Category Archives: Wildlife

Anna Maria Island is fortunate to have a diverse and vibrant natural wildlife environment, with many caring people helping to protect their presence.

Manatee Watch

manatee by NOAA National Ocean Service

Photo by NOAA National Ocean Service

Anna Maria Island includes several areas where manatees graze seagrass beds and pass through boat channels and canals. On the Gulf beach, in 2011, a herd of 13 manatee congregated and had to be patrolled by Police to keep onlookers from endangering themselves and the animals.

Finding and viewing manatees in the wild is a rare occurrence but Bradenton has one, named “Snooty”, at the South Florida Museum. He was born in 1948 and is the oldest manatee in captivity. You can see “Snooty” at the Parker Manatee Aquarium, 201 10th St W., Bradenton.
Update July 23, 2017: Snooty died by accident one day after its 69th birthday.

Update August 31, 2017: South Florida Museum board of trustees admitted to being at fault when it announced Snooty became stuck and drowned in a tunnel due to negligence and complacency by staff, who were aware of a loose cover panel that was not repaired. “Justice for Snooty” is calling for resignations or firings of museum CEO Brynne Anne Bresio and COO Jeff Rodgers. Aquarium director Marilyn Margold no longer works at the museum. Staff have received additional training with a new checklist and record-keeping instructions.

Mote Marine Lab has two manatees, and numerous other aquatic wildlife, at their research facility Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, at City Island off Lido Key.

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Baby Sea Turtles Hatch

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch is a 28-year-old organization of volunteers who have followed the latest accepted methods for protecting the nests of sea turtles on this 7-mile-long island. Years ago, these methods involved removing all the eggs from the beach so they could hatch in total safety. In more recent years the scientific community has realized that all aspects of the turtles’ natural experience are important, and there now is much less human intervention. Eggs are not relocated unless absolutely necessary, and, even then, it is to another location under the sand, near the original nest.

Sea turtle nests and moonlight

Gulf beaches, and even some on the bay side, are monitored. This island is unusual in having sea turtle activity on the bay side; nests are found in the areas of the piers of the city of Anna Maria. The efforts and practices of AMITW are coordinated with county, state and federal efforts. Nearby Mote Marine Laboratory acts as an additional information resource and, occasionally, a destination for rescued sea turtles in need of medical attention.

Five species of sea turtle are active around Anna Maria Island, but almost all the nests here are loggerhead turtles. This year is unusual in that there have been two nests of green turtles.

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Manatee Watching on Anna Maria Island

Watching out for manatee in Bimini Bay, Anna Maria Island

Watching out for manatee in Bimini Bay, Anna Maria Island

It is a huge privilege to get to see manatees in the wild on Anna Maria Island. Especially considering the fact that they probably will be extinct within the next hundred years. Those of us who spend time on or near the water know the tell-tale pattern on the surface that indicates manatees are below. A series of flat circles usually appears and then, every once in awhile, the nose of a manatee may surface. Sometimes the manatee pushes it nose through the water for a distance. Sometimes its back surfaces, too. Often, the back is badly scarred, having been hit by boat propellers.

A couple of years ago, we spotted a manatee swimming by the house, heading up the bay, and we quickly launched kayaks to go look for it. We eventually found two manatees. We stopped paddling and sat still, drifting, to observe them in the clear, shallow water. As we drifted, I ended up closer to the larger manatee than I would have liked to be. The sheer size of this gentle animal was a bit intimidating. I was worried for both it and myself that we might have an awkward collision unintentionally. Fortunately, I gradually drifted away and then kept a little more distance.

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Ducks Make a Home on Anna Maria Island

Ducks seem to be in the same category as squirrels on Anna Maria Island: they are not nearly as glamorous as some of the other fauna. They are common all around the United States. But sometimes, after one has marveled at ospreys, egrets or even roseate spoonbills (four of which I saw on the way to Publix market the other day), it’s kind of nice to run into just a plain old duck.

Sadly, that’s exactly what some motorists have been doing in the vicinity of Holmes Beach City Hall, where a family of ducks is known to live. Last I heard, one duck had been hit by a car and killed. Another had just gone missing for awhile. Some people have suggested putting up “duck crossing” signs, and I think that’s a good idea.

Duck and ducklings at Anna Maria Island It’s always a pleasure to look out the window and notice a duck, or two, calmly paddling up or down the canal. One of my most interesting duck sightings was when I was the one who was paddling. While kayaking I passed one of the rare canal frontages that has mangroves instead of a sea wall. Looking under the mangroves, I noticed a small gully. Suddenly, two duck waddled across the gully. I wondered if this were a nesting site for them. It certainly was well protected.

It’s comforting to see a duck swim by, simply because they are so ordinary. Before we moved to Florida, I dreamed of living somewhere with a pond and ducks. Little did I know how much more I would have out my door, but I still appreciate the ducks.

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How to Live Peacefully with the Occasional Snake

Red rat or corn snake

Red rat or corn snake

In my ten years living on Anna Maria Island, I have come across very few snakes. The ones I have seen were not venomous. Yet I know some people in my neighborhood kill every snake they see. This is not necessary and it’s not kind. It also can have unforeseen consequences.

Every creature is a part of a complex system that human life needs to survive. By far the majority of 45 species and 44 subspecies of snake found in Florida are not venomous. And many of them serve useful roles, such as the ones that eat mice and rats. Rather than kill every snake, it makes much more sense to use the numerous guides available in books and on line to identify a snake first. If it’s not dangerous, then the best way to treat it is the same way we treat the lizards, frogs and birds in our yard. Try to appreciate them. They are part of the beautifully rich Florida environment.

There are professionals who relocate unwanted snakes. If you try to relocate a harmless snake yourself, one effective method is to find a large plastic garbage bin with corners and a lid. Lay it on the ground near the snake (don’t get too close yourself) and sweep the snake into the bin. Turn it upright and put the lid on. Remember that large snakes can strike from a distance, and even non-venomous snakes may bite, so be sure to use a broom with a long handle. Carry the bin to a large wild area and release the snake carefully, without handling it.

The southern Black Racer snake is harmless, commonly seen in daylight in or near undergrowth, and avoids people but it is is good for the garden by eating insects, rodents, lizards and moles.

There are only 6 venomous snakes in Florida. It’s worth knowing them in order not to panic when other snakes appear.

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