Monday, March 24, 2008

Woman Hit In Face By Eagle Ray

The last thing one expects when navigating the waters of the Florida Keys is to be hit in the face with a Platypus. Being hit by a Spotted Eagle Ray may make more sense but is still sufficiently weird and tragic that I felt the need to post a link to the story.

I'd like to think we have free reign on the outcome of our lives. I'd hate to think some vengeful entity spins a wheel of doom to decide the ultimate fate for each of us and just past flaming fondue accident, bitten by rabid Pomeranian or choking on a corn hit in the face by a Spotted Eagle Ray. It has to be one of the stupidest ways to die. I feel terribly for both the woman and the ray.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Alligators vs Crocodiles

During a recent tour one of my passengers listened intently to my comparison of Alligators and Crocodiles and then recited the following Ogden Nash poem verbatim. Fun moment and perfect timing.

The Purist
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dead Panther Society

One more Cat has joined the notorious Dead Panther Society. Panthers are on the prowl and that means careless speeders running over the endangered mammal.

The same day the Fort Myers News-Press ran their annual rundown (so to speak) of the natural history of Puma concolor there was a road fatality in North Naples. Panther biologists estimate anywhere from 80-120 of the cats survive in the wild, so every death is tough to bear, but the accident on Sunday night didn't need to end with a dead cat. The couple that first noticed the injured cat called Collier County Sheriffs but 10 minutes later, the injured panther staggered into the road where it was hit again by a motorist who apparently was oblivious to the commotion on the side of the road as well as the speed limit posted there.

15 cats were hit and killed in 2007. Up from 11 in 2006. With never ending development continuing to push further into the swamps that the panthers call home, there is no doubt that fatalities will increase and suitable habitat may be gone within a few decades.

CLICK here for the recent news article.

The map I created below shows locations of fatalities from around the Everglades since 1972. Click on a bulb to get more information about each panther.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Fox Squirrel for Abigail

I once said the people don't appreciate squirrels enough. People run them over. Poison them. Shoot them. People punish them for their appetites around bird feeders. Or ignore them due to their ubiquity.

Several years ago my niece Abigail decided that Uncle Petie REALLY loves squirrels and anytime she shopped with her mother and saw anything with a squirrel on it - it ended up in the shopping basket and eventually in my home. I have a squirrel lamp, squirrel Christmas ornaments, squirrel salt and pepper shakers, squirrel books, cast iron squirrel drawer knobs, squirrel bird baths, a squirrel shirt that says "Protect Your Nuts" and the list goes on. I don't know if I ever really liked squirrels but now by default I must think squirrels are awesome.

On an Everglades trip 2 days ago - I was racing across Tamiami Trail - the first road built across the Everglades - and bringing 12 tourists out to the airboat ride when I saw a small furry woodland creature dart across the road. I yelled "Everglades Mink!" slowed the van and turned back west to get a better look. The woman in the passenger seat said calmly "it looks like a squirrel to me." And I yelled "Mangrove Fox Squirrel! My first one!"
There are three subspecies of Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger) in the Everglades including the rare Big Cypress Fox Squirrel pictured here. (Sometimes referred to as the Mangrove Fox Squirrel and usually shouted into a microphone to tourists.) They're listed on the Florida Threatened mammal list and may soon be on the Federal Endangered Species list. Had I shown less enthusiasm, the group may have thought this just an ordinary black squirrel, but the speed at which I turned the vehicle around on a narrow 2-lane highway in the middle of the world's greatest swamp and the excitement in my voice was obviously infectious as everyone began snapping closeups of the melanistic rodent eating flowers.
The red bloom is that of the Cardinal Bromiliad and the squirrel was peeling back pieces and eating it like an Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion. So cool.

Most of this subspecies of fox squirrels appear much lighter in color, possibly with orange and salt-and pepper colored fur. Habitat loss has limited their numbers and this diurnal species has to be on the lookout for birds of prey as well as eco-tourism vans.
Now when I see a squirrel - be it an Eastern Grey or a Fox Squirrel I can't help but think of my niece Abigail and how her excitement for squirrels has led to my even greater appreciation of them.
Thanks to Ma-Le for taking these photos while I helmed the van.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Langerado Music Festival - Pooping on the Everglades

This weekend, 20,000 people will descend on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation - IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EVERGLADES - to attend the annual Langerado Music Festival. The festival was inspired by the Phish Millennium Concert that attracted 75,000 thoughtless concert goers to the center of the most imperiled wetland in the United States.

Langerado concert promoters have a GREENING link on the official website that presents shallow, benign suggestions that would make the festival seem environmentally friendly. It's not.

"Langerado Music Festival aspires to be as clean and as green as the tropics that surround Big Cypress." Huh?

"Looking at the pristine land that hosts Langerado with the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon, this is naturally the only choice." Maybe I'm splitting hairs but the Atlantic is 50 miles away. And choose Arkansas.

"Langerado chooses to promote what is best for the preservation of the environment just like we choose to promote the finest and freshest musicians." The best for the environment would be to hold this at a stadium. Not in the middle of a wetland. And the Beastie Boys and R.E.M. may by good bands, but they ain't fresh.

They say they promote sustainability and they will attract 20,000+ people to the middle of the state! No amount of car pooling will offset that waste.

They are offering "Park City Icewater - Water the Way Nature Intended it" which apparently comes from a melted glacier over a mile underground in Utah. What the hell are they talking about? They shipped thousands of gallons of water across the country in unrecycleable plastic packages to promote eco-friendly practices in a place where salt water is intruding upon the landscape from rising sea levels and fresh water supplies have been depleted from the aquifers? Good thinking!

They are also building the Greenerado Sustainability Village where concert goers can learn about how they are presently destroying the environment. THIS VERY MINUTE!

One of their goals is to increase the amount of recycling. Last year they recycled 15,000 pounds. This year they want to recycle more. How about using less?

They claim this is a "Leave No Trace" event. Carry in what you carry out. Unless they don't poop for three days -this thing could get awful messy.

One of the downsides to the "green" movement is that people will use the principles of greening more for promotional advantages than for genuine care for the environment. This is called greenwashing. We can only hope that this crowd, like crowds at most festivals will save water by not actually washing.

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