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Entries in Everglades (13)

Sunday
Dec292013

Snakes, Bears Make Florida a Dangerous Place to Live

Nationally, the exotic species of most concern are carp, mussels, and plants.

But in Florida, a reptile also is in the mix. It’s an apex predator that gobbling up birds, mammals, and other reptiles in the Everglades.

And as its food supply dwindles and its population increases, the Burmese python will expand its range.  It will go south into the Keys, west toward the Gulf coast, north toward Lake Okeechobee, and east toward the most densely populated portion of Florida.

At the moment, it seems unlikely that the python will migrate too far north. But it’s an exotic species in a new habitat, meaning behavior is unpredictable. Also, winters are moderating. Could it travel all the way up the peninsula and then west along the upper Gulf Coast? It’s possible, although unlikely.

What’s more certain is that the threat to human life will increase, especially in and around Miami. One of the largest snakes in the world, the python can grow to 20 feet in its native Asia, and already has been documented at 16 feet in the Everglades. Such massive reptiles weigh more than 100 pounds

And they can kill and consume human-size meals. Check out this recent report from Indonesia, where a python killed a security guard near a luxury hotel. A few years ago, a “pet” python killed a child in Florida. Earlier this year, two children were strangled by another “pet” in Canada.

Children and pets in Florida are going to be especially at risk in the years to come.

But I no longer believe that the python is the most dangerous species in the Sunshine State. No, it’s not the native alligator either.

I put the black bear at the top of the list. Its population has reached critical mass in the central part of the state, and, sooner rather than later, someone is going to be killed.

Especially in the Longwood area, the bears roam neighborhoods, tear up garbage cans, and try to enter houses. Nevertheless, many lived under the mistaken notion that they could peacefully co-exist with these large omnivores that will gobble up garbage as quickly as they will a pot-belly pig. Some of them still feel that way.

But they are wrong, as evidenced by the attack on a woman out walking her dog earlier this month. More recently, a bear broke into a screened patio, looking for food.

And, yet, the biggest problem is not the black bear. It’s the people. Some continue to feed the animals, despite warnings not to. Others don’t secure their garbage and/or feed their pets outdoors.

Those people who are the most problematic, however, are the bear defenders, those who raised holy hell when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) killed two in the aftermath of the attack on the woman, and those who mistakenly believe that they can live in peace and harmony with the bears if all people will just “follow the rules.”

What we’re talking about now in central Florida is a large, aggressive bear population that has lost its fear of humans and has learned that food is most abundant where people live. That food could be the remains of pizza, a dog, or a child. A wild predator doesn’t differentiate.

Of course, the animal apologists argue that their furry friends should be “relocated” to nearby national forests instead of being killed. The problem with that is that those areas already have the maximum population that they can sustain, which is one of the main reasons that bears are roaming suburban neighborhoods. Additionally, bears accustomed to eating from garbage cans and breaking into patios to eat pet food are not going to stay in wild areas; they will return to more civilized dining.

The most logical solution is a managed hunt, which other states, including New Jersey, already utilize as a way of keeping the bear population under check. That’s also the way that we maintain populations of deer, turkey, and other species. If we are going to co-exist with these animals we must limit their numbers because we also have reduced their habitat. It’s that simple.

But you can bet that if the FWC proposes a hunt, PETA and other animal rights groups will descend on Florida like a horde of locusts, delighting in the reality that they will receive nationwide publicity in such a high-profile state.

I don’t envy the good folks at FWC who want to do the right thing, but must figure out a way to manage both the wildlife and the uneducated people who seek to prevent the agency from doing what’s right.

And I am saddened by realization that the only thing that will prompt a rational response to this problem is for someone to be killed. No such easily implemented solution exists for the Burmese python, but it certainly does for the black bear.

Tuesday
May072013

Giant Snail Is Yet Another Invader That Threatens Florida

If you live in a stucco house in south Florida, good luck. You’re going to need it.

As if Burmese pythons moving out of the Everglades weren’t enough to worry about, an explosion of African land snails is occurring. Growing to the size of a rat, these exotic mollusks will chew up stucco and plaster for the calcium that they contain, as well as devour plants --- lots and lots of plants.

Scientists estimate that they will feed on more than 500 species. In other words, just about anything that's green, and that could have catastrophic consequences for Florida agriculture and horticulture. And, oh yeah, they also carry a parasite that can cause illness in humans.

Reuters says this about the snails:

“ In some Caribbean countries, such as Barbados, which are overrun with the creatures, the snails' shells blow out tires on the highway and turn into hurling projectiles from lawnmower blades, while their slime and excrement coat walls and pavement.”

To watch a video about this invader, go here.

Friday
May032013

Anglers 'Connect' with Burmese Python

If you fish long enough, you’re going to catch something besides a fish. I guarantee it.

I first realized that when I was a kid and an owl grabbed my Jitterbug. Fortunately, separating bird from bait proved harmless--- but not easy---  for both of us.

The same was true when I snagged an alligator with a crankbait on Lake Okeechobee and when a seal decided to eat the striper that I had hooked on a jig up in Maine.

I’ve tangled with a few turtles as well, both snappers and soft shells.

But I’ve never hooked a snake, much less one that’s almost as long as my boat. That’s exactly what happened recently when Joe Holland and Brett Darmody were fishing a tournament in the Everglades.

One of the trebles on Holland’s crankbait snagged the back of a Burmese python, an invasive species that is gobbling up native wildlife and reproducing at an alarming rate.

Go here to find out what happened.

Thursday
Mar212013

Anti-Fishing NPS Sets Sights on Everglades National Park

 

If you don’t know that the National Park Service (NPS) is no friend to fishermen, you haven’t been paying attention.  Check out the links at the bottom of this article to learn what the anti-angling bureaucrats have been doing in regard to access to public lands and waters.

Now, the NPS is considering changes to management of boating in the back country of Everglades National Park. You can bet that those who want to reduce access will be working their hardest to make it so, both inside the agency and out.

That’s why it’s vital for anglers to make their voices heard.

Here’s a media alert from BoatUS about how to get involved:

WHAT: The National Park Service (NPS) is considering changes to how boating in the back country of the Everglades National Park is managed, including significantly expanding Pole/Troll zones where only electric trolling motors and push poles would be permitted for use. Also under consideration are special boater education permit requirements beyond what is required by the state of Florida. To learn more about and comment on the plan please visit: 

http://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=11170

NPS is holding a series of public meetings on the proposed changes.  If access to this part of the Florida Bay Back Country is a part of your boating and fishing, we urge you to attend one of these meetings to learn more and voice your concerns.

WHEN: Here are the meeting dates:

Thursday, March 21, 5:30 PM: Everglades City School, 415 School Drive, Everglades City, Florida

Monday, April 8, 5:30 PM: Int’l Game and Fish Association – Fishing Hall of Fame, 300 Gulfstream Way, Dania Beach, Florida

Tuesday, April 9, 5:30 PM: Edison State College, Collier Campus – Building J7007, Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples, Florida

Wednesday, April 10, 5:30 PM: Murray Nelson Government Center?– 102050 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida

Thursday, April 11, 5:30 PM: Florida International University – Stadium Club, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, Florida

WHY: It is important that the National Park Service hear from boaters about how you enjoy the park and access the areas you want to visit.  

HOW: If you are unable to attend a meeting, you have until May 12th to submit your comments online at:

 http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=374&projectID=11170&documentID=51890

 WHO: Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is actively engaged with the NPS regarding recreational boating access to Everglades and other parks around the nation.

 And here are those links to confirm that the NPS is no friend to fishermen:

Angler Groups Keep Fishing for Biscayne Bay Access.

National Park Service Didn't Get the Memo About Reconnecting.

Some in Congress Fight Back for Angler Access at Cape Hatteras.

Friday
Jan252013

Thirty Invaders Bite the Dust in Python Challenge

Thirty Burmese pythons have been killed so far in the Florida Everglades as part of the Python Challenge that began Jan. 12.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that eradicating pythons is not the goal of program, which ends Feb. 10. Rather, wildlife officials hope to raise awareness about the snake’s threat to native wildlife and the fragile Everglades ecosystem. Also, they believe that the hunt will help them collect valuable information about the exotic predator’s habits so that it might be better controlled.

By the way, plug "pythons on the loose" and "alligators on the loose" into a Google search if you want to get an idea of the problem that we have in this country with irresponsible pet owners and an under-regulated exotic pet industry. They're also the ones that introduced some of our troublesome aquatic plants, including Eurasian watermilfoil. Likely, they are responsible for snakeheads as well.