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.

Florida Black Bears in the Everglades

Black Bear in the EvergladesDid you know Florida is home to over 2,500 bears? The Florida Black Bear, the state’s only resident bear, is Florida’s largest land-based mammal. These gentle giants, ranging from 125-450 pounds, live in seven isolated subpopulations from the Panhandle down to the Everglades.

Why do black bears live in the Everglades?

Florida black bears seek solace in the Everglades because it’s a protected wilderness where wildlife can live free, devoid of most human interference. Most black bears in Florida reside in protected parks where they can live their solitary, reclusive lives in peace.

Florida black bears are unique because they adapted to thrive in a subtropical habitat, something no other black bear subspecies has accomplished. They live in South Florida habitats like sand-pine scrub, hardwood forests, pine rocklands, forested sloughs and oak scrub, all of which exist in the Everglades.

The Everglades is a utopia for a Florida black bear because it’s home to plentiful plant life, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of a black bear’s diet. The sabal palmetto, a native tree in the Everglades, is just one shrub black bears dine on.

Human impact on the Florida black bear

Even with protected wildernesses like the Everglades, Ocala National Forest and Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida black bears experience habitat reduction. In fact, Florida black bears lose 20 acres of habitat an hour. At one time, each of their seven subpopulations all connected from South Florida up to the Panhandle. Now these habitats are isolated due to human development like roads, buildings, etc.

And with these new human developments come more bear deaths. Roadkill is a black bear’s primary cause of death in Florida with traffic collisions responsible for nearly 90 percent of bear deaths. On average, roughly 100 bears die per year due road-related incidents. Stay alert while driving through bear country at night as black bears are most active after sunset.

What to do if you encounter a black bear in the Everglades

While Florida has never seen a predatory black bear attack on humans, people have been injured when a bear feels the need to defend itself, its cubs or its food. It’s important to know how to react if you encounter a bear. Here are some dos and don’ts when you see a Florida black bear:

DO: back away slowly. Never turn your back to a bear. Move slowly backward in the way you came, holding your hands up in retreat. Remember not to make eye contact with the bear, as they often associate this with an act of aggression.

DON’T: run away or climb a tree. Black bears can run faster than you and climb better than you. If you run, they’ll likely perceive you as a threat, or possibly as prey, and chase you – at 30 miles per hour. Florida black bears can climb as high as 100 feet in a minute flat, so keep to lower ground.

DO: make noise. First try blasting a whistle or banging equipment together. Often, this will scare a bear away. If the bear doesn’t leave, speak to it calmly. Even though it can’t understand what you’re saying, it can perceive your tone.

DON’T: feed the bear. The last thing you want is for a bear to associate you with food. Feeding a bear will not only desensitize a bear to you but to all humans. This is one of the main reasons bears become aggressive, which ultimately results in their euthanization.

See Everglades wildlife by airboat

For a chance to see the Florida black bear and other Everglades wildlife, reserve an airboat tour. Everglades airboat tours expose you to the most dynamic flora and fauna 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.