The state of Florida and South Florida Water Management District has begun a Burmese Python Elimination Program. The Burmese Python Snake is a reptile that came to Florida from S.E. Asia from the pet import business that thrives in Miami and South Florida. It became a threat to the people of S. Florida and native animal species in the Everglades after they were released by pet owners and the release of snakes after the damage that was done by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Burmese Python Snakes can grow to over 20 feet in length and up to two hundred pounds during their lifetime. Females can lay 100 eggs at a time. The main problem with these snakes is they have no known predators and they can eat and devour animals as big as deer and alligators. They have been decimating the small bird and mammal population in South Florida which makes it harder for other mammals and carnivores such as the Florida Panther to find enough food to feed themselves.
The recent program started by The SFWMD to eliminate the Burmese Python is to pay hunters $50 for each Python they catch up to four feet in length and an additional $25 for each ft over 4 ft. An eight foot Python would bring a hunter $150 in bounty. An additional $100 reward would be paid to a hunter who catches a female guarding a nest of eggs. The program has resulted in over 53 snakes caught and eliminated since the pilot program began this year. To learn more about the Burmese Python, visit the National Park Service website. The pictures shown above are courtesy of the South Florida Water Management District. Click on the pictures for larger images.
I came across this Gopher Tortoise while riding my bicycle on Sanibel Island along the Sanibel-Captiva Rd. The Gopher Tortoise was slowly crawling along a grassy area and eating grass. This reptile is a land dwelling animal and lives in a burrow that it digs for itself with its’ strong claws.
The burrow that it digs averages 6.5 feet deep and 15 feet long. The burrow provides refuge or habitat for up to 350 other species. The Gopher Tortoise is called a keystone species for this reason because of its importance for helping to insure the survival of other species in its ecosystem. The animals that typically live in the Gopher’s burrow include burrowing owls, rattlesnakes, crickets and many others.
The habitats that this reptile lives in include dry uplands, sandhills, pine flatwoods, scrub, dry prairies, xeric hammocks, pine mixed hardwoods and coastal dunes. They depend on natural fires to burn away the brush, dead leaves and shrubs so that new plants and grasses can grow. The Gopher Tortoise has been around for a long time and its estimated to date back 60 milliion years. The Gopher Tortoises’ life time averages 40-60- years.
The Gopher Tortoise itself is as a threatened species in Florida and is protected by the laws of the state against poaching or hunting. No land clearing or development can take place in an area where a tortoise lives unless it is relocated to a similar environment and permits are issued for its relocation. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has additional information about this animal. http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/gopher-tortoise/
Click on the pictures above for larger images.
Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei)
The Brown Anole is an invasive species, native to Cuba and they are killing off the Green Anoles because they are more aggressive. Brown Anoles are more common to see around the yard and crawling on buildings. They will feed on just about anything including insects, mealworms, Green Anoles and small fish when they are near water. They have the same sticky pads for feet which allow them to walk or climb on any surface. Many of the invasive species that have taken over our ecosystems and habitats were brought in by pet owners from other countries which is illegal. When they get too big they are released into the wild and sometimes overwhelm the native population of related animals. Keep them out of your garage, lanai or house for the same reasons I mentioned before. They can leave foul smelling droppings which are unpleasant to clean up.
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Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
The Green Anole or that familiar lizard that we see running around our yards and on our houses are often referred to as the American Chameleon. They can change color to disguise themselves. They are native to Florida unlike the Brown Anole which is from Cuba. Their natural habitats are in warm and moist environments. They can attach themselves and run across just about anything because of the adhesive pads on their feet or (lamellae). The male can be distinguished from the female by the pinkish/reddish fan like flap of skin that is displayed below it’s neck. This display of it’s patch of skin is used to court females and to warn other males to stay away from it’s territory. Green Anoles eat insects and bugs. Their predators include birds, cats, snakes and people. It is not wise to keep them as pets. I like seeing them in the wild but not in my house or lanai because they leave their foul smelling droppings all over the place and you eventually see them shriveled up dead and have to remove and clean your rugs and floors.
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Gopher Tortoise at Bunche Beach in Ft. Myers
Gopher Tortoise at Bunche Beach in Ft. Myers, Fla
Gopher Tortoise – (Gopherus polyphemus) is a cold blooded reptile that can live up to 40-60 years. It digs deep burrows in sandy soils for shelter which also provides home for up to 350 other species of animals and insects. Mice, snakes, opossums, rabbits, frogs and crickets are just a few of the other species that share the tortoises burrow. It is called a Keystone Species because there are so many other animals that depend on the tortoise for its survival. I saw this tortoise on a sandy dune on Bunche Beach but it can also be found further inland and upland areas including forests, pastures and yards. The tortoise feeds on vegetation including different kinds of grasses, blackberries and fruits that grow on shrubs. It has very strong legs and a hard outer shell which protects it from predators. The website of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission contains some additional information about the Gopher Tortoise.
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