swimming through the school to catch the fish. They have a vocabulary of danger sounds, food sounds, and seeking sounds. Sometimes they put these sounds together in a reasonably complex fashion. They are known to vocalize one to the other. Studies also indicate that there are differences among the species of dolphins regarding their skull size and form, variations that may lead to future changes. As with most species today, the dolphins most dangerous threat is man. Sometimes, humans kill dolphins not because they are a food source but because they prey on the same fish species than humans do. Therefore, many fishermen have killed dolphins only because they are a competition for the fish. In some countries, people eat dolphins. In Japan, the meat of some species is seen as a delicacy and can cost up to $25 USD a pound. The presence of humans on Earth does not give dolphins many possibilities to survive. If they are caught in the fishing nets, they are unable to breathe and drown. There is a loss of habitat due to pollution. Millions of gallons of polluted water, toxic substances such as pesticides, heavy metals, plastic trash and hundreds of other hazardous materials are released into the ocean and the rivers. Their habitat becomes contaminated and causes illness and death. There are many positive interactions between humans and dolphins. They have rarely attacked a person. Instead, they have helped them often. The truth is that there is nothing to indicate that dolphins feel particular empathy for man since they have a highly developed social behavior and they behave the same way with other animals.
Fun Fact: While sleeping, the bottlenose dolphin shuts down only half of its brain, along with the opposite eye. The other half of the brain stays awake at a low level of alertness. The attentive side is used to watch for predators, obstacles and other animals. It also signals when to rise to the surface for a breath of air. After about two hours, the animal will reverse this process, resting the active side of the brain and awaking the rested half. This pattern is often called cat-napping
Florida Burrowing Owls are small owls with long legs and short tails. The head is rounded and does not have ear tufts. They are between 7-9 inches tall with a 21-inch wingspan. Burrowing owls have brown back feathers with patches of white spots. As well as a white underside with brown bar-shaped spots. The body color pattern helps them blend in with the vegetation in their habitat and avoid predators. They also have large yellow eyes and a white chin. They make their burrows in sandy prairies and pastures with very little vegetation. Due to development, the majority of Florida’s Burrowing Owls have had to adapt to living in urban habitats such as golf courses, ball fields, residential lawns and other expanses of cleared land. They are a very social species and families will live in close proximity to each other. They are the only species of owl in the world that nests underground. They will dig their own burrows. Or occupy burrows, up to 8 feet in length, that have been dug out by a Gopher Tortoise. They are active more during the day then the night. The female lays 6-8 eggs and incubates them, while the father stands guard outside and collects cockroaches, lizards, insects, and rodents. The chicks take several weeks to learn to fly before that they take short runs along the ground. The Florida Burrowing Owl is listed as threatened due to loss of habitation as well as harassment by humans and domesticated animals.
Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris).
Muhly grass is naturally found in Florida’s pine flatwoods, coastal uplands and even along its highways. This grass produces clumps that can reach 2 to 3 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide. In the fall, muhly grass produces fluffy pink to purple flower stalks, that can reach up to 5 feet tall and give the plant a distinctive and attractive appearance. This grass is resistant to heat, drought, humidity, and salt tolerant, as well as deer and rabbit resistant. Consider planting this native grass in your yard and garden. Native plants typically are adapted to native soils and climate, which also means they thrive with natural rainfall levels. Pink Muhly grass needs little attention and is definitely low maintenance.
Florida is famous for many things, one of them being the only environment on earth in which American Alligators and American Crocodiles coexist. You may wonder what the difference is between the two. While they are related and do look very similar, crocodiles and alligators have some major differences. Crocodiles exist both in freshwater and saltwater, whereas alligators prefer freshwater environments. The obvious difference is their appearances. Crocodiles have longer, pointier snouts, alligators have shorter, more rounded snouts. When an alligator has its mouth shut, you won’t see any of its teeth. When a crocodile has its mouth shut, its back teeth stick up over the top lip. Because they are broader, alligator snouts are stronger than crocodile snouts, that allows them to crush hard-shelled prey such as turtles. Crocodiles are typically lighter in color, with tans and brown colors. Alligators are darker, showing more gray and black colors. Both members are excellent hunters. They have sharp, above water vision, night vision, sensitive hearing, and vertical pupils that take in additional light. Both have small sensory pits along their jaws that allow them to detect pressure changes in the water, and to locate and capture prey. They both prefer to swallow large chunks or swallow their prey whole. Crocodiles have higher functioning salt glands, that allows them to excrete higher amounts of salt from water than alligators can. Alligator glands do not function as strongly, which makes them less tolerant of saltwater environments so they prefer freshwater. Crocodiles can successfully migrate across multiple bodies of salt and fresh water. Alligators are regarded as more docile than crocodiles, only attacking if hungry or provoked. Crocodiles are regarded as more aggressive than alligators. Crocodiles are known to attack just because someone or something is near them. Crocodiles prefer to spend more time in the water. Alligators prefer to sunbathe on the banks or in mud close to the water. Female alligators will continuously mate with the same male alligators for life. Crocodile babies come from multiple mates. Crocodiles live longer than alligators. The average lifespan of a crocodile is between 70-100 years, while the average lifespan of an alligator is usually between 30-50 years.
You should avoid contact with both animals at all costs.
* Robins prefer cooler temperatures which is why they fly north to escape the southern heat.
* Robins will start to migrate back north when they feel a 37-degree average daily isotherm ( ground temperature above 37*).
* Male robins will arrive at their northern destinations about 2 weeks earlier than the females. This gives them time to claim their territory.
* Robins do not mate for life, however, the male will stay to help feed his chicks.
*Chicks leave the nest in August and live to be 5-6 years old.
* Robins begin to migrate south when the temperature causes the ground to become too hard to dig for earthworms, their main source of food.
* Robins will resort to eating berries and insects until that food supply starts to dwindle.
* During migration, robins can fly up to 36 mph and cover 100-200 miles a day.
*Winter months are spent in Florida, southern Louisiana, southern Texas, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, Southern California, and northern Mexico.
* Most robins migrate intermediate distances but some have migrated from Vancouver to as far south as Guatemala.
As the temperature warms in our neighboring states, robins will begin to make their way across Florida. Keep an eye on your bird bath. A flock of robins just might stop by for a quick dip and drink.
The Florida Cracker Horse is a valuable and vital part of Florida’s heritage. While still rare, there are now over 1,000 registered horses, and the number continues to grow each year. The Florida Cracker Horse traces its ancestry to Spanish stock brought to Florida in the 1500s. They were given their name from the sound of the whips cracking as they worked cattle. The Florida Cracker horse exhibits great endurance in an unfavorable environment. This horse exemplifies great patience and strength. The Cracker horse can work all day and night, traveling without any additional care requirements. When the horses were left to roam freely, they evolved over time as a result of natural selection. They were tempered and molded by a challenging environment. And, in addition to playing an important role in the lives of Seminole Indians, they eventually helped Florida become a state of agriculture and ranching. Through the efforts of several private families and the Florida government, the breed was saved from extinction, but there is still concern about its low numbers. The breeds low numbers are considered to be at a critical point. The state has three small herds in Tallahassee, Withlacoochee State Forest, and Paynes Prairie State Preserve. The state maintains two lines for breeding purposes and the line that roams the Paynes Prairie State Preserve for display purposes. By 1989, these three herds and around 100 other horses owned by private families were all that remained of the breed. The population is considered to be “critical,” meaning that there are between 100 and 300 active adult breeding mares in existence today. Effective, July 1, 2008, the Florida House of Representatives, declared the Florida Cracker Horse the official state horse.
The Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is more than the symbol of the United States. They are interesting enough to have an entire day dedicated to them. While Save the Eagles Day originated as a way to raise awareness about the then endangered species, it now serves as a time to learn about the thriving animals. Here are five facts you may not know about eagles:
1. Females weigh more than their male counterparts. The males weigh between 7 and 10 pounds, and females can weigh up to 14 pounds.
2. Eagles can see as much as eight times further than humans and their eyes are equipped with infection-fighting tears.
3. While the bald eagle population has steadily increased after a severe drop, most of the population’s fatalities remain human related. Such as impact with manmade structures, gunshot and poisoning are the leading causes of death.
4. The Bald Eagle emits a surprisingly weak sounding call. Usually, a series of high pitched, whistling or piping notes. The female may repeat a single, soft, high pitched note that signals her readiness to copulate.
5. Eagles can dive up to 100 mph while hunting. When they’re flying casually, they go about 30 mph.
The bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, once on the endangered species list, being on it from 1967 until 1995. It was then reclassified as being threatened. The Eagle was subsequently removed from that list in 2007 and is now listed in the least concern category.
The bald eagle is strongly associated with the United States but eagles are on the coat of arms of Germany and Egypt, as well as Albania’s flag and coat of arms. If you live near eagles, work to protect their habitat. The bald eagle is another example of a species brought to the brink of extinction, that is now thriving.
Photo credit Aymee Laurain
The Florida mouse is the State’s only endemic mammal. This mouse is a microhabitat specialist, centering its activities on gopher tortoise burrows in sand pine scrub or longleaf pine, turkey oak habitats. Florida mice construct their own burrows within the larger burrow of the gopher tortoise. Each adult female mouse uses about two tortoise burrows, alternating her residency with successive litters. Females begin to breed when they reach a weight of approximately 27 grams. Litter size is between 2-4 and the young mature very slowly. Occasionally two adult females will use the same tortoise burrow. Their diet consists of crickets, ticks, fruit, seeds, and berries. A baby of a Florida mouse is called a pinkie, kitten or pup. The females are called doe and males buck. A Florida mouse group is called a nest, colony, harvest, horde or mischief. They are listed as Vulnerable, considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. It is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are not on the federally protected species list. They average between 5 to 8 inches long and their tails are between 2 to 3.5 inches long, weighing between 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce. The Florida mouse has soft silky fur that is brown or brownish orange in color. Its underparts are white. Their ears are large and furless. Their tails are long and their back paws are large in size and have 5 pads. Their teeth are sharp and they use them for gnawing. They are nocturnal, resting in its nest during the day and active at night searching for food. They communicate by emitting high pitched squeals and when they are excited they thump the ground with their front paws producing a drumming sound. The Florida mouse also has a distinctive odor almost like a skunk. They are also known to carry several diseases such as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, salmonellosis, leptospirosis and tularemia which can be transmitted to humans.
If one should enter your house, be sure to use a live trap and release the Florida mouse outside where Nature intended.
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a medium-sized omnivore. The average size of a coyote in Florida is about 28 lbs. Fossils of their remains have been found in Florida as far back as 2.6 million years ago. Due to the annihilation of the red wolves in Florida, coyotes are thriving. They are also stepping up to the plate to carry out the ecological task previously carried out by the red wolves. The role of a tertiary predator is important in maintaining balance and order in an ecosystem. They do this by regulating the trophic levels below them. If there are too many primary consumers the vegetation can be depleted causing problems with soil and water. If there are too many secondary consumers, the primary consumer population can deplete resulting in overgrowth. If prey isn’t available, coyotes adapt by eating vegetation.
February is part of the mating period. I suppose you could say Valentines Day is a romantic time for Coyotes as well as humans. After about a 63 day gestation period the females will give birth. They will have to rely on the male to provide food for the mother and pups. The pups start weaning between April and May. This is done by eating the regurgitated food of their parents. By July they are eating solid food. They begin hunting in August and will be ready to venture out on their own by December.
Coyotes are often called “song dogs” because of their variety of sounds. People frequently overestimate the number of coyotes in an area due to their singing. The phenomenon of hearing multiples is called the Beau Geste effect. This term means “fine gesture” in French and comes from a book published in 1924. The story explains how a group of brothers used dead soldiers to give the illusion of several soldiers in an attempt to intimidate approaching forces.
Coyotes get a bad reputation, but with changes in human behavior, we can learn to coexist with them. Don’t leave food out for other animals. Walk dogs on a short leash if you know coyotes are around. Secure trash. Keep your yard clear of any debris they could use as a den. Secure livestock and their feed. If you see coyotes, make a loud noise to scare them away. As we learn to live with coyotes we can learn to appreciate the role they play in keeping Florida’s ecosystems healthy.
Coyotes are a perfect example of an omnivore because they will eat almost anything. Their meals consist of plants, berries, dead things, insects (they love bugs), rodents, foxes, small animals of any kind including birds, small livestock, cats and small dogs, and of course human and pet food!
Unlike wolves, coyotes do not hunt in packs. However, they will hunt with family members until their siblings go on their way.
Why are we seeing more coyotes in Florida? Humans have killed most of the wolves. Because wolves are now nearly extinct in Florida, coyotes have moved in and become king of the hill. They have no natural predators and will coexist in the wild with other animals including panthers and bobcats. Coyotes love open grassy areas where rodents and other small animals live. Since man has cleared out many forests to make way for ranching and farming, the coyote has a free range with plenty of food.
An adult coyote weighs 25 to 40 lbs. At times they may appear to be starving and seem very thin. This is their body build. Since they are extremely adaptable to almost any environmental condition and will eat almost anything, there is never any worry about coyotes finding enough food. When coyotes inhabit a new area their population will grow quickly. Five to six pups may be born in a single litter. Once an area is established the coyote population will level off.
Can we send them back to their original range? It has been tried in many states for hundreds of years and the answer is no. Snare traps will most likely catch some other wild animal or someone’s pet before it captures a coyote. Two Florida black bears were found dead with coyote snares around their necks here in Central Florida. If we kill them, coyotes will just have more pups to quickly repopulate the area. Unless we reintroduce their natural predator, the red or grey wolf, and allow nature to take its course through Trophic Cascade, coyotes are here to stay.
What can you do to keep them wild and in the forests or uninhabited areas? We use the same techniques for coyotes as we do for our amazing Florida Black bears. Take in pet food and bird feeders, secure all attractants, scare that coyote if it is in your yard by yelling at it, making loud noises, etc. Never leave small pets outside unattended. Coyotes don’t know the difference between a small cat or dog and any other prey. It’s our responsibility as pet owners to keep pets safe.
Let’s learn to respect nature, and not fear it, to coexist and not destroy it.
This Florida Softshell Turtle, aka. Apalone ferox, made her way into a human neighborhood. Softshell Turtles will lay their eggs under the edge of a driveway or sidewalk. The sun will warm the concrete and keep her eggs warm until they hatch. If you see a Softshell Turtle in your neighborhood, just give her space and she will make her way back to the pond here she akes her home.
Softshell Turtles usually eat snails and small fish but have been known to eat waterfowl such as ducks and small herons. Florida Softshell turtles will hide in the sand at the bottom of lakes and streams and ambush passing schools of fish for lunch or dinner. Softshells take 10 years to reach full maturity. They play a role as predator and scavenger. Animals who prey on these turtles are raccoons, bears, other turtles, skunks, snakes, eagles, otters, armadillos, and alligators. Their biggest predators are human.
These pictures might look like different skinks but they are the same species. You can see in the first picture that the eggs look painfully larger than the young skink next to them. Don’t worry. They are much smaller when laid. The eggs start out small but will swell with water. The eggs are usually laid in a damp location with some burrowed areas around them. You may find them under flower pots or bricks. The second picture shows the vibrant color of the newborn skink. Newborns are about 4 cm in length. The bright colors will fade over time but juveniles will retain the bright blue tail. In the third picture, you can see the bright coloring has faded leaving just the black and yellow stripes. This skink has just entered adulthood. Females will retain this appearance throughout the rest of their lives. In the fourth picture, you can see a full grown male skink. The stripes have faded and the head is a bright red color. These little lizards are very fast and it’s difficult to see them but they are very fascinating to watch as they hunt for small insects. Much like a cat, they flicker their tail as they stalk their prey. Have you been lucky enough to spot one of these little skinks around your yard?
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Today, we look at a very important member of Florida’s ecological community. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is one species almost everyone can identify. Found across the entire state of Florida including the Florida Keys and several barrier islands, the only snake that looks even a little similar is the timber (otherwise known as Canebrake) rattlesnake.
The largest recorded eastern Diamondback was 96 inches (8 feet!) in length. Today, however, you would be considered lucky to see one as large as 6 feet long. They are found in pine flatwoods, longleaf pine, and turkey oak, and sand pine scrub areas. These areas are also prime for development.
A combination of a loss of habitat and the indiscriminate killing of these snakes by the general public upon site has caused a major population decline. They are currently afforded no protected status in Florida.
This is a species that must be respected when encountered. They can strike up to 2/3 the length of their body. Like other snakes, we are not prey to the D and they would be just as happy if we would leave them alone. If you encounter one of these amazing animals, observe from a safe distance and allow it time to pass, or simply walk around it.
In the United States, the vast majority of venomous snake bites occur when someone is trying to kill the snake. Attempting to kill these snakes greatly increases your risk of being bitten. They will not chase you and in fact, are very afraid of you. One of our Facebook friends commented with a wonderful little rule of thumb that I really like, 30/30. Stay 30 feet away for 30 minutes and they will leave. As he pointed out, this will hold true most of the time so long as they are not waiting for food to go by.
Please, give these wonderful creatures the respect they deserve as fellow residents of our great state!
Ileana rocked IOF’s educational programs at the Love the Everglades Movement event in Miami while Nancy and Dan were answering great questions from our youth at the Debbie Turner’s Cancer Resource event in Central Florida.
IOF has many events coming up.
Volunteer a little of your time to show of people of all ages how to respect instead of fear our bears and their forest friends. Let Nancy, Aymee, Ileana, Andy or Dan know when you are available. A few minutes of education can last a lifetime and that outreach can save Florida’s natural resources, wildlife and land.
Connect. Respect. and Coexist.
Director Nancy Kon was recognized by AARP for her outstanding contributions to her community. Many people may not realize the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of an organization. On top of juggling work and home life, Nancy is always looking for ways to better her community. In 2015 Nancy collected signatures for Seminole County to request bear-proof trash cans to prevent bear-human interactions. She presented these to Commissioner Lee Constantine who championed the project. Seminole county became one of the most progressive counties when it came to getting bear-proof trash cans.
Nancy also organized over 100 bear monitors for all the central and south Florida check stations during the Florida Bear Hunt. This involved the screening of many people capable of enduring the horrific activities that happened as hunters brought bears into the check stations to be counted. These volunteers ensured an accurate by the hour count so that notifications could be made to ensure the hunt did not exceed the quota. Thanks to these volunteers it didn’t.
Unfortunately, that day resulted in some very traumatic experiences. Nancy spent hours consoling over 100 volunteers. She soon recognized that professional services would be needed and 3 counselors volunteered to be available to the monitors. As luck would have it she was able to befriend Dr. Illeana Sisson who passed away early this year and who volunteered her time to not only help those volunteers who needed it but also drove halfway across the state for a retreat. Nancy recognized the need for a community for these people and established Black Bear Nation. Many of those members are still close to this day.
When Seminole County applied for grants for the trash cans Nancy and her husband, Dan, collaborated on a proposal and identified a strategy that would be most effective but would also make the most of the funding. It was sent to Commissioner Constantine and presented by Dan at the Seminole County meeting. Nancy has also been working patiently with Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson in their bear-proof trash can efforts.
Furthermore, Nancy has been an eco-education leader by conducting numerous outreach efforts which teach people how to coexist with wildlife. These include teaching a girl scout troop, attending several Native American Pow Wows, tabling at a college, presenting our educational lesson plan at various community events, and collaborating with libraries on educational displays. She has attended several FWC meetings which involved an extensive amount of travel.
She has also put in very tedious work including research, designing educational materials, coordinating the organization of multiple events, reaching out for volunteers, following up on projects, and even learning a bit of computer coding.
This is just a snapshot of all the work she has done. Yet, she still remains positive, cheerful, and passionate about making her community and Florida full of better places for our wild spaces. Thank you Nancy for all that you do.
It’s always a good idea to stay informed about new bills that impact or help our environment and wildlife in Florida. Be sure to voice your opinion.
Find a Senate Bill, Committee, watch action on the floor: https://www.flsenate.gov/
from our Affiliate – Florida Conservation Coalition:
S.1863 Is a federal bill that would exempt endangered species found in only one state from being protected at a federal level. Florida has a vast amount of endangered and endemic species who could be hurt by this bill. If you would like to voice your opposition to this bill you can contact Senators Nelson and Rubio. Letting your representatives know what is important to you is one of the move more effective ways to create positive change.
Find Your Senator: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
On August 7th, Andy and Rowan joined Carissa Kent and Dave to help remove the gopher tortoises from a half acre property that was cleared on August 8th. Carissa is the Director of Saving Florida’s Gopher Tortoises. Her group is the only group in the state that focuses only on recovering tortoises that exist on properties with Incidental Take Permits. ITP’s were issued between 1991 and 2007 prior to the gopher tortoise being uplisted to threatened in 2007. These permits have no expiration date.
What does this mean for the tortoise? Any developer that has an ITP can legally entomb tortoises while developing the properties. They are under no legal obligation to relocate the tortoises. That means, these are “dead tortoises”.
There are thousands of these Incidental Take Permits that cover an estimated 10,000 to 25,000 tortoises. These tortoises are legally allowed to be killed, UNLESS Carissa and her team come in to save them.
Carissa and her team of volunteers have worked to save over 6,000 of these “dead tortoises” from a fate of being entombed under concrete, where it can take up to a year for a tortoise to slowly die. Moving these tortoises is no easy feat. It requires back breaking, hot, tiring work. It is all done by donations. The developers do not have to pay for this, but many do give donations to Carissa’s group. She has workd for several years to foster a good, working relationship to save the lives of these tortoises.
If you know of developments happening in gopher tortoise habitat, or if you have concerns about tortoises, you can contact :
Director, Saving Florida’s Gopher Tortoises
She asks that you either email or text. She is often in areas that get very poor signal and text messages come through often better than a phone call.
On May 17, 2017, Imagine Our Florida Director Aymee Laurain spoke at the Tampa Constitutional Revision Commission meeting regarding the importance of protecting biodiversity.
In keeping with IOF’s commitment to protecting biodiversity, two proposals have been submitted to the Commission which if adopted, will aid in achieving a more balanced ecosystem through policy.
We appreciate the wise counsel from IOF’s Advisory Board Member Richard Foster of the Daily Kumquat for his constructive criticism, patience, and insight in helping us write these proposals.
Read these two proposals at the following links. Please send your comments to the commission about any proposal by clicking on the “home” tab in red at the top of the page and then clicking on the “Submit a Comment or Idea” in yellow to the right of the page.
Protection of Sovereign Lands
Protection and Preservation of Biodiversity
Watch Aymee’s speech at this link
Imagine Our Florida Inc. is excited to announce that Catalina Uruena Grajales has joined the Advisory Board. Catalina’s experience and education, as well as her knowledge of and commitment to our natural world, are valuable assets to IOF as the organization continues to grow and advance its mission. Welcome Catalina! We look forward to your sage advice as together, we work on behalf of our natural resources wildlife and land and show folks throughout our state how to Connect. Respect. Coexist.
A study published this year looks at the impact of plastic contaminants in the marine environment. The diagram shows how plastic is transported from the shore to the ocean surface, water column or organism, and breaks down into small particles that settle on the ocean floor and incorporate with ocean sediment. Trawls are able to collect these plastics and measure their mass and abundance in other areas. As you can see from the map, Florida is in the upper middle level of abundance and the middle level when it comes to mass. What this means is that Florida has much room for improvement.
As the article states, “The ultimate solution to environmental plastic pollution is to prevent contamination in the first place, first and foremost by a reduction in use, followed by capture and reuse, recycling, and energy recovery (Koelmans et al. 2014b), which will hopefully result in less new plastic being produced and progress toward a more circular and sustainable economy.”
For this reason Imagine Our Florida, Inc. is proud to be partners with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and will be hosting our next beach clean-up at North Gandy Beach on October 14, 2017. Details are in the event section. We hope to see you there.
You can report marine debris to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Southeast Florida Action Network at the following link. It just takes a moment and can save the lives of many of our wildlife friends and keep our environment safe and clean.
This video paints a bright and hopeful future for the Ocala National Forest. Little did they know way back then that much of the work being done would cause negative effects on our precious Florida wildlands. Longleaf pine ecosystems were diminished. Some species, including our Florida Black Bears, were hunted to near extinction. Timber harvests degraded much habitat for wildlife and improper planting resulted in erosion that lead to poor water flow. It’s important to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes over and over again. That includes development around dangerous flood zones, managing wildlife populations for the purpose of creating hunting opportunities rather than a balanced ecosystem, and focusing on preserving native plants in the proper environments which they adapted to. #ocala #florida #floridahistory
“Now, scientists say these losses may have weakened the reef’s storm buffer.”
FWC is asking for “Human Input” on proposed hunting changes.
Noone is asking the animals for their input.
Hunters make up a small percentage of Florida’s population.
We believe a larger percentage of Floridians embrace the concept of Respect. Connect. Coexist.
This is your chance to express your opinion and speak on behalf of our beloved Florida Wildlife.
Take the survey here:
De Soto National Park offers historical reinactments of Hernando De Soto’s invasion and quest for wealth throughout Florida. You can take a guided Kayak tour and learn about the ecology of Florida. Annual events also include the Luminary Walks, Family night on the lawn, the De Soto Landing, and Desoween celebration. You can see many times of birds including raptors. Racoons, turtles, butterflies, snakes, and green and spiny tailed iguanas can also be found along with many other animals. Start planning your families adventures now. The best vacations are the ones where you learn something.
In a study published in June of 2017 various local government officials and waste management were interveiwed to determine why these measures were not being implimented in their districts. Costs were a major obstacle but also noted was lack of support for bear proof trash cans. However, the study identified that was overstated based on measures from four counties who adopted ordinances. Residents were starting to take appropriate steps. Perhaps it’s time local governments do their part. If you would like to contact your local government about getting bear proof trash cans or getting an ordinance in place check out our tips on how to advocate.
Source: Noel, E. T., & Pienaar, E. F. (2017). Securing Garbage from Florida Black Bears: Why are the Appropriate Measures Not Implemented at the Municipal Level? Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 22(4), 347-361. doi:10.1080/10871209.2017.1334162
This is great news for ecosystems. Many reefs have been destroyed over the years but these artificial reefs have proven to be valuable in many areas around the state. They help promote growth around the reef where communities develop. They also act as a buffer to protect land from storm waves.
Director Aymee Laurain received our first samples of bear poop for fecal glucocorticoid testing. One of the first parts of this research is to get a known female and male so we can determine differences between stress hormones in male and female bears in the wild. We also need to know how the stress hormones degrade in the hot and rainy Florida climate. This groundwork is very important to make sure our studies are accurate. We plan to use this non-invasive and non-leathal research to determine the stress caused by anthropogenic (man-made) activity. We look forward to giving more updates in the future. In the meantime if you would like to help fund our research we would be most appreciative. #Buschwildlifesanctuary