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

Burmese Pythons in the Everglades

burmese pythonOne of the biggest threats to a balanced ecosystem in the Everglades is the Burmese pythons. These snakes are an invasive species in the wetland. The python happens to love the Everglades, but this wetland cannot handle its presence. Pythons prey on almost anything in their path, and have been known to cause a large depletion in the rabbit, opossum, wading birds, racoons and other small populations population in the area. Its only predators are the American alligator and the Florida panther. However, these pythons can put up a fight and a recent video take by someone in the Everglades showed an alligator losing a fight with a python in water.

The state of Florida currently pays $8.10 per hour for people to hunt the Burmese pythons living in the Everglades. Up until June 1, there were 25 hunters killing pythons in the Everglades. These hunters use traps, dogs, public round ups, and radio-tracking implants to find and capture these snakes.  According to the South Florida Water Management District, there could anywhere from 10,000 to even more than 100,000 pythons slithering around the Everglades; they are not easy to find. The District is paying $50 for every snake caught, and an additional $25 if the snake is more than 4 feet in length. In April, the 50th Burmese was caught. The hunt began on March 25.

With each capture, the District and hunters hope the populations of other species from birds and small mammals to deer will begin to rise. Not only to these pythons’ lower animal populations by eating them, but they harm the population who eats them! These snakes’ bodies hold high levels of mercury, which can poison any animal or reptile that eats them. The pythons’ presence in the Everglades is changing the entire ecosystem.

Earlier this year, the 2016 Python Challenge occurred from January 16 to February 14; it was held by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.  106 pythons were turned in.

Unfortunately, these pythons found their way into the Everglades after being released by many people who had them as pets; they are native to Asia. If you want to participate in next year’s challenge, click here. There are plenty of things you need to know and do before going python hunting.

If python hunting isn’t your thing, visit the Everglades in a much more relaxing way… on an airboat tour! This is your chance to see the Everglade’s wonderful wildlife that is still around, despite pythons and climate change issues. To book a tour, click the Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours page or call 239-695-3377.

Wildlife Viewing in the Everglades

wildlifeIt’s officially the dry season in the Everglades and Florida, which is the best time to head down to the area to view an array of different wildlife species. During this time of year, the good weather combined with low water levels creates the perfect conditions and environment for animals and birds to congregate near bodies of water.

Great spots in the Everglades to view wildlife include: Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail (Royal Palm), Eco Pond (a mile past the Flamingo Visitor Center), Snake Bight (near Flamingo), and Chokoloskee Bay (Gulf Coast).

Visitors to the Park have the opportunity to see alligators, wading birds, freshwater wildlife, and a few other land creatures. Since the animals are in their natural habitat, they are wild and visitors should be respectful to both the animals and the environment in which they call home.

Below, we’ve shared a few rules and tips on viewing the animals in the Park.

  • Keep your space from animals and birds. Remember you’re in their home and shouldn’t disturb them (do not pick up or chase). Binoculars provide a great way to get a closer, detailed look at the wildlife without bothering or spooking them.
  • Back away from animals if you feel they have been disturbed by you and leave the area. Animals and birds may feel threatened and start to act strangely (excessive flapping, pacing, muscle tension, staring, screaming/making frequent noises). Animals, especially when they feel threatened, can be dangerous.
  • Stay away from nesting or den areas. By entering one of these areas, you could potentially drive the parents to leave, which means the offspring will not be able to survive on their own. Stick to the trails to avoid running into one of these breeding grounds.
  • If you see an animal that you think may be sick or abandoned, leave it be; it’s family could be nearby.
  • Pets are not allowed on trails or the wilderness areas of the Park.
  • Refrain from feeding the animals; it’s not a good idea for the animals to become reliant on being fed, unnaturally, by humans.
  • Listen to all safety signs and warning signals in the park.

It is illegal to feed or harass animals in the Everglades. You’re in THEIR home, and the Park asks that you respect them. If you’re looking for a way to see wildlife in the Everglades, an airboat tour is a great way to view animals and birds from afar without worrying about bothering them or putting yourself in a dangerous situation.  To book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, click here or call 800368-0065.

The Nile Crocodile in the Everglades

Nile CrocodileThe Burmese python is well-known to be an invasive species in the Florida Everglades; however, there seems to be another major invasive reptile in the wetland: The Nile crocodile. Yes, the Everglades are full of crocodiles, but they’re native to America. These Nile crocodiles come from Africa. But, how did these crocs make their way across the Atlantic Ocean? And, how they end up swimming around the Everglades? That is the big question.

A University of Florida herpetologist said he isn’t sure how they got into the wild over here, because they certainly didn’t swim from Africa. Nile crocs have been captured in the Everglades in 2009, 2011, and 2014. After reports from locals about strange looking alligators, this scientist and his colleagues captured and tested the crocs. After some DNA testing was done, it was determined these crocodiles are Nile crocodiles, and the three were probably related to each other. However, they were not matched to any of the Nile crocs in any of Florida’s licensed Florida attractions, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

What does this mean? Well, these crocs could have been brought over to the area illegally by an unlicensed reptile collector. The crocs could have escaped or have been let go. The crocs found were believed to have escaped from Predator World, and that no one released them but they escaped, according to officials at the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The male Nile croc can grow to be more than 16 feet long and weigh more than 1,600 pounds. They have a bronze/brown/yellow coloring. They are much larger and more aggressive than the American crocodile or American alligator. If this crocodile begins to grow in numbers in the Everglades, it will do harm to the area’s ecosystem. The Everglades is a perfect place for this croc to survive in. Since one of the three captured was captured before and escaped, this proved these crocs can live and survive in Florida for many years and they can grow and populate quickly. Cross-breeding between the American crocodile and the Nile crocodile could create larger crocs in the area, which could endanger the smaller breads of crocodiles and the purity of the American breed.

As of right now, Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission officials aren’t worried, and believe they have captured all the Nile crocodiles in the area, since there have been no other confirmed sightings and no unaccounted for captive animals. These officials conduct regular routine inspections and surveys to look out for exotic and invasive species.  The agency also doesn’t believe these crocs mated with any native crocs in their time in the wild, because of dissimilar habitat and behavior.

Explore the Everglades
Despite being home to crocodiles, especially one’s native to the area, the Everglades is a safe place for humans to explore (with caution and regulations in place, of course). A great way to explore the crocodile’s habitat is with an airboat tour. Contact Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours here or call 800-368-0065 to book a tour today.

The Everglades Mink

minkThe Everglades is home to the Everglades Mink, hence the name! This small member of the weasel family is one of three types of minks found in Florida. The Everglades Mink happens to be the only one that lives in south Florida. They are semi-aquatic, carnivorous and also related to otters, ferrets, badgers, and martens.

An Everglades Mink has chocolate brown fur, a small head and tiny black eyes and ears. Its legs are short, it has a pointed muzzle, five partially webbed toes on each food but it has a long bushy tail. A mink’s feet help them swim easily in water while they search for food. A mink also releases an unpleasant-smelling liquid, similar to a skunks; it does this as a warning and also a marker for other minks to know of its presence. It doesn’t spray this liquid, unlike s skunk, but does release it out of fear. The mix will also squeal, snarl, and hiss if it is frightened. This mink can grow up to 25 inches long.

Like stated before, its home is in the Everglades, also including shallow freshwater marshes and swamps of the Fakahatchee Strand, Big Cypress Swamp.

Despite their small size, Everglade minks are known to grab prey larger than themselves. They are nocturnal and hunt for food on land and in the water; they enjoy eating small mammals, snakes, fish, and insects.

Usually, a mink will be found by itself; unless, it’s a mother raising its young. A female mink can give birth to three to six kits during the spring time. The kits are born hairless, but open their eyes and start growing hair around three weeks. These babies usually stay around the mother until the fall. Females stay close to the den, while male roam twice as far and visit other dens. Dens are usually found in a hollow log, or under tree roots.

The Everglades mink is a threatened special by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In recent years, this mink has only been spotted in shallow freshwater marshes and swamps of the Everglades Park.

Spot the Mink
Although it usually comes out at night, there’s a chance you may still see an Everglades mink while exploring the Everglades as it heads home to its den. The best way to see the variety of wildlife and vegetation in the Everglades is a ride through the Everglades on an airboat with Captain Mitch. Airboat tours in Everglades give visitors an up-close-and-personal view of the mink’s habitat. Call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click here to book a trip today!


Everglades Coyotes: the songdog of South Florida

Coyote In A MeadowContrary to popular belief, coyotes are not limited to southwestern states. In fact, coyotes exist throughout the majority of Florida, and the Everglades is no exception. Coyotes are considered a noninvasive species since they found their way to Florida without any human intervention. And the population of coyotes in Florida has steadily increased over the past 15 years. Everglades coyotes are primarily found in marshy habitats otherwise known as marl prairies. These wild dogs share terrain with all sorts of animals from marsh rabbits to armadillos.

Songs of Everglades Coyotes

Coyotes are incredibly social and vocal mammals. Often, they communicate with one another through various barks, yips and howls. They express at least 11 known vocalizations, each meaning something different. Coyotes typically communicate for one of three reasons: to warn of danger, to say hello or to touch base from afar.

If you see a coyote in the Everglades…

Unlike their wolf relatives, coyotes are relatively small in size, ranging from 15 to 45 pounds. Due to their size, coyotes rarely target humans. Though attacks on humans are rare, they do occur. The most common cause of attack happens when humans feed coyotes. The coyotes then become desensitized to humans, associating them with food.

If you come across a coyote in the Everglades, evaluate the animal’s demeanor. Usually, the dog will flee at the sight of a human. But if the coyote remains, use various scare tactics to send it on its way. Without turning your back to it, back away slowly while making noise in an attempt to scare the animal. If the coyote pursues you, raise your voice to it while clapping your hands. When necessary, haze the coyote by throwing small rocks to scare it off. The idea is not to hurt the animal but to frighten it.

Explore the Everglades

The Everglades is full of exquisite wildlife. To make the most of your Everglades visit, take an airboat ride. Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours expose you to a wealth of Everglades wilderness. To schedule your private airboat ride, call Captain Mitch’s at 239-695-3377.

Short-finned pilot whales in the Everglades

Pilot WhalesIf you see short-finned pilot whales in the Everglades, your first thought is probably how majestic and beautiful they look. But your second realization should be how much danger they might be in. A couple of years ago, dozens of pilot whales died in the Everglades.

When pilot whales end up in shallow waters like Florida Bay of the Everglades, they’re stranded. Literally. “Stranding” occurs when a whale or pod of whales ventures into dangerously low water levels and ends up on the shore. This is also called beaching, where the marine mammals are incapable of returning to deeper water. Unless saved by humans, they die of dehydration or drown due to water entering their blowholes during high tide.

Because whales are incredibly social animals, pods typically wind up stranded together. If one whale encounters danger, other whales will come to their aid and refuse to leave them, thus resulting in mass deaths. Even if a pilot whale isn’t necessarily “beached,” it’s still at risk of death when in shallow water. Shallow water causes their bodies to collapse or it can even cause drowning. If you see a pilot whale in the Everglades, contact someone to confirm whether the whale and its pod is in danger.

It isn’t widely known exactly why pilot whales and other cetaceans strand themselves. Some scientists and researchers attribute this to human-related activities like military sonar or pollution (think oil spills) while others believe stranding occurs due to red tides, waterborne diseases or trauma. Regardless of the reason, pilot whale strandings are a common occurrence. While pilot whales are not currently endangered, strandings should be monitored closely to ensure pilot whale populations aren’t depleting.

Spotting short-finned pilot whales

Did you know there’s more than one kind of pilot whale? You’ll only find short-finned pilot whales in South Florida as they’re attracted to temperate, tropical waters. Their relative, the long-finned pilot whale, frequents cool waters. Mannerisms and intelligence levels of short-finned pilot whales are very similar to that of bottlenose dolphins. Females range in size from 12 to 18 feet while males can grow up to 24 feet. Spotting a short-finned pilot whale isn’t as easy as identifying a dolphin as pilot whales rarely breach. Look out for heads poking out of the water or flukes slapping the water’s surface.

See all the animals of the Everglades

The best way to experience all of the Everglades exquisite flora and fauna is by airboat. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours guarantee a thrilling ride, exposing you to all the natural wonders found in the Everglades. To schedule an airboat tour, click here or call 239-695-3377.

The Difference Between Centipedes and Millipedes

A slow-moving millipede.

A slow-moving millipede.

Of all the creepy crawlies that can be found in southern Florida, perhaps two of the most seen and hated are centipedes and millipedes. And while the two species are often discussed interchangeably, they are actually two very different types of arthropods – and the differences go far beyond just the number of legs that they have.

First, it is important to point out the similarities that these two types of arthropods have. For instance, they are both from the group Myriapoda. They also both have segmented bodies, numerous legs, and breath through spiracles, which are openings on the surface of their bodies that lead to their respiratory systems. While the two species are from the same group in the animal kingdom, it’s important to note that there are more than 13,000 species within the group Myriapoda, with an almost infinite amount of variation between them.

Centipedes are further classified into the class of Chilopoda, while millipedes are placed into the class of Diplopoda. Species in the class of Chilopoda are flexible and have flattened appearances, while those in the class of Diplopoda are more rigid and sub-cylindrical in shape. It’s also important to note here that neither centipedes nor millipedes are insects, though they are often mistakenly referred to as such. Insects are classified as only have three pairs of legs, one pair on each segment, while both centipedes and millipedes have many segments, with one or two pairs of legs on each, respectively. There is also no set number of legs with centipedes and millipedes, and there will usually be a lot of variation between specific species of each.

You’ve probably seen both centipedes and millipedes inside your home at some point, especially if you live in Florida, where both are considered to be household pests. You probably find millipedes to be far more innocent than centipedes, however, as they are incredibly slow moving and generally harmless. Their legs are also not visible unless you get very close to them, they are not capable of biting, and they feed only on decaying organic matter. While understandably a nuisance inside your home, these creatures are considered a very ecologically important part of the environment.

Centipedes, on the other hand, are a different story. Even while having fewer legs than millipedes, they are incredibly fast movers, a fact which is accentuated by the fact that their legs veer off from the sides of their bodies and trail backwards and are highly visible in comparison to the legs of millipedes. Centipedes also have to be handled carefully because they bite, releasing a venom into their prey which in rare cases can cause allergic reactions in humans.

You may think you’ve seen enough of these critters in your houses but we promise, both centipedes and millipedes are a lot more interesting in the Everglades, where on an airboat ride you run the chance of spotting a few alongside alligators, snakes, and birds in every color of the rainbow. Don’t miss your chance to experience the Florida Everglades on a safe, yet thrilling airboat tour today.

Widows of the Everglades

A female black widow spider.

A female black widow spider.

The Florida Everglades is an area that is certainly not without its creepy crawlies, and one can never talk about the most fascinating, yet terrifying, creatures of the Everglades without mentioning some of the spiders that can be found there. Fortunately, of the hundreds, if not thousands, of species of spiders that can be found in the Everglades, only a very small number of them are venomous to humans.

The most commonly found venomous spider that can be found in the Everglades is the black widow, a species that is found throughout the southeastern United States and as far north as Ohio. They are quite distinctive in appearance, with females having large, black bodies with a red hourglass design in the center. There are other types of widow spiders, most notably the brown widow and the red widow, both of which can be found in southern Florida in addition to their more famous cousin. Both of these spiders are also considered poisonous, though less so than the black widow.

All species in the widow family get their names from a unique behavior performed by the females – after mating, they will occasionally kill the males. This may explain why female black widow spiders have a lifespan of up to three years, while males are lucky to live three days. This may also explain their great variation in size and appearance. Female black widows are shiny and black, reaching lengths of around 1.5 inches, and containing the famous red hourglass pattern – although in many individuals it will be more orange in color and not resemble an hourglass at all. Males, on the other hand, rarely exceed 0.25 inches in length and are more purple in color, lacking any red or orange pattern completely.

While the practice of black widow mating is creepy in itself, the practice of cannibalism within the species does not stop there. While a female black widow can lay more than 3,000 eggs during a single summer breeding season, it is estimated that only around thirty survive to the first molting. Why? Because of lack of shelter or food initially, but most creepily because of their tendency to turn to each other as sources of food during times of scarcity.

Fortunately, while black widow venom is toxic to humans, it is very seldom fatal. It is, however, along with their particularly strong webs, highly effective at catching and subduing their intended prey, which typically consists of small insects, centipedes, millipedes, and other spiders. Once their prey has become entangled in their webs, webs which are strong enough to even capture small rodents at times, the widow spider will bite its victim and inject it with its venom. Once the prey has succumbed to the venom, which usually takes about ten minutes, the widow will carry it back to its nest to feed on.

Spiders are definitely one of the most feared creatures in the animal kingdom, and black widows and their close cousins are absolutely among the creepiest of the bunch. It’s likely that you’d prefer not to see any on an Everglades swamp tour with your family, and chances are good that you won’t – these species are incredibly shy and non-aggressive, despite the bad rap that they’ve been given. Everglades airboat tours are, however, a great chance to see much of Florida’s wildlife up close, and are not to be missed when visiting Florida this season.