Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Our SwampLife is Wild…

Barbara Johnson shows her appreciation for our wild life.

Barbara Johnson shows her appreciation for our wild life.

By Steve Gimmestad
steve@coastalbreezenews.com

Literally, just outside our doors is a world foreign to many; a vast wetlands we call the Everglades. Thanks to Bob McConville, this world becomes a little less unknown. Bob is a Master Naturalist and shared some insight with us on April 23rd at the Rose History Auditorium.

Through pictures, stories and fun facts, Bob let us know quite a bit about the wildlife around us. The breadth of his knowledge is vast and there is so much to impart about his talk. We have limited space here so let’s explore just a few of these fun tidbits in abridged form (Bob’s facts, my words).

  • The Great Horned Owl is a squatter. Although a superb hunter (called the Silent Death), instead of building it’s own nest, the Great Horned Owl will defecate around an existing eagle nest. This makes it very unpleasant for the returning eagle, who will vacate the premises. The owl has a new home. Please do not try this with
    Pictured at left, Bob McConville, Master Naturalist, helps us discover the world around us in a fun and interesting way. PhotoS bySteve Gimmestad

    Pictured at left, Bob McConville, Master Naturalist, helps us discover the world around us in a fun and interesting way. PhotoS bySteve Gimmestad

    any vacant condos during the off-season.
  • Barred Owls like country music.
  • The Python is here to stay. Not native to the area, the pythons are a prolific breeder. Their numbers have increased dramatically in recent years and wildlife officials have no answer to stem the tide. They devour rodents and other prey at an alarming rate. Please pass this info along to your favorite pets.
  • The Everglades are home to many alligators. Shocker, right? They are fascinating creatures and have developed some incredible survival traits over the past few millennia of evolution. Look up ‘scoots’ when you have some time. Their cousin, the crocodile, also finds the Everglades to be hospitable. Gators are freshwater, crocs are saltwater (brackish)…mostly. Although both have a hard time lunging forward, it’s not a good idea to swim in front of them. Or anywhere near them for that matter.
  • Panthers have lost about 95% of their habitat in South Florida. That’s our fault, folks.
  • Bobcats are cool and inhabit the Everglades. And in
    Above, Gator Mike, Wooten’s Animal Sanctuary, explains about gators and what it’s like living with them every day.

    Above, Gator Mike, Wooten’s Animal Sanctuary, explains about gators and what it’s like living with them every day.

    no way are they named after Bob McConville.
  • The skunk ape may, or may not, be real. (See accompanying photo).
  • Over 320 species of birds can be found here in South Florida. They make for some wonderful photo ops and are a favorite subject for local art buyers. The Turkey Vulture is nature’s garbage can. Black Vultures can’t smell very well and follow Turkey Vultures around to find dead things.
  • The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest creature on earth with flying speeds up to 200 mph. How embarrassing for the cheetah.
  • There are four types of poisonous snakes in southern Florida; water moccasin (cottonmouth), eastern diamondback rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake and eastern coral snake. It would behoove everyone to know what these four snakes look like.
  • There are some great places to hike around here. Check online. You, too, can get a chance to experience Florida wildlife, up close and personal.

After filling the crowd with some great information about Florida wildlife, a few of Bob’s friends approached the stage.

Gator Mike shows an audience member what a young alligator looks like up close. Other audience members protect themselves with small, rectangular shields.

Gator Mike shows an audience member what a young alligator looks like up close. Other audience members protect themselves with small, rectangular shields.

All of these friends were from Wooten’s Animal Sanctuary. Only some of these friends walk on two legs.

Much to the delight of the crowd, Wooten’s brought two alligators for some show and tell. The first was a two-year old and still light in color. The other was a four-year old. Both were handled by Gator Mike who brought them around so the crowd could feel their skin and explore the scoots and other features of the animals. It was an interesting and unique way to spend the evening.

Wooten’s Animal Sanctuary and Airboat Tours is located on Highway 41 about 2 miles south of the Highway 29 intersection. It’s a great destination and worth the trip (wootenseverglades.com).

Bob McConville, besides giving amazing talks and presentations, is owner of Stepping Stone EcoTours (steppingstoneecotours.com), and a Naturalist aboard The Dolphin Explorer. Bob also writes a column here in the Coastal Breeze called Stepping Stones. One thing you’ll learn from reading his column, among other things, is that Bob loves his wife very much.

 

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