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!

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

Fishing for Spotted Sea Trout in the Everglades

sea troutLove to fish? The Everglades is a great spot to do it, since one-third of this place is covered by water! Throughout the park, there are many acres of shallow water flats, mangrove keys, and channels that make great spots to fish! However, fishing from the shore is limited. In the state of Florida, there are specific freshwater and saltwater licenses and regulations to follow. For important fishing information, click here.

One type of fish that is plentiful in the waters of the Everglades is the spotted sea trout. For this article, we wanted to share with you some basic information on this fish that makes the Everglades, amongst other places, its home. Also, it is a pretty tasty fish for you to bring home and cook up!

Sea trout, also known as Cynoscion nebulosus, can be found inshore and in deep waters up to 33 feet deep. They are dark gray or green on the top part of their bodies with blue/white/silver colorings underneath. They have black spots on their back, dorsal fin, and tail, but have no scales on their soft dorsal fin. Sea trout have one to two prominent canine teeth at the front of their upper jaw.

They feed on shrimp, crabs, mullet, pinfish, and baitfish. Their spawning season is between March and November. They swim in small schools and don’t stray too far from the estuaries that they were born in.

If you’re looking to catch a sea trout and you do, it’s important to return them to the water immediately if you don’t plan on keeping them to bring home. They are a delicate fish and can be easily harmed. The biggest sea trout ever caught in Florida was 17 pounds, 7 ounces and it was caught in Ft. Pierce. On average, most sea trout an angler will come across will weigh around 4 pounds but they can easily get up to 15 pounds in weight.

Like stated above, there are specific regulations when it comes to catching different species of fish in Florida’s state waters. With sea trout, you can catch them and keep them if they are between 15 and 20 inches in length; the daily bag limit of sea trout in Florida waters is 4 fish per angler. In Florida, spotted sea trout fishing is permitted throughout the entire year. Fishing for sea trout is legal, if they are caught with a hook and line or a cast net.

If fishing isn’t your thing, but you like being on a water, then an airboat ride may be the right kind of trip for you in the Everglades. Captain Mitch’s Airboat tours brings guests all over the Everglades for spectacular views as you make fun memories. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

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.

 

Spooky stories: Mystery in South Florida

floridaHalloween is right around the corner, and the Everglades region has plenty of spooky stories of its own. Here are just a few!

–The Ghost Ship of the Everglades has been haunting Florida’s south coast since the days of pirating marauders — its phantom crew cursed to sail the seas for all eternity, after giving chase to a merchant ship and getting lost in the twisting channels of the Everglades’ swamplands. The story has been told in one form or another for hundreds of years.

–The story of Edgar Watson is a strange one: No one knew where he came from, but he built a cabin in the Everglades over 100 years ago and largely kept to himself, until a fisherman found the gutted body of a woman floating in the Chatham River. Authorities eventually found dozens of human bodies buried on Edgar Watson’s farm, and a former farmhand reported seeing him take lives ritualistically. The property is thought to be haunted to this day.

–It’s not clear what happened to the Calusa, an ancient tribe of Native Americans that resisted incursion by the Spanish and fatally injured explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521. The Calusa practiced human sacrifice and believed their leaders had supernatural powers. The mass remains of their civilization were found hundreds of years later in the form of human skulls. Piles of them!

–Numerous planes have disappeared in the Everglades over the years, never to be seen again. In December 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was headed to Miami from New York, but due to an electronic failure and pilot error, it crashed in the Everglades, killing 96 of 163 people onboard. Paranormal events were soon experienced on other Eastern Air Lines planes that used parts cannibalized from the wreckage of Flight 401. The odd occurrences were documented in the 1976 book “The Ghost of Flight 401,” and the airline eventually replaced all of the parts salvaged from the doomed flight.

In May 1996, a fire broke out on ValuJet Flight 592 shortly after takeoff from Miami. The plane plunged into the alligator-infested water and very little of it was ever found; all 105 passengers were killed. Some consider it to be one of the most baffling airplane mysteries in modern aviation history.

No one knows the Everglades like Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours in Everglades City, Florida. To book a tour, visit our website or call 800-368-0065.