Sunday, October 25, 2020

Wildlife Banners Fly High on Collier Boulevard


Do not put gopher tortoise in the water – these terrestrial animals can’t swim!

Do not put gopher tortoise in the water – these terrestrial animals can’t swim!

The iconic faces of the Florida manatee, loggerhead sea turtle, gopher tortoise and burrowing owl are showcased on colorful banners flying high along Collier Boulevard. They are the friendly ambassadors of Marco’s wildlife, welcoming everyone who enters our island paradise.

Local artist, JJ Stinchcomb was commissioned by the City of Marco Island to design four unique banners depicting Marco’s wildlife. The banners were unveiled on August 28th during Marco’s 20th anniversary celebration. The banners, installed along Collier Boulevard, are meant to remind residents and visitors of the amazing wildlife that call the island home.

A female loggerhead sea turtle may travel thousands of miles to lay her eggs on the same beach where she had hatched.

A female loggerhead sea turtle may travel thousands of miles to lay her eggs on the same beach where she had hatched.

It took artist JJ Stinchcomb over three months to complete the paintings, including planning and research. Growing up in Marco, JJ was already very familiar with the wildlife that he painted. As an artist, he paints what he loves most, describing himself as “a paradise painter of nature, wildlife, fishing and our local history.” JJ hopes that through his art, he can help people relate to the beauty of Marco Island. JJ’s original oil paintings are on display in the lobby of the newly opened Frank E. Mackle Community Center.

Manatees, whose lungs are 2/3 the length of their bodies, breathe through their nostrils. While underwater, their mouths are busy eating. Burrowing owls hunt day and night. Slow down while driving through areas with burrowing owl postings.

Manatees, whose lungs are 2/3 the length of their bodies, breathe through their nostrils. While underwater, their mouths are busy eating. Burrowing owls hunt day and night. Slow down while driving through areas with burrowing owl postings.

All of the banners display wildlife listed as “threatened” species. And humans cause almost all of these threats. For the burrowing owl and gopher tortoise, the island habitat is dwindling fast; manatee and loggerhead sea turtle also face the loss of habitat. Death by watercraft collision is the leading cause of manatee deaths; many owls and gopher tortoises are victims of vehicular strikes; coastal development and plastic debris in the ocean and on beaches threaten loggerhead sea turtles.

Photos of artwork by JJ Stinchcomb

Photos of artwork by JJ Stinchcomb

The burrowing owl and gopher tortoise, year-round Marco residents, dig burrows in vacant lots. Both are protected by a City of Marco Island Protected Species Ordinance.

From May through October, islanders have the unique experience as custodians for eggs on the beach left behind by female loggerhead sea turtles. As good stewards, it is up to all of us to protect these eggs from human harassment, so that the newly hatched baby turtles may return safely to the ocean after 60 days.

What can you do to help? Please report any malicious harassment or destruction of wildlife to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404- FWCC (3922).

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