Everglades Reptile Spotlight: Tokay Gecko

tokay geckoThe Everglades has more than 50 distinct kinds of reptiles in the Park – they happen to be the Park’s most well-known and fascinating inhabitants. Unfortunately, some of these reptiles are invited guests who decided to make the Everglades their home. Many reptilian species are invasive. For this article, we wanted to spotlight one such invasive reptile: the Tokay Gecko.

The Tokay gecko was first spotted in Florida around 1965.  Coming from Southeast Asia, they are not native to the Everglades and they eat arboreal lizards, frogs and can even prey on nesting birds and rodents. They’ve even been seen to eat a young corn snake. How did they end up in the Everglades? This gecko was often sold in pet trade, and it has been released by people to control cockroaches.

Primarily, this gecko is nocturnal, but it can be spotted in the morning. If they are approached and feel threated, they will bite aggressively and hold on.

They have a gray/blue body with orange spots/markings.  It’s known for its beauty and decent price, so it’s quickly become a pet store favorite.  They are an easy-to-care-for pet, but they can be aggressive, so many people return or release them. It’s definitely not a docile species, so for those who like to handle their reptiles, the Tokay gecko isn’t the first recommendation. They are known to be a mean lizard and are very territorial.

This lizard can grow over a foot long in length. They also have the ability to make their skin patterns lighter or darker to blend into the background, and also as a way to communicate. They have no eyelids and lick their eyeballs to clean them.

They have the name “tokay” from the sound they make; it’s a two-part clicking mating call. They usually lay eggs in pairs. A breeding female can lay a pair of eggs every month for 4 to 5 months consecutively. In the wild, these geckos can live around 8 to 10 years.

Florida wildlife officials consider the introduction of Tokays to be a mild threat to native wildlife, and there is no major effort to eradicate them, whereas more resources are focused on more threatening invasive species like pythons.

Overall, they can be found in the Everglades, but they do prefer to stay in an urban area inside people’s houses, which shows they are not (yet) a major threat to Florida’s wildlife.

Come spot some reptiles on an airboat 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.


Everglades Bird Profile: White-Crowned Pigeon

white-crowned pigeonWhen you think of a pigeon, you probably think of park benches and cities, but pigeons can be found in rural areas, as well. In fact, the white-crowned pigeon nests nowhere else in the United States except for south Florida.

They can be found in the mangrove forests in the Everglades and south Florida. They will nest in the mangroves but spend a lot of time in the wooded areas, as well.  They will lay one to three white eggs at time. Both the male and female will incubate the eggs. After hatching, the baby pigeons will leave the nest after 3 weeks. The parents both feed their young “pigeon milk.” Nesting usually occurs in July and August.

This pigeon’s body is a black/gray color with a white-capped head. They have iridescent green feathers on the back of their neck. They are around 13-14 inches in size. The oldest recorded white-crown pigeon was 14 years, 5 months old.

The pigeons are known to move more inland during the day to feed on fruit from the Poisonwood tree. They also eat strangler fig, pigeon plum, mastic, sea grape, seeds, insects, and other tropical fruits.

This pigeon can be easily spotted perching in trees. Unlike many “city” pigeons, they don’t spend much time on the ground. In the Everglades, they can be seen around Nine-Mile Pond, Snake Bight Trailhead, Eco Pond, and Bear Lake Road. Their population. There’s about 7,500 pairs of this pigeon living in Florida.

Along with Florida, this bird can also be found in the Caribbean and parts of Central America.

There is believed to be a global population of 550,000 of this bird. In 2014, they were on risk of becoming threatened or endangered. They are protected in Florida but are still hunted for food in the Caribbean. When mangrove forests are lost due to hurricanes, their habitat is compromised, which is a concern.

If you’re a bird watcher of just a fan of birds, the Everglades is the ideal place to see so many different species, including the white-crowned pigeon. Come explore the Everglades by airboat on a ride with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a fun and exciting glimpse of the Everglades. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Everglades Mammal Profile: The Florida Black Bear

florida black bearOutside of Florida, people are often surprised to hear that bears are wandering the streets in this state, but they are! This state is full of many different species. In fact, earlier this year a bear bit a man in the face in a neighborhood in Naples, Florida, which is not to far away from the Everglades. Black bears are the kind people will spot in the Everglades and south Florida. While in the Everglades, there is a chance you will catch a site of a bear; they can be spotted in forested sloughs and oak scrub.

Florida black bears have an average 300 pounds though they can get up to 500 pounds in weight. They have long, sharp claws, which are great for climbing trees and digging for food. Florida black bears are omnivores (eat both meat and vegetation). Some of the food they feast on includes: armadillos, honey, berries, insets, acorns, sabal palm fruits, acorns, and saw palmetto.

The Florida black bear is the state’s largest land mammal. They enjoy life in the Everglades, because it’s a protected wildlife area, where they can roam freely and avoid humans. These bears prefer to live in isolated subpopulations throughout the state. They have adapted to the state’s subtropical climate and habitat, which other black bears in other parts of the country could not withstand. The Park has plenty of food sources for this bear, which makes it an ideal habitat for the bear.

Habitat loss is a serious issue for the black bear. They are losing 20 acres of their habitat per hour. Human development has separated and isolated the bear population in Florida.

In Florida, the primary cause of death for a bear is becoming roadkill. Around 100 bears die each year due to car-related accidents.

If you’re in the Everglades and come across a bear, you should back away slowly, don’t turn your back, don’t run, don’t climb a tree, make noise to scare the bear, and don’t feed the bear. Bears aren’t known to attack humans in Florida but people have been hurt when a bear feels it, its cubs, or food sources has been threatened.

Explore the Everglades on an Airboat

If you’d like a chance to see the Florida black bear and other Everglades wildlife, book an airboat tour! Everglades airboat tours give you access to the expansive wildlife and plant life the region has to offer. To book your Everglades airboat tour today, click here or call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377.

Everglades Species Profile: The Wood Duck

duckThere are numerous species of birds that can be found in the Everglades. At times in the winter, the sight of these birds can look like a scene out of the famous film, “The Birds.” Why? Well, birds migrate down to the Everglades for the winter so hundreds of birds are flying and gathering in the area. For this article, we wanted to focus on one bird so calls the Everglades its home: the wood duck.

The wood duck is a North American bird with very colorful features; it has blues, greens, purples mixed with white and black stripes and patches. Because of its coloring, it is known to be a popular birdwatching bird and its sought after by hunters.

In Florida, the wood duck is also known as the “summer duck” or “acorn duck.”  It was nearly extinct in the early 1900s, but its numbers were able to increase due the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act  in 9 1918 that restricted hunting of these birds. Because of this act, the wood ducks is now one of the most abundant waterfowl species on the continent.

Wood ducks have a large head, short neck, long square tail, and a long, slicked-back head crest. The males are more colorful than the females with a red bill and eyes whereas the females are mostly gray and brown with a white ring around their eyes.

Wood ducks’ habitat ranges from Quebec, Canada to south Florida. They migrate up north around March. This type of duck prefers to be around swamps and upland forests near freshwater, which is why the Everglades is an ideal location. They like to be surrounded by shrubs and plants so they have areas where they can find insects, seeds, and fruit.

Wood ducks nest in tree cavities, which keeps them out of harm’s way from foxes, opossums, raccoons, snakes, skunks, and other predators, including other ducks. After nesting, wood ducks molt all their feathers at once and cannot fly again until their new flight feathers emerge in 3 to 4 weeks.

Although the wood duck gets most of its food in shallow waters, it does obtain a lot of food by foraging on the ground in woody swamps and forests, unlike other ducks. Wood ducks eat seeds, fruits, parts of plants, small acorns, some insects, some snails and crawfish.

The wood ducks are one of the only duck species that nest in Florida. Pairing takes place in winter and egg-laying occurs between February and March.  They lay around 10 to 15 eggs.  After hatching, ducklings will leave the nest the next day. The mother wood duck will stay with her babies until they can fly (around 9 weeks). Due to predators, only 3-4 ducks will survive long enough to fly.

Maximum lifespan of a wood duck is 15 years, but the majority don’t live longer than 3 to 4 years old. To hunt a wood duck or any duck species in Florida, you must have a Florida hunting license and a free Florida Waterfowl permit. These can be obtained from county tax collectors and their subagents, such as hunting supply stores. There are hunting regulations on these ducks including season length and the number of killed ducks allowed per person per day.

If you’re a fan of ducks, you’ll want to visit the Everglades where you’ll see a ton of them! Come explore the Everglades by airboat on a ride with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades and a possible glimpse of some wood ducks like no other. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.


Fishing Basics to Follow in the Everglades

fishingDid you know that one third of the Everglades is covered by water? It’s true! This makes it an ideal place for visitors and anglers to go fishing. There are many species of fish found in the waterways of the Everglades, but snapper, sea trout, redfish, bass, and bluegill are known to be abundant in this area.

There are thousands of acres of shallow water flats, channels, and mangrove keys for people to fish. However, fishing from the shore is very limited.

When fishing, removing/collecting plants and marine life from the water is prohibited. For example, please do not take orchids, seahorses, starfish, coral, sea shells, driftwood, sponges, tropical fish, etc., out of the water.

When fishing in the Everglades, both freshwater and saltwater fishing requires separate Florida fishing licenses. It’s important for you to be aware and follow these rules/regulations so you do not get in trouble for fishing illegally. Visitors fishing in the park need to be aware of bag limits for individual species. The bag limit for many species is less than 10 fish. Licensed anglers are limited to possession of 20 fish/person at any time, but may possess no more than 10 fish of any one species. There is no possession limit for non-native species.

People are not allowed to fish with nets, seines, spears, firearms, and lobster snares. Dip nets, cast nets, and landing nets that are 10’ or smaller are allowed.

People are allowed four (4) fillets per person for immediate consumption at designated campsites or on-board vessels equipped with cooking facilities. All other fish must remain whole while in park waters.

Freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses are required for park visitors 16 years old and older. Digging for bait inside the park is prohibited.

For more rules and specifics regarding saltwater and freshwater fishing in the Everglades, visit: https://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/upload/Ever-Fishing-Regulations-June-FY12.pdf. For more  information on licensing and fishing regulations visit www. marinefisheries.org or www.myfwc.com.

If fishing isn’t your thing but you like being on the water, come enjoy the Everglades on an airboat tour. You may catch a glimpse of many fish species without being on a fishing trip! Click here or call 800-368-0065 to book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours in the Everglades today.

Fun Things to Do in the Everglades

evegladesThe Everglades are vast, so if you’re planning a visit…where do you begin? What do you do? There are seemingly endless fun things to do in the Everglades, so it can be a bit overwhelming to decide what you will do and see. For this article, we wanted to share with you a few things to do that we think are great fun, and will give you a great glimpse into this majestic wetland.

Anhinga Amble – Daily at 10:30 a.m. there are 50-minute ranger-led tours on the Anhinga Trail. On this tour, you may get the opportunity to see alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife.

Nike Missile Base – Daily through March 31 at 2 p.m., visitors can have a tour of the historic Cold War U.S. Army Nike Missile Site HM-69. Reservations are not required.

Shark Valley – Shark Valley is a great area to take a tram or bike the 15-mile loop. Visitors can see birds and alligators along the path. Bike rentals are available.

Wet Walks –  A Wet Walk is a free, 2-hour strenuous wade through the River of Grass into a cypress dome. Visitors should wear long pants, lace up shoes and socks (all that can get wet and muddy).

Airboat Tour – Last, but certainly not least, is an airboat tour. An airboat tour can bring you to parts of the Everglades you cannot see by foot on a trail. You’ll have the opportunity to see different and more kinds of wildlife. On an airboat ride with Captain Mitch, adults cost $40 and children cost $20 for the one-hour ride. The ride is 8 to 10 miles.  For a discount, click here. If you’re looking to book an airboat trip, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat tours at 800-368-0065 or click here. Airboat tours are a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will surely not forget.!




February Everglades Events and Activities

eventsThe Everglades isn’t just full of wildlife and plant life, it’s also full of educational and fun programs and activities for visitors to enjoy. For this article, we wanted to share with you some of the upcoming events and programs that will be happening in the month of February.

A Beginner’s Guide to Saltwater Fishing
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
February 3
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Learn how to identify fish and how to cast and how to throw a cast net.

Tamiami Trail “Try” Athlon
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
February 4
Park Entrance fee required
Reservations required
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
This is a ranger-led all day trip through the Tamiami Trail.

Hands on History
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
February 10
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
See first-hand what techniques the native Calusa used to survive and flourish.

Just Around the River Bend
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
February 24
Reservations required
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Join a ranger to explores the rivers that flow into the Ten Thousand Islands and get a chance to see wildlife and mangroves while learning about the Park’s natural and cultural history.

Timeless Travel Canoe Trips
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in February
Reservations required
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Strenuous paddling skills and the ability to swim on your own are required.

Nature Talk
4 to 4:30 p.m.
Every Tuesday and Thursday in February
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
This is a talk about plants and animals in the area while going on a little walk.

Citizen Science Bird Count Tour
9 to 11 a.m.
Every Friday in February
Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Visitors help conduct research by identifying and counting birds and other animals while learning about the mangrove estuary.

Want to explore and experience this beautiful ecosystem in another way? Come out on the water for an airboat ride with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. You’ll experience the Everglades like never before. To book a airboat tour ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Wildlife Viewing in the Everglades

wildlifeIt’s that time of year again! Wildlife view season in the Everglades. Sure, you can see birds and animals in the Park year-round, but more species migrate to the area during this winter, dry season. Unlike other areas of the country, the Everglades remains warm and since it is the dry season, there are also low water levels, which creates the ideal environment for many species to spend there time in…and even breed.

If you’re looking for an alligator, birds, or freshwater wildlife, your best bet is to head to Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail (at Royal Palm) and Eco Pond. If you love birdwatching, Snake Bight (near Flamingo) and Chokoloskee Bay (Gulf Coast) are great spots to see water birds feeding.

The Everglades is a fragile habitat. From natural weather disasters to human development, the wetland has been stressed to be a healthy ecosystem. As humans, we are a guest in the Everglades; these animals and birds call this area home, so we need to respect them. They are wildlife, not pets, so it’s important to be respectful of all living creatures in the park, along with the Park itself. Bothering the animals could potentially stress them out or make them fearful or agitated. You do not want an animal angry with you, but also you do not want to upset an animal, because it could migrate or breed elsewhere (or not at all).

For this post, we wanted to share with you some wildlife viewing rules and tips while in Everglades National Park. Although some of these rules seem like no-brainers, it’s always good to refresh your memory. These rules come straight from the National Park Service.

  • Keep a good distance away from all wildlife.
  • Use binoculars or spotting scopes to get a berry view of any creature.
  • Never chase or corner an animal.
  • If an animal/bird seems agitated, back away, and even leave the area if it does not calm down.
  • Stay on the trails. You don’t want to disturb nests and dens.
  • Do not need wildlife.
  • If you find a sick or hurt animal or bird, leave it alone. If you’re concerned, fine a Park ranger or employee.
  • Do not bring your dogs onto the trails; they are not allowed.
  • Respect the environment if you do choose to go off the trails.

You can either view wildlife by foot or by airboat! Come do some wildlife viewing 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.

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