Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Unlucky #13

I've been gone for a few days as I have been driving the east coast tour out of Fort Lauderdale while our new guide was away.

Since my last post, Florida Panther #9, 10, 11, 12 & 13 were all struck and killed by vehicles in SW Florida. There are now no more than 90. The most ever killed by vehicles in one year was 11 in 2006. With all of the development, I feel there is no hope for them.

The UN just delisted the Everglades as an Endangered World Heritage site, claiming the threat of development does not put the ecosystem at risk any longer. This is the equivalent of giving George Bush the Nobel Peace Prize. There is not a shred of evidence that the Everglades is at any less of a risk than it was when it was listed. Hard to imagine how they came to that conclusion.

I may seem cranky. I have my reasons which I will explain here soon enough. It's hot. Fort Myers set a record on Monday when the thermometer hit 98 degrees. I've never experienced a 100 degree day in Florida. (Oddly I've experienced 4 in Vermont.)

It hasn't rained much either.

By the time this is posted, I will have awoken at 4:45 am and driven across the Everglades to guide on the east coast (on Thursday 6/28). I'll watch for panthers and pray for rain.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chicken Protein Shakes and Snake Wraps

When you're an endangered reptile in captivity, hunger strikes are not acceptable. Indigo Snakes are endangered not only due to loss of habitat (dry, pine and palmetto forests) but because they are so docile in temperament and incredibly beautiful that people illegally remove them from the wild and sell them as pets. The male Indigos shimmer with crimson and obsidian iridescence as if created by a glass blower. The females lack the red but are equally gorgeous. This one was removed from a Gopher Tortoise's burrow (a typical place they cohabitate) by an ignorant farmer and became too sick to be returned to the wild. But after several months it still has not eaten and it was time for us to step in and force feed him.

The snake is nearly 6 feet long. To get the tube far enough down into the stomach, I would have to hold the snake and prevent him from straighting out.

The tube must go down the esophagus. Food or air into the lungs would kill the snake.

The food is a delicious blend of pureed chicken and eggs, which is fairly close to what they would eat in the wild and in truth is remarkably foul smelling.

Once the stomach is full, the snake must be relaxed and held upright to allow gravity and a little massaging to help the food stay down.

Snakes feel more comfortable when they are draped or wrapped around something. (normally a tree!!) In this case, the Indigo coiled up into my shorts and than came back down the other leg and wrapped around. That should give you an idea of how long the snake is. And how comfortable I was. It really didn't bother me until the snake decided to uncoil by backing out of my shorts. I wanted no part of that and we enticed him to come back out the way he went in.

Really....what can I say for this one?

This should keep the Indigo healthy for many weeks to come, but hopefully he'll learn to eat on his own again.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Showing a Little Leg

A few weeks ago I mentioned the Black-necked Stilts had returned to Lake Trafford where we take our airboat ride. They've nested and one of the benefits of the drought is the lack of water prevents their nests from being flooded. That means baby Stilts!

And they are cute. Look at those little legs!

A Red-shouldered Hawk flew in as we sat and watched. Mom and Dad Stilt squawked back and forth in alarm. One of our riders said "I hope nothing happens while we sit here!". It was fine if the chick was eaten after we left.

Alligators everywhere on the lake but they stay away from the Stilt nests for some reason. Baby chicks apparently are high in cholesterol.

GECKO Update - "Progressive" the aggressive Gecko that first greeted me upon arriving here in Florida has passed away from excessive digestion by a local feline after he inadvertently stumbled into the apartment.

TSO Update - My shaved cat Tso regurgitated what is apparently a half eaten Gecko. The Gecko was a non-native species.

FLORIDA PANTHER Update - The 10th Florida Panther was killed on State Road 29 near Copeland Florida on Monday. I drive through this area every time I go on a tour. Several dozen cats have been killed here in the last few decades despite the wildlife underpasses and fencing. 10 cat fatalities would be roughly 10% of the total Florida Panther population.

Other News - I was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Society for Ethical Eco-Tourism. I'm actually excited to be part of this group as we hope to continue to promote legitimate eco-tourism and help it become the standard for all eco-tourism.

If that last bit of news shows an iota of depth in maturity I'll finish up here by announcing I still find the word Uranus funny in any context. The Calusa Nature Center Planetarium goes out of their way to remind people that the planet is pronounced "Urine-is" and not "Yur-anus".

Don't forget you can leave comments by clicking the "comment" link below.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Come See the Albino Raccoon!

My mom used to say "you're only disappointed by your expectations". I'm annoyed by my expectations. It's 2007. Where are the flying cars?
When you build things up in your mind you generate a potential experience. The longer you go without the actual experience, the more elaborate the mental imagery. This is dangerous in that the disappointment can be so great as to scar you for long after the actual experience. You might think I'm referring to Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At Wits End, but I'm not.

The Calusa Nature Center is a 100+ acre nature preserve with a fantastic Planetarium, great cypress swamp nature trails and interpretive displays of reptiles, mammals, birds and insects of southern Florida.

Years ago, the Nature Center was a remote destination with little in the way of development around it. Today the area has been enveloped by Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Chik-filet and BPs. While the nature center has retained Independence and still sits in stark contrast to the corporate environmental takeover, they have acquiesced to one form of consumer attraction, the flashing digital sign. In fairness, the local church has done the same but either way it seems odd to see "To greed, all nature is insufficient" in flashing red lights at the church and this outside the nature center.

I drive past this sign once a week and it tempts with promises of venomous snakes and other novelties, but it's the ALBINO RACCOON that sparks the imagination.

Of course in retrospect I can't remember for the life of me what I expected before we actually went, but it was certainly more than a ghostly, maskless raccoon pacing in a tiny dilapidated cage.

I feel less disappointment and in truth more shame as if I had just paid to see the "Lobster Boy" or "Bat Boy" etc. This poor creature would certainly not last more than a few days in the wild without pigmented fur, but captivity might be worse. Who's to say.

This blog entry isn't ending well. Hmm. Well what did you expect?