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Managing Black Bears in Florida

PHOTOS COURTESY OF FWC

By Noelle H. Lowery noelle@coastalbreezenews.com Most Southwest Floridians are well aware of the wide variety of wildlife that lives amongst them. Alligators, panthers and manatees, oh my! Not to mention, the vast array of lizards, birds, squirrels, bob cats and raccoons scurrying on land and the wide assortment of fish swimming under water. The largest of the furry creatures — the Florida Black Bear — has been the focus of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for the last month. The FWC launched its new Florida Black Bear Management Plan, introducing Southwest Floridians to it through three public ... Read More »

‘Experience Nature’ with Tyler MacDonald

Tyler only uses two cameras. This camera for outdoor shots and another for underwater shots.

Submitted The Marco Island Historical Museum is delighted to host “Experience Nature” a photographic exhibit from Tyler MacDonald, which runs July 1-Aug. 30. Marco’s own MacDonald will be exhibiting some of his latest photography at. At just 18 years old, MacDonald has already won numerous awards and national recognition for his work including second-place in the National Wildlife Federation’s annual photo contest. His passion for wildlife photography is evident in each and every photograph. Taking risks and spending hours waiting to capture the perfect image, MacDonald has encountered many venomous snakes, sat in trees and been suspended above water to ... Read More »

Native Beauty on Display

The starting point at the MIHM native plant walk.

By Melinda Gray melinbrya3@yahoo.com During the hustle and bustle of an average day, I wonder how often we notice just how amazing Southwest Florida is. I find when I take time to notice the natural beauty of my surroundings, I truly appreciate living here. The native animal and plant life that surrounds us is a fascinating mixture of beauty and strength. Mother Nature is wild, and taming her takes a special touch. The Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM) has accepted her challenge, and has been busy cultivating an impressive exhibit featuring native plant life available around-the-clock for the enjoyment and ... Read More »

MIA Inaugural Summer Camp with an Environmental Twist

Dr. Richard Murphy (left), director of education for the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Oceans Futures Society, gives students an outdoor lesson near Tigertail Beach.

By Noelle H. Lowery  noelle@coastalbreezenews.com The first-ever Ambassadors of the Environment Camp in Florida was a rousing success for the joint partnership between Marco Island Academy and Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. It was a journey that began five years ago when MIA Founder and Chair Jane Watt discovered the Ambassadors of the Environment Program through the Ocean Futures Society and its director, Dr. Richard Murphy. Currently, the active, hands-on outdoor education program has locations in California, French Polynesia, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, Hawaii, and Turks and Caicos. Many of the programs are affiliated with the Ritz-Carlton or a cruise ... Read More »

Red Tide ‘Not Present’ — For Now

These ominous blood-red tides are caused by a large accumulation of algae in coastal waters and are especially common along the coast of Florida. While disconcerting, only some are harmful to marine life: these are known as HABs, harmful algal blooms, and can even pose a risk to humans.

By Melinda Gray melinbrya3@yahoo.com This time last year, Marco Island and other Southwest Florida coastal communities were reeling from the negative effects of a prolonged red tide bloom. Reports of the bloom began in December 2012 with Marco Island presenting “very low” to “low” concentrations of red tide, and by mid-February 2013, those concentrations crept up to “medium” status. The 2013-2014 season has been a very different story. Currently, the Collier County Natural Resources Department is reporting that Karenia brevis, or K. brevis — the naturally-occurring dinoflagellate that causes “Florida red tide” — is “not present” in samples of water ... Read More »

Celebrate Our Nation’s Birthday by Respecting Our Beach

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com One of the best holidays in our country is the 4th of July! Our nation — turning 238 years old — knows how to put on a party, right? It is a day to reflect why our nation is so great, how we are the luckiest citizens on earth, and be thankful for all those that have and do ensure that the United States remains the “land of the free.” It has always been such a big, happy, fun-filled holiday for my family growing up in California in a small town and then raising ... Read More »

Swimming with the Largest Fish on Earth

The mouth of this whale shark is nearly 4 feet wide. It filters plankton and small fish from the sea water to obtain protein. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist This column is dedicated to Marine Biologist James Livacarri, whose passion, knowledge and smile deeply in spire tens of thousands of visitors to Marco Island. May your seas always be calm, and may the road rise up to meet you. May all of your journeys be pleasant, and may you and your family remain continually blessed. Thank you, my friend! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Our boat was right along side the largest fish in the world. The captain cautiously edged the vessel forward until we were about 30 feet in front of the ... Read More »

Local Student Contributes to Island Preserve

Otter Mound Preserve

By Nancy J. Richie A small oasis — 2.45 acres in total — holds archaeological, historical, cultural and biological importance for the history of Marco Island. It is the Otter Mound Preserve. Located in the southern area of the island at 1831 Addison Court, the “mound” that this preserve references is a relatively small part of a 70-80 acre Indian mound built by the Calusa Indians, estimated between 750 and 1,200 A.D. In more recent history — the early 1900s — it was the site of Caxambas Village, the Marco Island settlement for the clamming industry. It was a bustling ... Read More »

Keeping Our Beach Beautiful

This is just one example of the trash removed from the beautiful sandy beach.

By Nancy Richie A beautiful morning unfolded for the last the beach clean-up, Sunday, May 18. Low humidity, mild temperatures, light breezes and blue skies prevailed. Paradise perfection — what we expect on Marco Island! More than 50 people of all ages met at the South Beach boardwalk access to help clean up the beach. The large group included beach committee members, Marco Island Civic Association (MICA) members, Chamber of Commerce representatives, Publix employees, regular beach goers, residents who couldn’t resist the beach on this beautiful morning and visiting families. It was apparent the wonderful weather and the beauty of ... Read More »

EcoTour Provider Training Series Back at Rookery Bay

Rookery Bay Reserve naturalist Randy McCormick explains the role of mangroves in southwest Florida’s environment during while touring the Reserve. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROOKERY BAY RESERVE

Submitted With approximately 97 percent of Southwest Florida’s ocean-based economy coming from tourism and recreation, ecotour professionals serve as ambassadors of local natural areas. These ecotour professionals often rely on their knowledge of natural history to provide clients a memorable experience. In order to meet the growing educational needs of ecotour professionals, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in partnership with Florida Sea Grant, is offering a series of field and classroom-based programs this summer. Back by popular demand, the Ecotour Provider Series promotes sustainable tourism practices by providing guides, naturalists and tour operators with information, tips and tools to ... Read More »

Kids Free Fridays at Rookery Bay

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Submitted The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is hosting its annual summer program, “Kids FREE Fridays,” at its Environmental Learning Center through Aug. 1. This summer education program provides free admission for children ages 12 and younger who are accompanied by an adult (up to 5 children per adult). Educators will present a different topic each week following a central theme around the rookery. Lunch will be available for purchase from 11 AM-1 PM. June 6 and July 11: Water Let’s begin building a Rookery! We will have to start with water, the most important part of this habitat. ... Read More »

Snakes of Big Cypress Swamp

Young Cottonmouth, Big Cypress Swamp

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist When I am not at work on Marco Island, I absolutely love giving tours of the Big Cypress Swamp. I mean I really LOVE it!!!! There are several diverse habitats in that area, and they support a wide variety of wildlife. People are positively fascinated to hear the facts about ‘gators, ‘crocs, hawks, eagles, owls…..and snakes. I try to emphasize in my columns that there is an order to things on this planet, all the way down to the smallest ecosystems. Every plant, tree and animal serves a purpose, even the creepy, crawly things. ... Read More »

Take a Hike: Sand Dollar Island is Waiting for You to Explore

Critical Wildlife Area. PHOTO BY NANCY RICHIE

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Take a hike and explore one of the most beautiful ecosystems in southwest Florida, walking from Tigertail Beach Park parking lot on the new boardwalk, through the tunnel of mangroves, around the southern end of the Tigertail Lagoon, then heading north to the very tip of Sand Dollar Island “spit” that curls around toward Hideaway Beach, and then tracing your steps back. It takes almost three hours at a moderate pace; longer if you stop a few times taking in the abundance of wildlife that you can’t help but encounter. Once out on the ... Read More »

The Gulf Stream: A Migratory Highway

A newborn loggerhead, less than 2-inches long, gets ahead start towards the Gulf Stream current that will take it thousands of miles before returning to Marco Island 20-plus years from now. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Over the next few months, there will be a lot of attention given to the loggerhead turtles that nest on our local beaches. Not so much fuss will be made once the eggs have hatched, but many people are very aware of the absolutely magnificent, nearly impossible journey that these youngsters take. It is nothing short of a miracle. Some of them will catch the Gulf Stream current just off our shoreline, grab a transfer into the Atlantic Ocean and continue up the coastline until they turn east toward Europe and Africa. But they ... Read More »

Dolphin Explorer: 8 Years of Research

PHOTO BY Kirk Gardner

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Over here is Halfway, an adult female bottlenose dolphin and mom to at least four calves. Over there is one of our dominant male pair bonds, Hatchet and Capri.” These are common refrains by naturalist Kent Morse and marine biologist James Liviccari on board the Dolphin Explorer. With 16 years of experience between them studying the bottlenose dolphins in and around Marco Island, these two professionals not only identify the area mammals but they recognize certain behaviors and traits of many individuals. With eight complete years of survey data in their hands, some amazing ... Read More »

Sea Turtle Season: Let’s All Do Our Part

1st Sea Turtle Nest of 2013 on Sand Dollar Island.

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com Sunday, April 20, was the fourth anniversary of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Though the oil and secondary impacts to this environmental disaster never reached the shores of Marco Island, it affected the sea turtles and shorebird populations throughout the Gulf. That summer, there was record number of volunteers willing to step up and volunteer to help marine wildlife and protect our beaches. Those numbers have dwindled over the last few years as the memory and anxiety of oil on our beaches faded. Why does it take a disaster to ... Read More »

On the Road Less Traveled With the Swallow-tailed Kite

A Swallow-tailed Kite seen near Shell Island Road. PHOTO BY BOB MCCONVILLE

It was a typical drive home from work on April 22 when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a bird flying. Its movement was a bit different than other area birds, and then I saw its tail. I smiled, and said to myself, “They’re back.” I am, by no means, a professional birder, but seeing certain species at specific times of the year helps me understand that there is an order on this earth — a system that has been in place for thousands of years. This was my third such sighting of this particular bird this ... Read More »

Florida’s Easter Bunny: Marsh Rabbits

The Florida Marsh Rabbit. PHOTO BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com The weather is a bit warmer. Humidity is not too high. Fresh breezes make the Gulf a little choppy, and the island is quieter. It’s spring, and that time of year when many, especially those younger than 10 years old, may be keeping an eye out for the Easter Bunny, who may be hiding eggs around their house or yard — or perhaps hiding 20,000 eggs at Mackle Park on April 19 at the annual city of Marco Island’s Spring Jubilee! Though the Easter Bunny may visit just once a year, there is a ... Read More »

Before the Calusa, Who Was Here?

Calusa Fishing People. COURTESY OF FLORIDA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Just about everyone who visits this area is aware of some of the recent native American inhabitants of South Florida. The Calusa indians controlled the waterways from the Florida Keys as far north as Tampa Bay. The Seminole and Miccosukee roamed the inland areas and the Everglades while even more tribes settled other regions of the state. In fact, when Christopher Columbus first came to this part of the world, it is estimated that there were more than 300,000 natives in Florida. Many of these Indian nations did not have a written history, and ... Read More »

Protecting Beach Birds

Least terns lay eggs in sand scrapes right on the beach.  Eggs and young are extremely vulnerable to sun and heat when adult birds are flushed by people, dogs, or vehicles approaching the nest site. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Submitted Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in cooperation with the Flor-ida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), has posted a small por-tion of beach on the south tip of Keewaydin Island and part of an emergent sandbar one mile southeast of Cape Romano to protect nesting habitat for least terns, black skimmers and Wilson’s plovers. These areas have been posted an-nually since 2001 to protect beach bird nesting season April-August. “Protecting Florida’s wildlife and natural resources is our first priority,” said Rook-ery Bay Reserve Director Gary Lytton. “Taking steps to protect the least tern on Keewaydin Island during its ... Read More »