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Wildlife

Florida Box Turtle

Florida Box Turtle, Terrapene Carolina Bauri. This cute little girl is a great example of what Florida box turtle looks like. Florida box turtles are a terrestrial species which typically inhabit damp forests and marshes. They can be found from the Keys north to the very southern portion of Georga. Their shell is dark brown to black with yellow radiating stripes.

The males have a concave plastron and both male and female have a hinged shell, which allows them to fully close up in their shell.

They are omnivores, feeding on fruits, mushrooms, and various bugs and other small creatures. They are a protected species in Florida. The selling of them is prohibited in the state and you may not be in possession of more than two box turtles. Habitat loss and road mortality are two major causes of their decline in population.

 

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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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Bears bite off their foot pads in the winter

—–Fun Fact—-

Did you know that bears bite off their foot pads in the winter?!
They grow fresh foot pads so they won’t have callouses.
It’s like a mani-pedi for bears!

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Imperiled Species Management Plan rule changes

Imperiled Species Management Plan rule changes are in effect

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.)
Jan. 18, 2017

Suggested Tweet: Imperiled Species Management Plan rule changes in effect. @MyFWC: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/…/bulletins/18133ff #Florida #wildlife

The Imperiled Species Management Plan rule changes are now in effect, including changes in listing status for many species. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved the groundbreaking plan in an effort to achieve conservation success with dozens of imperiled species throughout the state. The plan outlines the steps to conserve 57 species along with the broader vision of restoring habitats essential to the long-term survival of multiple fish and wildlife species.

“Florida is charting an ambitious new path for wildlife conservation success on a statewide scale,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “Seeing a roseate spoonbill wading in shallow waters, a black skimmer resting on the beach or a Big Cypress fox squirrel sitting in a pine tree is an essential part of the Florida experience. This innovative plan is designed to keep imperiled species like these around for many generations to come.”

Nine rules were revised in support of the ISMP, focusing on changes to listing status, adding authorizations in a management plan or Commission-approved guidelines, preventing possession of species coming off the list, and accomplishing overall rule cleanup and clarification. Among the nine rules, one rule affecting inactive nests of non-listed birds is still pending.

Under the rule change that updates species’ listing status:
Fifteen species will no longer be listed as imperiled species because conservation successes improved their status: eastern chipmunk, Florida mouse, brown pelican, limpkin, snowy egret, white ibis, peninsula ribbon snake (lower Keys population), red rat snake (lower Keys population), striped mud turtle (lower Keys population), Suwannee cooter, gopher frog, Pine Barrens tree frog, Lake Eustis pupfish, mangrove rivulus and Florida tree snail. These species still are included in the plan for guidance in monitoring and conserving them.
Twenty-three species are newly listed as state Threatened species, a change from their former status as Species of Special Concern: Sherman’s short-tailed shrew, Sanibel rice rat, little blue heron, tricolored heron, reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, American oystercatcher, black skimmer, Florida burrowing owl, Marian’s marsh wren, Worthington’s marsh wren, Scott’s seaside sparrow, Wakulla seaside sparrow, Barbour’s map turtle, Florida Keys mole skink, Florida pine snake, Georgia blind salamander, Florida bog frog, bluenose shiner, saltmarsh top minnow, southern tessellated darter, Santa Fe crayfish and Black Creek crayfish. Threatened species have populations that are declining, have a very limited range or are very small.
Fourteen species keep their state Threatened status: Everglades mink, Big Cypress fox squirrel, Florida sandhill crane, snowy plover, least tern, white-crowned pigeon, southeastern American kestrel, Florida brown snake (lower Keys population), Key ringneck snake, short-tailed snake, rim rock crowned snake, Key silverside, blackmouth shiner and crystal darter.
Five species remain Species of Special Concern: Homosassa shrew, Sherman’s fox squirrel, osprey (Monroe County population), alligator snapping turtle and harlequin darter. These species have significant data gaps, and the FWC plans to make a determination on their appropriate listing status in the near future.
Important things to know about the Imperiled Species Management Plan:
It includes one-page summaries for each species, including a map of its range in Florida and online links to Species Action Plans. The 49 Species Action Plans contain specific conservation goals, objectives and actions for all 57 species.
It also has Integrated Conservation Strategies that benefit multiple species and their habitats, and focus implementation of the plan on areas and issues that yield the greatest conservation benefit for the greatest number of species.
Learn more about the plan at MyFWC.com/Imperiled.

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Sabal Trails Gopher Tortoise Turmoil

Sabal Trails Gopher Tortoise Turmoil

by: Aymee Laurain

 

A recently released bi-weekly report on the Sabal Trail pipeline demonstrated some insight on the ecological effects of the gopher tortoise in the area.  The report Docket No. CP15-17-000  stated the following:

●Spread 3, Georgia, a total of 4 burrows were investigated and eliminated and 2 gopher tortoises were captured and excluded from the workspace. 

● Spread 3, Florida, 80 burrows investigated, 43 excavated, and 20 tortoises relocated. 

●Spread 4, 135 burrows were investigated, 103 excavated, and 35 gopher tortoises were captured and excluded from the workspace. 

● Spread 5, 602 burrows were investigated, 369 excavated, and 153 gopher tortoises were captured and excluded from the workspace. 

●Spread 6, excavations continue, 20 burrows were investigated, 15 excavated, and 7 gopher tortoises were excluded or relocated.” Is there a reason the remaining tortoises are not being relocated?

Imagine Our Florida, Inc. contacted FWC regarding the information in the document.  The response was as follows:

“I am happy to answer your question, but would like to know what report you are referring to in your request below since it is not from a FWC report. Knowing the source and dates of your information will be helpful! Also the reports to FWC are not yet submitted, but I am told that the Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent is working on entering the data this week. So we may not have the info you are asking about right now. This information contained in the gopher tortoise permits are viewable/searchable by the public online at http://myfwc.com/gophertortoise/permitting. See attached for an overview of the FWC permit system.

As I noted previously we do not yet have reports from ST about the relocation that has occurred. However, I was able to obtain clarification regarding the data in the FERC report. The burrows investigated included all gopher tortoise burrows that had been documented during any of the previous tortoise burrow surveys.  Some of those burrows had either become abandoned or were no longer intact burrows.  The remainder of the non-excavated burrows ether occurred outside of the pipeline work area corridor or were just at the edge and going off-site;  those burrows were excluded from the corridor work area with silt fencing. They only excavated and relocated tortoises could not be excluded, and were in the right of way, resulting in the difference of numbers of burrows v. excavated v. tortoises.

Once the report is entered into the online permit system, you will be able to access the tortoise data from that system. Please let 

me know if you have any further questions on this project.”

With the numbers previously documented compared to those recently found it would appear there has already been a reduction in the population.  Following the message we asked if there be any follow-up research to determine the actual impact of this project on the tortoises?

“Each tortoise will use multiple burrows over the course of a season or year, but each burrow does not typically host multiple tortoises. The average occupancy rate for gopher tortoise burrows is 50%, but that rate fluctuates per site. On sections of the corridor, the occupancy rate was lower, which is not uncommon, as rates can range from 30%-70% depending on habitat conditions and soils. Therefore the number of burrows does not indicate the population size. There was no evidence of mortality and the population appears healthy.

We partnered with UCF and Sabal Trail on a research project at Halpata Preserve associated with temporary exclusion of tortoises from the right of way corridor, and the UCF researcher will complete this study next fall. We have issued permits for the temporary exclusion (v. permanent relocation to another site) for many years and will learn more about the tortoises re-homing ability back to the corridor once the exclusion fencing is removed. Regardless of the study, temporary displacement is much preferred over permanent relocation as typically done with development projects since the habitat will be available to tortoises again after the pipeline project is completed. This also helps keep the resident population intact and minimizes stress to the animals cause by longer translocations.”

One study identified 31-68% occupancy rates throughout pine forests in Florida. (Ashton, 2008) With survival rates at only 5.8% (Auffenberg, 1969) due to predation.  With odds such as these every effort should be taken to reduce threats to this already threatened species.  Perhaps we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if projects such as these are really even necessary. Given the number of pipeline incidents have increased from 381 in 1996 to 715 in 2015 is would seem we should be using more modern technology and steer clear of these incidents in the future.  On the brighter side, the number of fatalities appears to have dropped from 53 in 1996 to 10 in 2015 with a total of 347 deaths overall in the past 20 years. Add in the overall 1,346 injuries and that is a deal breaker for many of us.   For others, perhaps the average cost of these incidents at the amount of $342,970,468 annually might be a more pressing matter.  Is it really worth the risk to humans, wildlife, or tax payers?

 References:

Auffenberg, W. 1969. Tortoise behavior and survival. Rand McNally, Chicago, IL.

Ashton, Ray E.; Ashton, Patricia Sawyer. 2008. The natural history and management of the gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus (Daudin). Malibar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company. 275 p. [73126]


http://www.fwspubs.org/doi/suppl/10.3996/062015-JFWM-055/suppl_file/062015-jfwm-055.s7.pdf?code=ufws-site

https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/reptile/gopo/all.html

https://etd.auburn.edu/bitstream/handle/10415/1024/Beauman_Richard_19.pdf?sequence=1

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URSUS AMERICANUS FLORIDANUS – THE FLORIDA BLACK BEAR – AN UMBRELLA SPECIES

URSUS AMERICANUS FLORIDANUS – THE FLORIDA BLACK BEAR – AN UMBRELLA SPECIES

Did you know…

Florida black bears historically roamed throughout Florida and into parts of southern Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. In the 1970s, there were 300-500 individuals left due to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as overhunting. For 21 years, Florida black bears were protected from hunting and their numbers increased. However, in 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) removed them from the list so they are once again in danger of being hunted to extinction. Even though numbers have rebounded, they now inhabit only about 18% of their historic range.

Source:  University of Florida:  http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/blog/2014/04/25/our-recovering-florida-black-bear-population/

bear-map

Did you know…

There are seven Bear Management Units (BMUs) in Florida, each representing a distinct subpopulation of the subspecies of Florida black bear. Hunting was permitted in four of the seven BMUs in 2015. Isolated from each other due to human encroachment on their habitat and lack of a contiguous wildlife corridor, each of the subpopulations of Florida black bear is in danger of inbreeding depression due to genetic isolation, thus weakening the gene pool.

Source: http://myfwc.com/hunting/by-species/bear/rules/

bear-bmus

Did you know…

Although classified as carnivores, the Florida black bear’s diet consists of 80% plant material, 15% insects, and 5% animal matter. A major source of the bear’s diet, saw palmetto berries, has been harvested by humans for years. The berries are sold as herbal supplements. In July 2015, three months before the hunt, the state of Florida temporarily halted the harvesting of saw palmetto berries on state land. Destruction of acorn-producing oak trees is also taking away food from the bears and other wildlife. Trees are being destroyed for timber and to make way for more cattle-grazing land in our state and national forests.

Did you know…

The perceived threat of bears hurting humans is based on irrational fear. There is no documented case of a human being killed by a Florida black bear…EVER! However, humans kill an alarming number of black bears, even excluding legal hunting. While precise figures are not known, annual roadkill numbers have been close to or exceeding 150 (down from the peak of 282 in 2012). Approximately 100 so-called “nuisance” bears are killed every year, most often due to human carelessness such as leaving trash, pet food, bird seed, and dirty barbecue grills outside or in patios. Within the last few years, the FWC has adopted the “one strike you’re out” policy with regard to so-called “nuisance” bears.

Did you know…

Bears are deemed a “nuisance” merely for going in search of food carelessly left out by humans in residential neighborhoods. In preparation for denning in the winter, bears can consume in excess of 20,000 calories per day. When natural food sources are poor, bears must go in search of food often traveling many miles, which unfortunately puts them in danger of encounters with humans.

Did you know…

There is no science to support the supposition that hunting decreases human-bear conflicts or that bears that habituate to humans are more likely to be aggressive.

Did you know…

3,778 permits were sold to hunt only 320 Florida black bears in 2015, more permits than bears in the state of Florida. The first two days of the hunt, Saturday October 24th and Sunday the 25th, were guaranteed hunting days, no matter how many bears were killed. Since bears had not been hunted in 21 years, they were trusting and naïve, a recipe for disaster.

Did you know…

When the injunction to stop the bear hunt was denied, it was decided that bear monitors would be stationed at each of the hunter check stations to count dead bears. Every hour, each volunteer bear monitor across the state called in to report the number of bears brought in by hunters. It was their effort that helped prevent the Florida black bear from essentially being completely wiped out by hunters in 2015.

Did you know…

There were 28 lactating females killed during the bear hunt of 2015. With 1 to 4 cubs born to each mother, that means that an average of 70 cubs were left orphaned. Bear cubs remain with their mother for 1 ½ to 2 years. With cubs born in January, these cubs were only 9 months old at the time of the hunt in October.

Cubs weighing less than 100 pounds were also killed, although the rules stated by the FWC included that the bear must weigh at least 100 pounds (live weight). For the most part, hunters were not fined for these infractions.

This cub weighed only 76.7 pounds field dressed, which would put it at about 88 pounds intact (add approximately 16 percent of the field dressed weight). The hunter got away without even a warning. Photo by Alex Foxx

dead-bear-cub

Did you know…

The number of bears killed in the hunt was 304. However, that number doesn’t count:

  • The bears who were injured by hunters, ran away, and later died
  • The orphaned cubs that didn’t survive without their mothers
  • The bears illegally poached, including a bear cub later found floating in the Suwannee River

While FWC’s target was 20% including death from means other than hunting, the known death toll was over 21.5% of the total population of Florida black bears. Meanwhile, the human population in Florida continues to grow by more than the entire bear population every week.

Did you know…

Approximately 78% of the bears killed were on private lands. Many hunters bragged that the bears they shot just walked under their tree stands. While baiting was prohibited, many bears killed had corn in their teeth indicating they had recently visited deer feeding stations set up by hunters. According to the rules set forth by the FWC, both the hunter and bear were to be at least 100 yards away from a feeding station to be legally killed. However, there was no way to enforce this rule.

Did you know…

An estimated 75% of Florida residents who voiced their opinion were opposed to the bear hunt. This includes phone calls, letters, and emails to the governor and FWC, as well as media polls. Still, the FWC and Governor Scott ignored public opinion and did not stop the hunt.

Did you know…

Most hunters do not eat the bears that they kill, making this a blood sport, thrill kill, and trophy hunt. Most of the hunters wanted a bear rug or to mount the head of their kill on a wall, and this could be seen by the overwhelming number of bears brought into the hunter check stations unpreserved (not on ice) hours after they had been killed.

monitors

Did you know…

The hunt was supposed to last a week with a guaranteed hunt in the first two days without regard to numbers killed. Within 13 hours of the hunt, quotas were exceeded in the East panhandle and Central regions. The hunt in these two regions was brought to a halt on the first day, thanks to the efforts of Chuck O’Neal, volunteers who took the calls keeping a tally of dead bears, and the monitors themselves who volunteered to count dead bears. By the end of the 2nd day, the hunt was called off completely.

Region      Orig. Est.     Targeted     Actual     % of Target
East               600                 40               112              280%
North            550                100                23                 23%
Central      1,300                100               139               139%
South            700                  80                 21                26%

command-center

Did you know…

Non-lethal solutions exist to prevent human-bear encounters. A 12-month study in a Volusia County neighborhood showed that bear-resistant trash cans reduced such encounters by 95%. Coupled with preservation of the bears’ natural food sources, providing bear-resistant trash cans in every county within bear country is a compassionate, non-lethal solution to the prevention of human-bear conflict.

We will never forget

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