Wild Places

Coral Reef

—-Coral Reef—-

Florida is the only state in the continental United States with shallow coral reef near its coast. Coral reefs create specialized habitats that provide shelter,

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Lake Wales Ridge

We all know Florida has some very unique ecosystems. One of the most unique of these ecosystems is The Lake Wales Ridge. The ridge runs about 150 miles along the spine of Central Florida. The city of Lake Wales is located roughly at its center. The highest point of the ridge is Sugarloaf Mountain. At an elevation of 312 feet., this is the highest point in peninsular Florida.

As you can see in the satellite image, the ridge is actually visible from space as a bright white line. This line is caused by the dune sands of this former island chain. That’s right! The Ridge used to be a chain of islands 2 million years ago when the rest of the peninsula was under the raised waters of the ocean.

These ancient dunes and their white, powdery sand, provide a unique habitat for many rare and endangered plants and animals. These plants and animals have evolved to deal with hot conditions and quick draining soil.

Species such as the scrub jay, gopher tortoise, Florida scrub lizard and sand skink make their homes here. Many of the plants have also adapted to the heat and lack of regularly available water. Scrub oaks have thick, curved leaves adapted to conserve water. Yucca, pear cactus and scrub palmetto are all common plants along the ridge.


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Saw Grass Lake

Saw Grass Lake in St. Petersburg, Florida. It might seem strange for a furry fella like me to be in the middle of a big city. Sometimes that happens when we smell delicious food. 

While we are here, let’s learn a bit of history about my kind. According to the book “Mangroves to Major League: a Timeline of St. Petersburg, Florida” in 1869 cattle ranchers in Pinellas county saw bears and panthers as a threat and began organized efforts to eradicate us from the area. Today, we have better technology such as electric fences that keep us out of areas where there are other animals or vegetables. Did you know if you have a farm you can contact your regional FWC office who can help by loaning electric fencing for a limited amount of time? When you’re done you only need to return the solar panel that powers the fence. Doing this ensures that we don’t become an unwanted guest who gets a bad reputation. We don’t want history to repeat itself, right?

In the meantime, feel free to visit Sawgrass Lake and see my wildlife friends. You might even be lucky enough to be greeted by my good friend Brutus, the alligator.

#bearinachair #stpetersburgfl #pinellascounty #florida #blackbear #flbear#flblackbear

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Charles Deering Estate

Charles Deering EstateCharles Deering Estate in Miami Florida. This preserve is an excellent place to learn about Florida history. In fact, an old sinkhole revealed some amazing fossils that tell quite a story.

Speaking of stories, have you heard the story of the Florida Spectacle Bear? Tremarctos floridanus lived during the late Pleistocene Epoch. One of the oldest fossils for this bear was found in a sinkhole located on the Charles Deering Estate. These bears are thought to be strictly herbivorous which today’s Florida black bear eats 15% insects and 5% animal carrion. A fossil of the Florida spectacle bear was found at is location and was carbon dated back to 12 million years ago. Their wildlife friends at the time included glyptodonts, mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths, wolves, and the only large mammal to survive, the manatee.

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Goethe State Park

Goethe State ParkThis park is home to one of Florida’s largest Cypress trees, Goethe Giant! You can also see pitcher plant bogs here which are really pretty.

This beautiful forest is also home to little Smokey Jr., a bear cub who was rescued from a wildfire and rehabilitated. One reason this spot was selected for his home is that the bear population in this area has been in trouble. Low genetic diversity is the problem. A long time ago us bears were almost hunted to extinction. That meant very few of us existed in small isolated areas. When bears mate their DNA combines to make all the traits for a cub. DNA is like a set of survival tools. If you have a variety of tools you can be really successful. If your tools are limited it’s very difficult to survive. Creating wildlife corridors and passages helps other bears with more DNA tools to reach the small population in these necks of the woods. Come on out to Goethe and see if you can spot one of us.

#Goethestatepark #Goethegiant #bearinachair #geneticdiversity #flbears #flblackbear #florida

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Highlands Hammock State Park

Did you know that Highlands Hammock State Park is one of the most biodiverse areas in Florida? You can see all sorts of ecosystems including pine flatlands, scrubs, uplands, hardwood swamps, marshes, and this beautiful cypress swamp. Biodiversity is very important. Could you imagine working in a place where everyone only knew how to do one job? Nothing would ever get done and the business would fail. Ecosystems are a lot like a business. Every organism has a job and when you have many workers who conduct a variety of tasks the business, or ecosystem, is successful.

As a bear, my job is to occasionally use my claws to dig out turtle eggs. They area great protein source for me and it helps to keep the turtle population from over populating. Bears aren’t too popular in this area but if you look in the mud you might spot a few paw prints. You can also count all the different types of tracks the variety of other animals leave behind.

#highlandshammock #florida #biodiversity #bearinachair

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Hontoon Island

Have you ever wanted to take a boat ride to one of Florida’s great state parks? Hontoon Island is a great place to explore. As a bear, I can’t take the ferry across the St. Johns River to Hontoon Island, but you can take a free ferry or a boat of your own over to the island. I have to swim.

Besides hiking and boating of all kinds, you can have a great picnic, use one of the park’s many grills and picnic tables all while learning about the many Island’s inhabitants at the visitor center. You will even see evidence of Native American inhabitants from over thousands of years ago.

I like to comb through the park and look for other wildlife like Ospreys, Egrets and Great Blue Herons. Bears like me enjoy sauntering down to the river to watch the West Indian Manatees as they make their way up to the warmth of the springs for the winter months. It’s time for you to grab a kayak or canoe, or hop on a ferry and explore the island and surrounding water. I hope to see you there!

Hontoon Park is open all year round from 8 am to dusk and admission is free. It is located on the St. Johns River in Deland Fl.

#bearinachair #hontoonisland  #StJohnsRiver #florida#biodiversity

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