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Wildlife

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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Wildlife

Watching Out for Sea Turtles on Anna Maria Island

Sea Turtle nest staked for protection and observation by Turtle Watch on Anna Maria Island
Sea Turtle nest staked for protection and observation by Turtle Watch on Anna Maria Island

Watching out for sea turtles does not mean actually watching sea turtles. In fact, the fewer encounters these ancient creatures have with humans, the better. The dedicated volunteers of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch understand this. Even the volunteers who walk the beaches before dawn are not likely to see a mature sea turtle. And if they happen to spot one, they give her plenty of room to lay her eggs, cover them and lumber back to the water. Usually, the only thing the dawn patroller finds is turtle tracks, indicating that a nest may have been created in the middle of the night. A supervisor is contacted to determine whether this is indeed the case, and to place stakes and a ribbon around the location to protect it for the two months it takes for the eggs to hatch.

The dedicated volunteers of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch will meet on April 23 to organize and train themselves for the upcoming sea turtle season, which officially runs from May 1 through October. Director Suzi Fox will welcome back the “walkers” from past years, inform them of any new things they need to do this year, and she’ll also present images and information to new people who want to join. Individuals sign up for one day a week, and for one particular section of the beach. It is then their responsibility to walk that section on that day, looking for turtle tracks, and phoning the section supervisor to report anything found, by 7:30 at the latest.

If there is anything of interest, the supervisor then goes to the site, and determines whether a nest was made. If so, a great deal of data is recorded and the nest is marked. Toward the end of the season, the focus will be more on discovering whether the nests have hatched, and whether the hatchlings have made it to the sea. Again, this takes place at night and is rarely seen. It is the tiny tracks, often as many as 100 from a single nest, that reveal the good news that 100 new sea turtles have been born. It is sobering to note that only one out of a thousand will survive to adulthood. They will be preyed upon by a wide range of animals, starting with the crabs and birds on the beach.

Categories
Wildlife

Wildlife Rescue on Anna Maria

Wildlife Inc. can be reached at 941-778-6324

Wildlife rescue is a whole incredible world of its own on Anna Maria Island. While locals and visitors go about their business every day, several dedicated and generous people devote their time to saving the unfortunate wild animals that encounter problems in bad weather, or when they interact with the plastics, fishing line and hooks that people carelessly leave about.

One of the most amazing booths at recent art fairs on Anna Maria Island has been that of Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, Inc. What is amazing is WHO works the booth: owls. There are some good people there, too. But the owl ambassadors who sit all day on their perches are always extremely inspiring to see. They are beautiful creatures, and it’s sometimes hard to believe they are real. It’s also hard to believe that our environment still supports them. This is a treasure for all who live and visit Anna Maria Island, and nobody works harder to protect this treasure of wildlife than Ed and Gail Straight, Beth Weir, and others who volunteer at Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation, Inc.

Heron rescued from entangled fish line From time to time, during the last ten years on Anna Maria Island, I have contacted wildlife rescue people to come help injured birds in our neighborhood. It seems there is no job too big or too small for them. They have even come to help a tiny warbler that flew into our window. On that particular day, I remember seeing two baby foxes in the wildlife rescuer’s truck.

Categories
Wildlife

Brown Pelicans of Anna Maria Florida

The longer I live on Anna Maria, the more I appreciate the brown pelicans that live here year-round. At first glance, they seem so much less beautiful than their large white cousins who migrate here in winter and therefore are less “common.” But there are some very special things about the brown pelican and we are lucky to have them in Florida and on the island. I believe they are very sensitive to environmental degradation, so their presence is not only a joy, but also a reassuring sign.

Brown pelican

Brown pelicans have a wing span of about 84 inches, compared to the 108 inch wingspan of the American White Pelican. One of the most surprising things to witness is a brown pelican feeding by diving from the air. There is a big splash, as the bill enters the water to catch a fish and the body of the bird continues a little farther so the bird lands, twisting over its bill, so it ends up facing the opposite direction from that in which it was going. If one looks at it at this point, it’s often difficult to figure out what one is looking at. The head may still be down in the water and body still twisted. The impression is simply that something very large is partly submerged and partly visible. It often takes me awhile to realize it’s just a brown pelican fishing.