American Alligator Populations Continue to Decline into 2015

American alligator

An American alligator in the Everglades.

The American alligator has always been a popular and well known staple in the Florida Everglades. Scientists, however, are starting to fear that the American alligator won’t always be a common presence in Everglades National Park. A species once so prevalent in the park has been declining in population over the years, and even while fewer numbers of alligators are being found and studied in the area, those that are found tend to be much smaller than the generations of gators before them.

Scientists who study gator populations in the Everglades note that today’s gators appear skinny and emaciated, at times like skin and bones. These alligators also grow slower, at only about 2/3 the rate of healthy alligators living in healthy habitats. Worse still, unhealthy alligators in a region that relies so heavily on their presence could mean the presence of an overall unhealthy ecosystem. In some instances, unhealthy alligators could indicate an extremely serious underlying problem.

Some scientists believe that humans are to blame for the declining health of the Everglades, and thus the declining populations and health of many of the species that live there, including the American alligator. The cause of the damage spans decades, starting in the 1950’s when a massive drainage project was started in the Everglades in order to develop the large metropolitan areas of South Florida, such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

While the consequences of such a project were not apparent at the start, Everglades wildlife has been effected for years. Scientists believe that the redirecting of water from the Everglades out into the ocean shrank the area of the park by over half and heavily polluted the native waters. While more than $20 billion has been spent on Everglades restoration since to reverse some of this damage, it’s still unclear when, and if, the American alligator population will be able to recover.

Airboat rides through the Everglades with Captain Mitch are the perfect way to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats. Because South Florida has one of the most unique ecosystems in the entire world, alligators are just one of the many species that can be spotted on an Everglades swamp tour. Riders can always expect to see more than a few birds, fish, snakes, and lizards along the way too!

The Everglades are a Fishing Paradise

Everglades fishing

A man fishing in the Everglades.

Because about a third of Everglades National Park is covered in water, it should come as no surprise that the Everglades is not only a beautiful place to explore, but also an excellent place to fish. Fishermen come from all over the world to fish the freshwater, saltwater, and brackish waters of the Everglades, where the variety in the salinity levels in the water also brings quite a variety in fish species that live here as well.

There are currently believed to be more than 300 species of fish found in the Everglades today, and both new and experienced fishermen come to the area from all over the world to find them and test their skills. Some of the most common species found in the Everglades today are:

  • Tarpon
  • Flagfish
  • Bluegill
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Striped Mullet
  • Great Barracuda
  • Spotted Sunfish
  • Florida Gar
  • Diamond Killifish
  • Channel Catfish

The fish that typically inhabit the Everglades are highly adaptable to environmental changes. They would have to be, because the water levels change so drastically between the wet and dry seasons in Florida, heavily effecting all plant and animal life in the area. During the dry season, fish are limited in habitable areas and are especially vulnerable to predators like alligators, crocodiles, and birds, while during the wet season, the area floods and fish are scattered and abundant throughout.

It’s important to note that fishing in the Everglades requires a special permit, with separate permits being issued for freshwater and saltwater fishing areas. Many species in the area are already in danger of extinction from over-fishing and pollution, so regulating this sport is very important for ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy it as well.

Captain Mitch offers chartered fishing in the Everglades, perfect for fishermen of all skill levels to enjoy a day out on the water together. And for those uninterested in fishing, all the beautiful fish of the Everglades can be simply observed and enjoyed as well on a fun family airboat ride through Everglades National Park.

Bull Sharks in the Everglades

bull sharks

A bull shark in the water.

Alligators and crocodiles are not the only apex predators that call the Florida Everglades home, though they are undoubtedly the most well known. Many people might actually be very surprised to learn that sharks also live in the Everglades, especially because it’s such a commonly understood fact that sharks need saltwater and are therefore restricted to the world’s oceans.

This fact, however, is a myth, as there are a few species of sharks that are able to adapt to and live in freshwater. Most notably, bull sharks, which have been found in rivers as far north as Illinois. Because many of the wetlands and swamps of the Everglades are connected to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, it should come as no surprise that bull sharks have been known to find their ways there.

Bull sharks and other freshwater sharks are able to easily adapt to saltwater or freshwater environments because they possess an ability called osmoregulation. While all sharks have this ability, which is simply the ability to maintain a certain concentration of water within the body, bull sharks are different in that they can gradually adjust their kidneys to suit different levels of salinity depending on what kind of water they are in.

Next time you’re out on an Everglades airboat ride, keep your eye out for some fins in the water as well as the usual scales. Because bull sharks are especially prevalent during birthing season, when the secluded rivers of the Everglades provide the perfect protection for young pups, now is the perfect time to spot creatures of all kinds on an Everglades tour.

The Black Vulture is the Everglades’ Least Popular Bird

vulturesWhile the American black vulture is certainly not the most beautiful bird in the Everglades or the one with the best reputation, it might be one of the more interesting birds in not only the Everglades, but the entire world. Because the circling of vultures in the sky can often be a sign that something on the ground has just died and is about to be eaten, black vultures have often been associated with death. But while their feeding habits seem to give black vultures an ominous presence over humans, it is also their feeding habits that make them so unique.

The black vulture is a well known scavenger, and it has often been stated that a vulture will eat “anything.” Their main source of food is carrion, which is the dead and decaying flesh of animals. It’s no wonder these birds are easily spotted hovering above recent road kill, but they have also been known to make a meal out of the living – namely fresh eggs and newborn animal babies.

In areas populated by humans, the black vulture has been known to feed at garbage dumps, and, because they sometimes feed on livestock as well, this particular bird is not too popular among cattle herders and farmers. Whether or not this interesting bird is well-liked by the human population, it plays an extremely important role in the ecosystem of which it lives, as these birds dispose of carrion that would otherwise serve as a breeding ground for bacteria.

The black vulture gets its name from its deep black plumage, featherless grey-black head, and its short, hooked beak. While it is a relatively large bird with a wingspan of up to 5ft, it is actually considered small in comparison to other vulture species, which can get much larger. The black vulture has excellent eye sight and sense of smell, and, because they often find prey by following other vultures, they can often be seen in large groups. The American black vulture can be found in the Southeastern United States down to Central South America, and is protected in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

While vultures can be found in the populated areas surrounding the Everglades, they are best observed during an Everglades swamp tour. While humans can easily observe them feeding on trash or roadkill in their neighborhoods, airboat tours through the Everglades allow us to truly witness their natural behavior and feeding habits without human intervention.

How the Everglades Got Its Name

Everglades swamp tour

The Florida Everglades, or simply the “Glades.”

The Everglades, sometimes affectionately referred to simply as the “Glades,” is a name which encompasses much of the interior of Southern Florida, though it is also the most sparsely populated area of the state. But how did the Everglades get its name?

The first written mention of the Everglades appears on Spanish maps from the 1700’s, on which the area was referred to as Laguna del Espíritu Santo, or “Lake of the Holy Spirit.” The name was given by Spanish explorers who had never even seen the land, land which remained unexplored for decades after. Native Americans at the time referred to the land as “impenetrable,” and Spanish and British surveyors simply did not have the means to explore the land past the coastlines.

A British Surveyor who mapped the coast of Florida in 1773 called the area the “River Glades,” after which cartographers began substituting “Ever” for “River.” The actual name “Everglades” first appeared on a map in 1823, although it was also spelled as “Ever Glades” on maps as late as 1851.

Even though the area was once mysterious and considered impenetrable, these days, everyone can visit the area by taking an Everglades swamp tour. The wildlife and scenery available on airboat tours through the Everglades are images that you are guaranteed to never forget, and can be enjoyed by the whole family and people of all ages.

Long-Lost Fort Harrell Found Again In The Everglades

painting of the Seminole Wars

An artist’s interpretation of the Seminole Wars.

The Seminole Wars was a series of three wars that were fought in the 1800’s between the American Army and the Native Americans who originally inhabited the area. The wars centered around land disputes – land that they the Native Americans felt was already theirs, land the American Army felt should belong to the newly formed United States. History tells us how this story ended, but little is known about the events that actually occurred during these wars.

The American Army built a series of forts throughout Southern Florida, areas where soldiers could rest and recuperate as well as stock and collect supplies. Many of these forts were destroyed during the wars, and others fell into ruin shortly afterwards. Many of these forts were simply lost to time and never seen or sought after again. Fort Harrell was one such fort that remained forgotten about until it was recently rediscovered by three local men in the Everglades.

Three amateur explorers and friends became fascinated by the story of Fort Harrell and set out on a quest to find it. Though their discovery has not yet been scientifically confirmed, they have found what appears to be the foundation for the long-lost fort, a structure last seen by the human eye in 1917 while road workers labored away on construction for the Tamiami Trail. The site is currently only accessible by boat, located deeply within the alligator-infested waters of the Everglades, but the three explorers dream of seeing the Tamiami Trail extended to accommodate tourists interested in seeing this piece of Florida history.

Everglades tours are a fantastic way for residents of and visitors to Southwest Florida to experience this history up close, while also observing Florida’s most wild creatures in their native habitats. Airboat rides with Captain Mitch are not only thrilling and fun, but informative and educational too.

The American Alligator Vs. The American Crocodile

image of an American Alligator

An American alligator.

American alligators and American crocodiles have a few things in common, the most important being that both creatures strike fear into the hearts of people and small dogs throughout Florida and the Southern United States. Both alligators and crocodiles are some of the most feared and respected predators on earth, both with coveted spots very close to the top of the food chain. There are however, some important differences between the two species.

Crocodiles and alligators are very similar in appearance, but, upon closer inspection, some very subtle physical differences can be detected. The most obvious difference is in the shape of the snout – alligators tend to have wider and rounder snouts, while the snout of a crocodile is longer, leaner, and more pointed. When an alligator is resting with its mouth closed, only the top row of teeth is visible because an alligator’s upper jaw completely covers its lower jaw. With a crocodile, on the other hand, both bottom and top teeth are visible when the mouth is closed. Crocodiles also tend to be more light and green in color, while alligators are darker and more gray.

While it’s easiest to tell American crocodiles and American alligators apart by their appearance, the two species differ most greatly in the behaviors and preferred habitats. Alligators are much more common in Florida and the Everglades, because they prefer the freshwater and brackish consistency that can be found here. Crocodiles prefer saltwater environments, so they are more commonly found in or near the oceans surrounding Florida. While alligators can be aggressive and dangerous, crocodiles are typically docile and shy towards humans. Between 20 and 25 fatal alligator attacks have occurred in Florida over the years, but not one fatal crocodile attack has ever been recorded here.

Airboat rides with Captain Mitch are a fantastic way to see both American alligators and American crocodiles from the safety of a boat. Florida Everglades boat rides are family-friendly and an experience you will never forget.

The American Wood Stork Is Making Its Comeback

image of an American wood stork

An American wood stork in flight.

The Obama administration has announced good news for the Florida Everglades this week: the American wood stork, a species which at one point had been predicted to be extinct by the year 2000, has made a glorious come back. This beautiful wading bird is getting an official upgrade from “endangered” to “threatened,” and current estimates cite the population to be close to 9,000 breeding adults.

Though related species thrive in other parts of the world, namely South and Central America, the wood stork has struggled in subtropical areas of Florida, mostly due to habitat destruction for commercial and residential development. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service has worked hard over the last three decades to restore wetlands in and around Florida, and due to their efforts, this once rare bird can now be found as far north as Georgia, South Carolina, and even North Carolina. The wood stork still has a long way to go before it will no longer be considered “threatened,” but wildlife officials are optimistic.

This impressive bird can reach heights of up to four feet with a wingspan that can reach up to five feet, and is the only stork species found in the United States. They prefer swamplands and marshes, where they can feed on fish and frogs, and use the surrounding trees and mangroves to nest and protect their eggs. Adults have no natural predators in the area, except for the occasional alligator, so the only real threat to them is human interference.

More and more visitors to Florida are able to see these birds each year as their numbers rise, and airboat rides through the Everglades with Captain Mitch are a perfect opportunity to try and spot one of these birds for yourself. The knowledge and love that Captain Mitch and his crew have for this area and its creatures are passed on to everyone who steps foot on their airboats; you’ll step off the boat from your Everglades swamp tour inspired and with a new understanding and appreciation for this unique yet fragile eco-system.

Marco Island Airboat Tours Never Disappoint

Whether you are a year-round resident of Southwest Florida or are just visiting friends and family, Marco Island is always a popular attraction and a wonderful destination to experience some of the area’s beautiful weather. People live in Florida or travel to the area for a variety of reasons, but most people can agree on the attractions of sunshine, beaches, and local freshwater and saltwater rivers and lakes. While Marco Island offers all the basics needed for a tropical vacation, there are a couple of truly unique opportunities here as well.

There are always an abundance of outdoor activities available on Marco Island and the surrounding areas, many of them both exhilarating and family-friendly. If you find yourself in the area, don’t miss your chance to experience Florida the way it was truly meant to be seen, on an Everglades swamp tour with a friendly and knowledgeable guide.

Marco Island swamp tours are one of the only ways for people to experience the natural beauty of the Everglades up close, on one of the original methods of transportation invented specifically for fast transport over shallow water. Visitors can experience the Everglades with the guides who know this area best, guides that grew up in the area and have lived here their whole lives. The Everglades is truly one of the most unique ecosystems in the entire world, and Captain Mitch and his crew are passionate about sharing their home with others and spreading an appreciation and love for the plants and creatures that also inhabit the swamplands.

Marco Island is centrally located within Southwest Florida, and is easily accessed from any number of popular surrounding cities, such as Naples, Bonita Springs, and Fort Myers. Marco Island is also just a quick drive from the opposite coast of Florida, and can be easily accessed from Miami, Homestead, or Fort Lauderdale.

Everglades City, Florida: A History

image of Everglades City

The Everglades City depot.

Everglades city Florida,is a small community in southern Florida. This is a small island and one of the ten thousand islands ( 10,000 islands) in the Everglades national park. This small city was the founding county seat of Collier County. Collier county fl was created by Barron gift collier when he bought part of lee county and part of Monroe county for penny’s an acre as wet lands. These are now some of the most wanted lands on the Gulf coast of Florida. With the 10,00 islands Everglades national park the Big cypress national preserve and world class fishing , hunting , airboat rides ,an the world known Florida Everglades.Everglades city Florida is a great place to visit and relax.