Coyotes have made their way onto some barrier islands off Southwest Florida where they are getting mixed reviews.
The animals are not native to Florida, but have been moving down the peninsula for decades due to changing terrain. Residents of Don Pedro Island in Charlotte County say coyotes have destroyed sea turtle and shore bird nests.
But, wildlife officials give the animals mixed reviews. Florida Fish and Wildlife Biologist Gretchen Hochnedle said predation of threatened and endangered species is bad – however, coyotes are filling a niche.
“Coyotes play a bigger role in controlling populations of middle size predators, raccoons and foxes that seek out these nests of ground nesting birds and sea turtles and things like that – populations of those animals that actually had a larger detriment,” she said.
Hochnedle says coyotes are filling the niche once occupied by red wolves which were eliminated in Florida. Coyotes are not protected and can be trapped and hunted on private property.
A young male panther was released back into the wild this week in a remote portion of the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County. The cat had been found orphaned more than a year ago as a small kitten.
“We got a hold of him and he was in really poor condition,” said Big Cypress wildlife biologist Deborah Jansen. “He was five months old but he only weighed 16 pounds. He was removed from the wild and transported up to White Oak Conservation Center in North Florida.”
The endangered panther spent more than a year at the wildlife facility near Jacksonville until his weight came up and until experts felt confident he could hunt and kill his own food. READ MORE
“Doctor Bug” speaks tomorrow night at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. Mark Moffett is a research associate in Entomology with the Smithsonian Institution and has travelled the world studying and photographing ants. He’s written a new book titled “Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions”. Moffett says the invasive fire ants found in Florida are among the nastiest he’s encountered.
A study from the University of Florida published earlier this month says Florida has the worst invasive reptile and amphibian species problem in the world.
The report, published by the journal Zootaxa, traces the introduction of 84 percent of these exotic species to the pet industry.
Overall, 137 exotic reptile and amphibian species are identified in the study.
“It’s not a surprise to me. We see them every week,” said Melinda Russek of the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium in Fort Myers.
“In about 2008 we started to take in in exotic species because of so many of them found,” Russek said.
“A lady found a Ball Python on her kitchen counter when she went to make coffee. Pythons are found in schools, backyards. We’ve had three African Spur-Thigh Tortoises which get to be over 100 pounds brought to us this year within six months,” she added.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Exotic Species Section Leader Scott Harden said prosecutions against those who release an exotic pet are “almost non-existent” and that his efforts instead focus on public education to combat the problem.
“I hope truly that we continue to make some inroads on people being aware that releasing an exotic species is illegal, it’s unethical and it’s generally inhumane,” said Harden.
The report identifies 56 exotic species with established populations in Florida including more than 40 kinds of lizards, several snake, frog and turtle species, and a type of crocodile called the Speckled Caiman.
A federally-protected loggerhead sea turtle that recovered from a serious illegal spearfishing wound was released Wednesday morning by Turtle Hospital officials in the Florida Keys.
About two months ago, a father and son were fishing off the Lower Keys when they saw the turtle struggling to come up for air with a 4-foot metal spear sticking out of its head. Director of the Marathon-based Turtle Hospital Richie Moretti said she was lucky in many ways, “She was lucky that she found people that would rescue her and we went ahead and took the spear all the way out.”
“It couldn’t have gone through in a better spot. It missed the back of her eye and the front of her throat and so it’s taken us now about six weeks. She’s finally up to eating. And when you see a turtle that works so hard to live – remember these are all dinosaurs – and that makes you feel really good when you have a turtle that’s one leg out of the world and you can bring ‘em back,” said Moretti.
An investigation is ongoing to find who speared the turtle. The Keys community has raised more than16,000 dollars in reward money. The release marked the 25th anniversary of one of the few, if not only, state-licensed veterinary hospitals in the world dedicated solely to the treatment of sea turtles.
The official state alligator hunting season begins Monday at 5:00pm.
Nearly seven thousand permits have gone out to people who want to try their luck at hunting the reptile. More than one-point-three million alligators live in Florida. The Coordinator for the Alligator Management Program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tallahassee, Harry Dutton, said the commission extended the hunt by four hours each day of the hunt.
“This is what was ultimately provided to the commission as a compromise to what was asked for by the hunting community which was to hunt alligators anytime during the established season to other constituencies that like to look at the resource and enjoy it and also enjoy the waterways that hunting occurs on to find a balance between all these different recreational uses.”
Dutton said alligators are thriving in Florida with more than one point three million of them currently in the state. Each permit issued allows each person to take two alligators.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is recommending 16 animal species be removed from the state’s threatened species lis.
The recommendations follow biological status reviews of 61 species that began in 2007. Eight of the 16 species recommended for de-listing can be found in Southwest Florida. They include the Black Bear, Brown Pelican, White Ibis, Limpkin, Snowy Egret, Gopher Frog, Florida Tree Snail and a fish called the Mangrove Rivulus.
The recommendations follow the adoption of a new system for identifying imperiled wildlife that the FWC adopted in September of 2010. “The old system was definitely broken,” said Dr. Elsa Haubold who manages the FWC’s biological review process.
“It was incredibly controversial and it was difficult to focus any attention on conservation of our listed species because a lot of the attention was what we call the species. We had a multi-category list. So one of the major changes that we made is that we now have a single category list. Either you’re at a high risk of extinction or you’re not.”
Wildlife Commission staff are in the process of creating a detailed management plan for each of the different species evaluated.
Those plans could take up to three years to complete and will include measures to keep the animals from slipping back into peril.