This photo of a panther in Sebring was recently shared by a friend. I do hope this magnificent creature has visited western Martin County. Since late October, it has certainly made the rounds. Males roam hundreds of miles, a female less, but easily could cover ground between almost neighboring Martin and Highlands counties.
Can you imagine trying to navigate today’s world? Freeways, subdivisions, fences, shopping malls, the great forests gone…Canals cutting the lands and watersheds apart?
Over 34 panthers were killed on Florida highways in 2016, and at least 23 in 2017. With an estimated 230 in the total population, those are terrible numbers. We must work harder to complete wildlife corridors across the state to allow these animals to breed and travel into north Florida and Georgia. Being stuck in South Florida is a radio-collared death wish.
If this panther does visit Martin County, we’ll probably never know it; though large they are smart to be very, very, shy.
I must say, lately I’ve been hearing rumors of panthers (yes, a pair) in Martin County near Highway 96 out by South Fork, but no photos yet…
Thank God there is something left to run wild in the world; 😊 it gives me something to dream about.
I recently heard a great story from Doug Bournique who is executive vice-president of the Indian River Citrus League (http://ircitrus.wpengine.com). He told me he accidentally stepped on a sawfish! Doug is very vocal about “leaving a legacy” for the Indian River Lagoon. He advocates at government meetings for the reconnection of the waters of the North Fork of the St Lucie River and the St Johns River, as well as “water farming.” He grew up along our Treasure Coast and loves fishing, especially in the area of Sewall’s Point.
Doug was excited to see a sawfish and I was excited to hear about it. Seeing an endangered sawfish is a “good sign” for the river.
I have written about sawfish before, and recently I came across the photo at the top of this post in my mother’s book “Stuart on the St Lucie.” This time, with Doug’s story in mind, I looked at the photo a little differently.
It is a curious photo, isn’t it?
The “boys” all dressed up in coats and ties, the younger one on the far right, hand on hip, gazing to the horizon like a Norman Rockwell painting….The gigantic, contoured, muscular, sawfish hanging from a hook like a piece of meat in a butcher shop….in 1916 a common nuisance perhaps. Today an endangered species…
The photo says a lot about people, about Florida’s history, about humankind, about culture, about sportsmanship, and also about how times and perceptions change…
All sawfishes are now critically endangered. Scientists say they don’t reach sexual maturity until maybe 12 or 14 years old. Their reproduction number increase is very slow like many sharks to which they are related. The are nocturnal. They are remarkable and ancient. They are awesome. They have been overfished.
What if we could find a way to use the sawfish to protect the Indian River Lagoon? What if we could use it as an “endangered species”? This may be difficult as they adapt and can live in both salty and fresh water…
“Single species management” is taking a beating lately as we know. The Cape Sea Side Sparrow, the Everglades Snail Kite, the Florida Panther….Many say when you manage an ecosystem, especially water, for a single species, it is at the expense of all the other animals in the eco-system. Of course the animal we are always most concerned about is really ourselves. It’s hard to give anything up when you at the top of the food chain….
But that is why being human is so different from being a dinosaur. We can think. We can reason. We can dream. If we want to, we can save the sawfish and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon..let’s pick up our sword and win!
To me there are few birds as striking as the Everglades snail kite, especially the hooked-beaked, wicked-talloned, dark/red-orange colored male. They are raptors in the family of eagles, hawks and vultures. Skilled beyond belief they have specialized their hunting ritual to include one thing, the apple snail. They fly with what is described as the slow, head-down, gargoyle-like flight of a blue heron, but eyes lowered with radar vision positioned to see and seize their tiny prey. Beautiful, remarkable, a machine of God’s creation and nature’s adaptation. An inspiration to all.
You may have heard that recently at the South Florida Water Management District the Snail Kite was discussed in light of pumping water from Lake Okeechobee. I do not know all the details of the meeting, but I would imagine it had something to do with the Endangered Species Act, the birds are endangered, and that the snail kite’s habitat. Their habit is around Lake Okeechobee, so if too much water were pumped out of the lake, more than likely their habitat and health would be affected. They are protected by federal law.
Another species also affected by the level of Lake Okeechobee is humans. We are not endangered. Homo Sapiens flourish in Florida. Especially those who are farming south of the Lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), 700,000 acres of sugar cane, vegetables, and citrus that is also reliant on the waters of the lake (to water their crops free of charge….) This area totally blocks the once free-flowing waters of Lake Okeechobee. Those waters were diverted to the estuaries such as the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee.
Do I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? I do.
Also— I believe the aquifers under and surrounding the Water Conservation Areas south/outside of the EAA are connected to the people of Miami-Dade and their water supply.
This is huge….
Presently it is not raining that much and the lake is close to being near “water shortage,” for the Homo Sapiens as defined by the SFWMD.
I feel for everyone “hemmed in by this situation,” I really do but I also feel for the birds, for the lake, and for all of us who endure the wrath of a system that is totally altered and totally out of balance. A system we have created and can work harder to improve.
Perhaps situations like these will push us to develop more water storage south, north, and around the lake? To buy more land? To support Amendment 1? To exercise the option…or something like it?
Because we all know, with out the needed water levels, we too, like the snail kite are “dead.”