Everglades Mammals Profile: The Least Shrew

least shrewWhat’s a shrew? A shrew is a small mouse-like mammal with a long, pointed snout and tiny eyes. The Everglades happens to be home to a few different families of shrews. For this article, we wanted to focus on sharing some facts about the North American Least Shrew.

  • This shrew is one of the smallest mammals, growing up to only 3 inches in length.
  • It has dense, grayish-brown (or reddish-brown) fur with a white stomach.
  • Its fur is lighter in the summer and darker in the winter.
  • It is a member of the Soricomorpha family.
  • Its ears are completely hidden by its fur.
  • This shrew has very small eyes.
  • Although mostly active at night, this shrew is active all day long, as well.
  • This shrew digs through loose soil and leaf litter to find food.
  • It hunts its prey by smell and touch.
  • This shrew feeds on caterpillars, beetle larvae, earthworms, centipedes, slugs, and sow bugs.
  • It will sometimes eat fruit or seeds.
  • They often share their food with other shrews, and can eat more than its body weight each day.
  • You can find this shrew in burrows or shallow runways under flat stones or logs.
  • The least shrew is a social creature.
  • This shrew’s breeding season is from March to November.
  • A shrew usually only lives for about a year.
  • Along with the Everglades, you can find the least shrew in Canada and Mexico and throughout much of the eastern United States.
  • Owls, foxes, raccoons, hawks, skunks, and snakes eat shrews.
  • To defend itself, the least shrew has a venomous saliva. It will aim for its enemy’s legs and try to cripple it.
  • This shrew is only considered dangerous in the state of Connecticut, due to coastal habitat development.

The Everglades is full of mammals for you to catch a glimpse! Come explore the Everglades on an airboat ride with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours bring you around the Everglades in a way you can’t experience by foot. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Everglades Animal Profile: Seminole Bat

seminole bateThe Everglades is full of creatures including the Seminole bat. This bat is considered to be a “medium” -sized bat weighing in at only 8 to 15 grams with an 11 to 13-inch wingspan. This bat is a deep mahogany in color that is frosted at the tips. Males and females are similar in color. This bat has fur from the tip of its tail to its arms and wrists and shoulders.

These bats are considered their own distinct species (Lasiurus seminolus) in the family Vespertilionidae.

In the springtime, the female Seminole bats give birth to usually one baby bat (pup), which means they mate in late fall or early winter. These baby bats stay close to their mother and begin to fly about 3 to 6 weeks after they’re born. After 2 to 3 months after birth, the baby bats can fly and search for food on their own.

Seminole bats are commonly found in pine trees, oak trees, hickory trees, and Spanish moss; they prefer to live in forests. They have also been spotted in lowland cypress stands, river swamps, islands and prairie edges. They can be spotted in the early evening when the temperatures are about 70 degrees. Not only is this bat found in the Everglades, it can be found in many regions of the United States, including: Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

These bats like to eat flies, beetles, bees, ants, wasps, moths, and leafhoppers. They eat primarily insects.

These bats do not hibernate or undergo large migrations.

These bats have been found by professional moss gatherers inside clumps of Spanish moss. It is believed that moss gathering may threaten these bats (because it’s their habitat), but there has been no studies done on this, as of yet.

If you’re a fan of bats, you’ll want to visit the Everglades closer to the evening to spot them. If you don’t like bats, there are plenty of other animals and birds for you to spot on a trip through the Everglades. Come explore the Everglades by airboat on a ride with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 Photo courtesy: http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu

The Pros of Riding in an Airboat

airboatCaptain Mitch has been zipping through the Everglades on an airboat since he was a little tike. He followed in his family’s footsteps and began his own airboat touring company more than 30 years ago. As most people know, airboats are pretty iconic in the Everglades. Airboats are great way to travel in the Park that allow guests access to areas that are not accessible by foot.

For this article, we wanted to share with you the many benefits/pros of airboats in the Everglades.

  • Airboats are considered safe for riders, wildlife, and plant life.
  • Airboats don’t redirect natural water currents or alter surface hydrology as much as regular boats.
  • Airboats, unlike regular boats, don’t cause soil and organic particles in the water to rise up and affect plants, fish, and other wildlife in the water.
  • An airboat can go anywhere, whether its shallow or deeper waters.
  • Airboats do not have any moving parts under the water, which makes it safer in the water for fish and plants nearby.
  • If there is a collision with plants or animals, an airboat will cause far less damage than an average boat because it does not have a propeller.
  • Airboats are stable, so you can move without risking the vessel tipping over.
  • On an airboat, you get a great view of your surroundings because of the raised seating.
  • Airboats go fast, which is great if you end up in an area you shouldn’t be in by mistake.
  • Airboats can easily handle dense vegetation, sandbanks, dam walls, floating grass islands, and rocks in the water.
  • An airboat is easy to launch. In fact, only one person is needed to get the trip started.
  • An airboat doesn’t need a slip or ramp to be launched into the water.

Come explore the Everglades safely in an airboat. It’s a truly unique experience. For many, it’s an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

Everglades Species Profile: Eastern Indigo Snake

eastern indigo snakeAlthough the Burmese python is an invasive species threatening the Everglades, the wetland does have several native snakes that DO belong in this habitat. One such snake is the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). This snake is federally threatened.

Eastern indigo snakes are large, black, non-venomous snakes found in the Everglades and other areas in the southeastern United States. It ranges in size from 60 to 84 inches. Sometimes, these snakes will have a little bit of red coloring in their chin, throat, and cheek areas. Like most snakes, they eat fish, frogs, toads, other snakes, lizards, turtles, turtle eggs, small alligators, birds, and small mammals. Young eastern indigo snakes opt to eat invertebrates.

In the Everglades, this species of snake is not found in large numbers. They like to be in flatwoods, pine rocklands, dry prairies, tropical hardwood hammocks, costal dunes, edges of freshwater marshes, agricultural fields, and habitats altered by humans.

The reason this snake is a threatened species is due to a population decline by people domestically and internationally collecting and selling this snake in the pet trade. Also, the snake has been dying off due to rattlesnake collectors who gassed gopher tortoise burrows to collect snakes; however, collecting has declined due to law enforcement.  Overall, habitat loss has become one of the snakes biggest threats. With more human development, the mortality rate of this snake increases, because people or domesticated animals are killing the snake, along with it being killed on roads. Pesticides, in areas that humans have developed, have been known to harm this snake, as well.

This snake is active during the day; they prefer wetter areas in the summer and drier areas in the winter.

When threatened, the eastern indigo snake have been known to flatten their heads, hiss, and rattle their tails. However, they are not known to be biters.

It is believed any additional threats to this snake will cause it to begin to disappear from certain areas. It’s predicted that there will be many isolated, small groups of the eastern indigo snake, which will make it hard for this snake to reproduce and grow into bigger populations.

Since the Everglades is preserved land and is continued to be a restored environment, the eastern indigo snake has a safer habitat to thrive in.

Want to try and spot the threatened snake on your next trip to the Everglades? You might be able to see one while aboard an airboat. Airboats brings you around areas of the Everglades that you cannot get to by foot. Join Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours for a fun time. To book a airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

Burmese Pythons Causing More Problems in the Everglades

pythonsAt this point, pythons are notoriously known to be bad news for the Everglades. They are an invasive species as they deplete mammal populations. Each year, pythons hunts are held to reduce the number of this species in the Everglades to try and help bring balance back to the ecosystem of the Everglades. Now, researchers are saying the Burmese pythons are eating/killing so many animals in the Everglades that mosquitos are starting to bite the hispid cotton rat that carries a virus that is dangerous to humans.

This rat carries the Everglades virus, which is an encephalitis-causing pathogen.

The hispid cotton rat’s virus can give a person a fever, headache, and encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain (in rare cases). A University of Florida research Nathan Burkett-Cadena said mosquitos are now biting this rat more than any other mammal living in the Everglades. The hispid cotton rats multiply fast, and since the Burmese python is depleting other mammals, the rat has become a main source of blood for the mosquitos to feast on.

In the past, mosquitos could frequently bite deer, rabbits, racoons, and other mammals, but their numbers are shrinking in the Everglades. There is a specific mosquito that is biting the rats; it’s called the Culex cedecei. Thankfully, this mosquito doesn’t go into urban areas, so it’s rare that humans will contract this virus. However, the Culex panocosa mosquito does go into cities, but has yet to bite the cotton rats. The University of Florida research team is keeping an eye on the mosquitos to see what is happening with these mosquitos and rats.

When visiting the Everglades, it’s always extremely important to cover up (long pants, long sleeves) or wear insect repellant. Even if there is no virus present, the Everglades is a living ecosystem where thousands of insects thrive, so it makes sense to protect oneself to keep bugs from biting.

The answer to restoring the wildlife and mosquito-biting balance in the Everglades lies in the reduction/eradication of the pythons. To get a permit to hunt for pythons, click here.

To explore the beautiful Everglades, click here or call 800-368-0065. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours show you the Everglades like you will never see it in any other way!

Everglades Species Profile: Green Anole

green anoleCrawling all over the Everglades’ trees and floors are reptiles. More than 50 distinct kinds of reptiles live in the Park. The Park’s most well-known reptiles are, of course, the American alligator and the American crocodile, but there’s plenty of other scaly creatures running around, including the very tiny green anole (anolis carolinensis).

The green anole is native to Florida. In fact, this anole is the only native anole in the United States. The anole is found in warm, humid climate, so mostly in southeast United States. This tiny lizard can change from brown to green as it blends and camouflages to its surroundings. They can change colors in mere seconds. They are known to change colors when under stress, also. They have a red throat pouch, as well. When the male anoles, lift their heads and make their red pouches protrude, they are either attracting a mate or marking their territory to other male anoles.

These green anoles only grow to a maximum length of 8 inches. Both male and females have oversized toes for traction; they have adhesive toe paid and claws, which also make climbing easy. They have a long snout, slender body,  and have a lightly patterned coloration on their backs and tails.  They are known to aggressively defend their territories.

Their mating season is between April and July. The females can lay one egg each week throughout the four month mating season. It takes the eggs 35-40 days to hatch.  Baby anoles have to defend themselves, after hatching. The green anoles eat insects, spiders, and moths; they swallow their prey whole.  The anole’s lifespan is around 5 years.

Green anoles can be found on trees and all habitats around the Everglades. They are also a common house pet.

Green anoles have been studied a lot to help with scientific research to help understand other behaviors in animals, as well as neurological disorders and drug delivery systems and biochemical pathways in regard to human illnesses.

Want to spot a green anole in the wild? You may get your chance on an Everglades airboat tour. Come out today and experience the magic of the Everglades with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Photo courtesy: wikimedia

AIRIE NEST: Check Out Some Art in Everglades

airie nestAnimals. Insects. Reptiles. Amphibians. Plants. Water. Airboats. These are a list of things that you may easily see on your trip to the Everglades. However, did you know you can also see artwork in the middle of this beautiful wetland? It’s true.

On a visit to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in the Everglades, you can have the chance to see AIRIE NEST, which is an interdisciplinary art gallery put on display by AIRIE, Inc (Artists in Residence in Everglades).  The space recently had renovations completed through a Knights Arts Challenge grant; there are large picture windows, polished concrete floors, and new white walls surrounding the art.

This exhibit features visual art, performing art, art-science driven collaboration, artwork from the AIRIE permanent collection, as well as educational workshops. The mission of this exhibit is to “educate, enhance and enrich the visitor’s understanding and experience of Everglades National Park through quality Everglades’ specific exhibits; foster a unique opportunity for the future generations of Park stewards to learn about the Everglades.”

Until January 15, the exhibit “About Florida Bay” will be up for viewing. This exhibit is artists’ response to the ecological changes that have altered the ecosystem of Florida Bay. Water was rerouted, to support agricultural needs in the state, so the water no longer flows into the Bay, which has severely changed the ecosystem and wildlife. Nine artists came together to create work for this exhibit; the goal of their work was to capture the historical significance of this area, while also raising concerns about the future of this place due to current environmental dilemmas.

The artists featured include:  Houston Cypress, Mark Dion, Valerie George, Nick Gilmore, Jason Hedges, Valerie LeBlanc, Daniel H. Dugas, Nathaniel Sandler, and Magnus Sodamin. Deborah Mitchell, artist and Executive Director, AIRIE, Inc. About Florida Bay, is curating the exhibit.

On December 17, there is a Sundays in the Park artists talk and piano recital from 1 to 3 p.m.
AIRIE Nest Gallery is located at Everglades National Park’s Coe Visitor Center, 40001 State Hwy 9336, Homestead, FL. The gallery is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, free of charge.

Before or after visiting this wonderful exhibit, explore the Everglades by airboat on a ride with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Photo Courtesy: NPS

Facts about Lubber Grasshoppers

grasshoppersWhen you think of wildlife in the Everglades, what comes to mind? Alligators? Panthers? Majestic birds? How about insects? Well, they should, because there’s thousands of them flying and crawling around this ecosystem. One such insect that calls the Everglades home is the lubber grasshopper.

Lubber grasshoppers are one of the largest grasshoppers, so they can be easy to spot while walking on a trail in the Everglades. They are also slow moving, which also makes it easy for you to catch a glimpse of them. They can grow up to four inches in size.

This type of grasshopper is brightly colored and patterned. They are bright orange, yellow, and red. They have wings, but they are flightless. They can, however, jump short distances. Because of their bright colors, they cannot camouflage themselves well into the green scenery of the Everglades, but their bright colors can be used as a warning to animals not to eat them because of toxicity. In fact, many small mammals and birds can and have become sick from ingesting this grasshopper and learn to not try and taste it again. Because they are toxic, this grasshopper really has no need to move fast.

If this grasshopper feels threatened or is picked up, it will make a loud hissing noise and secrete a foul-smelling foaming spray to irritate its predator.

Lubber grasshoppers eat broadleaf plants, and are known to be a garden pest.They can be found in grasslands or oak woods. They eat leaves of citrus plants, vegetables and ornamental plants. They are known to be a problem when they swarm residential areas and destroy (by eating) plants in gardens. Unfortunately, these grasshoppers aren’t really affected by most insecticides, so the best ways to get rid of them is to hand pick them off plants, stamp on them, or drown them in soapy water.

There are different types of lubbers including: Eastern lubbers, horse lubbers, flightless plain lubbers, and southeastern lubbers. Each type has different jumping abilities and vary a bit in coloring and size.

During breeding season, lubbers lay around 25 to 50 eggs. These eggs are underground during the winter and hatch between March and June. After they hatch, the young grasshoppers will molt their exoskeletons five times every 2 weeks before becoming an adult.

Want to spot this creature on a ride through the Everglades? Explore regions of the Everglades you haven’t seen before on a ride with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. Click here or call 800-368-0065 to book a trip today.

 

Everglades Bird Spotlight: the Limpkin

everglades airboat tourAt certain times of the year, the Everglades can look like a scene out of Alfred Hitchock’s The Birds. Thousands of birds flock down to this warm climate to spend the winter and breed. For this article, we wanted to spotlight one species of bird that can be found in the Everglades: the Limpkin. This bird can actually be found in the Everglades year-round.

Limpkins are notoriously known to be noisy. In fact, you may have a better chance of hearing a limpkin than seeing one. Limpkins begin to make sounds at dusk and continue all through the night until dawn. Their cries aren’t sweet, usually they are loud screams, which are unmistakable.

This bird is related to rails and cranes. It’s a brown bird with white spots and streaks along its body. They have long necks, legs, and bills. Their long bills help them easily remove apple snails from their shells; apple snails are the main food source of the limpkin. Their bills, when closed, have a gap at the end that acts like tweezers. You can usually find the limpkin around areas where apple snails are abundant, but if apple snails are not easily found, the limpkin will eat other types of snails, freshwater mussels, insects, frogs, crustaceans, lizards, and worms.

You can find limpkins mainly around shallow bodies of water; they are a slow-moving bird with a high-stepping gait. The “limp” in limpkin comes from this gait that often gives off the appearance that the bird is limping even though it is not.

Limpkins stick with their own kind and do not mix in with other wading birds.

While nesting in the Everglades or other parts of Florida, they build their nests on top of floating vegetation, as well as high tree limbs. They can lay 3 to 8 eggs at a time. Florida is actually as far north as this bird goes. Limpkins can be found throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Limpkins range from 25-28 inches in height with a wingspan of 39 to 42 inches in width.

Limpkins are not endangered or under watch, but at one point, their numbers were dwindling in Florida due to human development.

Want to have the chance to see (but most likely hear) this bird up close? Come out on an airboat tour to glide around the limpkin’s habitat. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours are a great way to explore all the ins and outs of this wetland. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

New Everglades Corridor Markers, Signage

signageThe Everglades is a living, breathing ecosystem, and as you may remember from previous blog posts or news stories, there is restoration work and improvements always happening in this wetland to make the park a better place while returning it back to its natural state.

The Everglades is also a popular place for anglers to catch fish. Just like anywhere else in Florida, there are special fishing regulations; however, with so many endangered species in the Everglades, it’s essential that people pay attention to the boating and fishing rules, regulations, and signage.

For this article, we wanted to share that there will be new access corridor markers and signs at Florida Bay. All corridors have been marked, with just a few minor adjustments pending. Here are the details of the signage:

  • On-plane: Dave Foy, Dump Keys (south of existing channel), Madeira Bay, Terrapin Bay, Roscoe Key, North Jimmy, Bob Allen Pass, Coon Key Pass, Crab Lake, Peterson Keys, Buchanan Keys
  • Idle-speed: Snake Bight East (off Snake Bight Channel), Porpoise Point, Garfield Bight, Rankin Bight, Santini Bight West, Santini Bight East, Terrapin Bay West (off Terrapin Bay corridor), Samphire Key, Brush Key, Twisty Mile, Little Blackwater, Little Buttonwood, Cluett Key, Topsy Key, Sid Key, Tarpon Basin/Marker 42 Creek
  • Slow-speed: Nine-mile Bank North, Nine-mile Bank South
  • On-plane and idle-speed: Frank Key (north segment on-plane, south segment idle-speed), Palm Key (from west end of Tin Can Channel on-plane, near island and to center of Tin Can Channel idle-speed)

Funding for this new signage was through the National Park Service and donations to the South Florida National Parks Trust from Yamaha and the American Sportsfishing Association. The signage was put up with the help from a contractor. These new signs were put in place to help protect the park’s marine areas, while still allowing people to enjoy their time in the park fishing.

For boaters and those interested, you can view the Florida Bay map book.

Looking to get around the Everglades on a different kind of boat? How about an airboat? Zip through the waters of this majestic place on a ride with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.