I have this dream that I am enjoying walking around in my garden, I look down, and there is a seventeen-foot python curled up under my house. Sounds ridiculous, but one day this may not be that far fetched.
This past week, the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) https://myfwc.com held their meeting at the Hutchinson Island Marriott, just over the Ernest Lyons Bridge from Sewall’s Point. One of the things they discussed was the overpopulation of Burmese Pythons that are ravaging native wildlife in Everglades National Park and other parts of South Florida.
I have been vaguely aware of this for years. My previous Sewall’s Point neighbor was a python enthusiast. Around 2012, he wrote TCPalm a letter to the editor in the python’s defense arguing that the Burmese Python did not bring itself to South Florida, people did! According to FWC pet pythons have been released since the 1960s but it was after Hurricane Andrew’s 1992 destruction that a breeding facility was destroyed, pythons escaped, the population exploded, and a breeding community arose.
I do believe “in all God’s Creatures,” but this is a nightmare-dynamic for Florida’s native wildlife. Public speakers noted Everglades National Park is “devoid of small mammals.” This is not an exaggeration, perhaps down 98%, and “small mammals” are not just what’s for dinner. Meals also include birds, eggs, bobcats, deer, alligators and who knows what else. Mr. Kipp Frohlich of FWC estimates a range from tens-of-thousands to over three-hundred-thousand snakes could be living in the Everglades. We really don’t know. One was even found in Florida Bay all curled up on a buoy. Oh yes, they can swim.
If I were a python and my friends and I had eaten everything down south, what would I do? I’d slither north…
Opossums, armadillos, and families of raccoons visit my yard a few times a week. ~For now…
Please see links to learn about what is being done to controll and educate ourselves on the python:
Division: Habitat and Species Conservation
Authors: Sarah Funck, Kristen Sommers, and Melissa Miller, Ph.D. Report date: July 2019
*Florida still allows breeders of Burmese Pythons in Florida, but they can only sell the animals outside of the state. All things considered, at the meeting, FWC Commissioner Gary Lester questioning the wisdom in this. I agree. Considering this is how pythons got out of control in the first place.
The Florida Channel videos of FWC meetings in Hutchinson Island; pythons: day 2:
“We must prioritize fish and wildlife habitat connectivity in future.” Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation, http://www.fwfonline.org
The Florida Wildlife Commission could have more authority to protect wildlife should Constitution Revision Commission proposal #48 be introduced on the 2018 ballot. This proposal, submitted by Cape Coral environmental legend, former service member, teacher and school principal, Mr Carl Veaux, would amend Section 9 of Article IV of the Florida constitution “to provide that the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shall exercise the regulatory and executive powers of the state with respect to habitats, including wildlife corridors…”
Full text proposal # 48: http://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0048/ProposalText/Filed/HTML
Before I continue, I would like to state that I have sponsored Mr Veaux’s public proposal, #801227, that is one of thousands of proposals, many addressing wildlife and conservation issues, that were submitted to the Constitution Revision Commission, (CRC) and brought to the attention of the commissioners during the public hearings.
Mr Veaux, though, stood out. He was very persistent in his communications with me. I came to learn through his multiple calls and emails something that I had not listened hard enough to hear. When he sensed my fatigue, Mr Veaux informed me, “…don’t you know, I speak for the animals.” I woke up.
I am also supporting this proposal because there is a need to define “wildlife corridors,” and work through the controversial details. We must step up and do this, as a CRC body, because protecting wildlife corridors in our constitution is the most logical and effective way to address and direct wildlife conservation for future generations.
So just in case you do not know, what is a “wildlife corridor” is anyway…To animals, lands that are not connected for travel, territory, food, shelter, raising young, and “socializing” are not as valuable as those lands that are CONNECTED.
You may have been exposed to this terminology through “The Florida Wildlife Corridor?” In my opinion, The Florida Wildlife Corridor is the most impressive conservation effort happening in Florida today. You can learn about its ambitious goal to connect lands throughout Florida by clicking on the link above.
Years ago, I heard through the grape vine that Attorney General Pam Bondi likes this program. Although I have never asked her about it, every time I walk by her office in Tallahassee I notice the most beautiful eagle painting hanging in her office. A clue!
The Florida Wildlife Commission is part of the executive branch; they are an executive agency. Their board members are appointed by the governor; however they are very independent. Their mission is to “managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people.”
So how would this work to affect the the constitution?
According to Florida Audubon, (http://fl.audubon.org) the “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission operates with Florida Constitutional authority to regulate direct impacts to fish and wildlife including protected species. For state Threatened species, they can require minimization or mitigation for impacts to the habitat of species that are designated as state Threatened, but there is no comprehensive way for them to engage on threats to the habitat of not-yet-listed species, or impacts to habitat that individually may not cause take to threatened species, but cumulatively will cause tremendous harm.”
The protection of wildlife cannot be accomplished without protecting their habitat; this amendment would give FWC the authority they need to achieve the work they’ve been tasked with. And that authority would extend to corridors needed by certain species.
So the proposed change would simply allow, but not require, the seven person appointed FWC to establish rules and permits limiting impacts to habitat in the same way they currently establish limits on impacts to individual animals.
Proposal #48 belongs in the constitution. There will be a things to work out, there always are but I think “we’re covered.” When I asked Mr. Veaux, who is 79 years old, if he could come to Tallahassee to speak on the issue, he said not, “Tallahassee is a long way, but that should not be a problem the wild animals all over the state are spreading the word!”
Proposal #48 is sponsored in honor of Mr Carl Veaux
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a commissioner on the 2017/18 Constitution Revision Commissioner, *this proposal will go before the Executive Committee November 28th. You can support this proposal by writing the Executive Committee here: https://flcrc.gov/Committees/EX/
As the possibility of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma approaches, I can’t help but reflect.
Looking back, we see that it was the severe flooding and the hurricane season of 1947 that led Florida and the U.S. Government down the track to where we are today through the creation of the Florida Central and South Florida Flood Project, (CSFP).
In 1947, during the United States’ post World War II boom, Florida had a very active and destructive hurricane season. This slightly edited excerpt from the ACOE’s book River of Interest does a good job giving a short overview of that year:
“…Rain began falling on the Everglades in large amounts. On 1 March, a storm dropped six inches of rain, while April and May also saw above average totals. The situation became severe in the summer…
As September approached and the rains continued, the ground in the Everglades became waterlogged and lake levels reached dangerous heights. Then, on 17 September, a hurricane hit Florida on the southwest coast, passing Lake Okeechobee on the west and dumping large amounts of rain on the upper Everglades, flooding most of the agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee.
George Wedgworth, who would later become president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and whose parents were vegetable growers in the Everglades, related that his mother called him during the storm and told him, “ this is the last call I’ll make from this telephone because I’m leaving. . . . “We’ve got an inch or two of water over our oak floors and they’re taking me out on a row boat.”
Such conditions were prevalent throughout the region. Before the area had a chance to recover from the devastation, another hurricane developed, moving into South Florida and the Atlantic Ocean by way of Fort Lauderdale. Coastal cities received rain in large quantities, including six inches in two hours at Hialeah and nearly 15 inches at Fort Lauderdale in less than 24 hours.
The Everglades Drainage District kept its drainage canals open to discharge to the ocean as much of the floodwater in the agricultural area as it could, exacerbating coastal flooding. East coast residents charged the District with endangering their lives in order to please ag- ricultural interests, but this was vehemently denied…
Whoever was to blame, the hurricanes had devastating effects. Although the levee around Lake Okeechobee held, preventing the large numbers of deaths that occurred in 1926 and 1928, over 2,000 square miles of land south of the lake was covered by, in the words of U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, “an endless sheet of water anywhere from 6 to 7 feet deep down to a lesser depth.” The Corps estimated that the storms caused $59 million in property damage throughout southern Florida, but Holland believed that the agency had “under- stated the actual figures.” The destruction shocked citizens of South Florida, both in the upper Everglades and in the coastal cities, and they demanded that something be done.”
Well, what was done was the Central and South Florida Flood Project.
Key Florida politicians, and the public demanded the Federal Government assist, and as both the resources and will were present, the project was authorized in 1948 with massive additional components making way not only for flood protection, but for even more agriculture and development. In Martin County and St Lucie County this happened by the controversial building of canals C-23, C-24, C-25 and “improving” the infamous C-44 canal that connects to Lake Okeechobee. This construction was basically the nail in the coffin for the St Lucie River and Southern Indian River Lagoon.
But before the death of the environment was clear, the Corps developed a plan that would include 1,000 miles of levees, 720 miles of canals, and almost 200 water control structures. Flooding in coastal cities and in the agricultural lands south of Lake Okeechobee would be minimized and more controllable.
Yes, a goal of the program was to provide conservation areas for water storage, protecting fish and wildlife habitat. Although water conservation areas were constructed, conservation of wildlife did not work out so well, and has caused extreme habitat degradation of the Everglades system, Lake Okeechobee, the southern and northern estuaries, the Kissimmee chain of lakes, and Florida Bay. Nonetheless, this project made possible for over five million people to now live and work in the 18,000 square mile area that extends from south of Orlando to Florida Bay “protected from flooding” but in 2017 living with serious water quality issues.
With problems apparent, in 1992 the Central and South Florida Project was “re-studied” and we continue to work on that today both for people and for wildlife…
Irma many be the system’s greatest test yet…
Yesterday’s Army Corp of Engineer Periodic Scientist Call was focused on saving people’s lives and safety. After the built-system was discussed, Mr Tyler Beck of the Florida Wildlife Commission, and Mr Steve Schubert of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on the endangered Everglades Snail Kites and their nests at Lake Okeechobee. Like most birds, pairs mate for life. There are presently fifty-five active nests, thirty-three in incubation, and twenty-three with baby chicks…
In the coming days, as the waters rise on Lake Okeechobee, and the winds scream through an empty void that was once a cathedral of colossal cypress trees, Mother Nature will again change the lives of Florida’s wildlife and its people, just as she did in 1947. Perhaps this time, she will give us vision for a future where nature and humankind can live in greater harmony…
This is one of my favorite historic aerial photos of Sewall’s Point; I have used it before. It is on page 11 of my mother’s book “Sewall’s Point a History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast.”
Taken in the 1950s, the peninsula is basically undeveloped. The spoil islands, from dredging the Intercostal Waterway, sit to the east of the island lone and unattached…
One very special spoil island is in this photo as well. I think it is the one furthest north: Bird Island, or MC 2, is a small spoil island now off the Archipelago. Comparing the photo above and below you can see the changes to the east side of Sewall’s Point and Bird Island.
I visited Bird Island yesterday with the Florida Wildlife Commission preparing for a field trip for their board who is meeting in South Florida this week. Bird Island was the first Critical Wildlife Area in the state of Florida designated in 20 years in 2014. This was an enormous accomplishment!
Kipp Fröhlich who was aboard boat yesterday said, “Yes it is amazing, we still don’t totally understand why the birds choose this particular island!” This is true. There are many to choose from.
One thing is for sure, the birds and humans love it here! It is a wonderful thing when wildlife and humans can reside together. Thank you FWC!
Don’t get me wrong… the first time I read that coyotes were “here,” in Marin County…the first time I saw Bud Adams’ picture on the back page of “Indian River Magazine,” the hair went up on the back of my neck. Old wives tales and ancient fears gripping me….
Since that time, I have read a lot and learned more. I am cautious but not afraid. In fact my roommate at this month’s University of Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute class was a coyote expert for the Florida Wildlife Commission. We stayed up late into the night; she showed me photos of all the things coyotes eat and told me first hand stories of how places like Hernando County, Florida, are dealing with the issue.
I sat in silent awe….
One of the most interesting things she shared was that the population of coyotes goes up the more populated an area is–you would think the opposite. “Coyotes have moved in and adapted so well we sometimes wonder who the suburbs were actually built for, us or them.” Her excellent article is at the end of this post.
Last night at a Sewall’s Point Commission meeting, a resident came forward during public comment to report about the coyotes in her subdivision. Passions flared! The discussion included guns, protected wildlife, unprotected wildlife, trapping, not leaving out cat food, not leaving out cats, as well as not leaving your small dogs or small children outside unattended. In the end, it was decided comprehensive town education was the best approach.
I find my self struggling with the image of coyote. Last night after the meeting, I took a walk and kept waiting for one’s red eyes to shine in the reflection of my iPhone. At every corner I was sure one was standing….They do intimidate me, but I am intrigued with their success. I respect them.
This animal is deeply associated with Native Americans who of course “we” eradicated. Remember the Seminole Wars? The US relocation plans? Not that long ago really. Perhaps this is our karma?
For many Native American tribes the coyote, known as a trickster for his ability to “be everywhere at once,” was the most powerful of creatures. In fact, it was believed that tribal members of tremendous power could “shift” shape into a coyote achieving amazing things….Why the coyote? The reasons are many, but one is because “Coyote,” just as in the Greek story of Prometheus, —-(also a clever trickster)—-brought fire from Heaven to the Earth, betraying the Gods, to help us survive.
Perhaps there is a greater message here? I don’t know…but it has me thinking…One thing is for sure: smart, master-adapter, coyote is here in Sewall’s Point, and throughout Martin County. And he is so smart and adaptable that “he is not going away.”
—Coyotes are now reported in all 67 counties of the state of Florida. They also live throughout much of the nation.
–Due to agriculture/rancher and landowner complaints, California spent 20 million dollars to eradicate coyotes with no success and now ironically the population is perhaps higher than ever.
—Coyotes are omnivorous, like people, eating everything especially insects, pet food, vegetation, road-kill, rodents, and “trash.” Thus they adapt easily.
—-Coyotes have flourished and spread since the human eradication of the larger canine family wolf —in Florida and through out the U.S. When top predators are removed others expand.
—Coyotes hunt in family groups not “packs, or alone; ” They mate for life and their social nature is part of their success.
—Read article below for tips on how to live and/or deal with coyotes.
Hutchinson Island is located on the east side of the Indian River Lagoon–
I find myself thinking of bears…recently I was in Silver Springs with my UF Natural Resources Leadership Institute class. We were staying at the Florida Wildlife Commissions’ Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp. That night, I couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning—the springs under my mattress squeaked relentlessly through the dead-aired, dark, dusty cabin. I knew I was keeping my bunk-mates awake. It was 2:00AM. I decided to get up. Walking out the door into cool darkness the stars shone like diamonds in a velvet sky; Orion looked down on me as he has since my childhood.
Standing alone in glory of the night, I wondered if I would see a bear. After all, I was in “bear country”…There had been a lot of talk about bears and the controversies of hunting during our session. I imagined that if I did see a bear, I would do what they say to do. I would stand tall and slowly back up. I would not run.
Later that night I fell asleep in my car, and dreamt of bears. In my dream, I forgot the rules and I ran. The bear did not chase me, but rather stood up like a human and summoned me to a large rock; I went to him and he told me a story… his story of being the last bear shot on Hutchinson Island in Martin County, 1926…
The bear looked me straight in the eye and began speaking in a steady, low voice:
“For countless centuries there were black bears on Hutchinson Island…they co-existed with the Indians whose mounds are found there. We roamed the beaches on the long summer nights, digging up loggerhead turtle eggs. When the white settlers came a few sailed over from the mainland to put out bees on the island and we knocked over the hives to get the honey…
It was tough being a bear….white men and bears were enemies in a one-sided war. In 1926 I was shot by Captain Billy Pitchford. I was the last bear on Hutchinson Island…”
Suddenly I awoke. My car window was open; I heard owls hooting close by and the wind whistling through the spanish moss. My bones ached and moisture coated everything. I rolled on my side thinking about my dream. Thinking about the last bear shot on Hutchinson Island and the old Stuart News article my mother had given me…
Bears, I though…
“A one-sided war….”
That was the message.
The Florida Wildlife Commission sanctioned bear hunt, the first since 1994, will begin in two days on October 24th. There is nothing wrong with hunting, but a man of dignity should never take pride in winning a one-sided war.
Just the other day, one of my readers sent me a funny but educational video on Lake Okeechobee and the continued sightings of Pacu fish. Pacu Fish are related to Piranhas and both fish live in the Amazon River of South America. Both have TEETH.
Since my husband pulls out wisdom teeth and replaces teeth with implants, teeth are often a topic of discussion for us, even at the dinner table….when we first met, he told me my teeth were great, except my “lateral incisors were too prominent…..:) —-the vampire teeth! 🙂 I was not happy…:)
Anyway. Today’s blog post is meant to be fun but serious.
Invasive species are forever changing South Florida. Between pythons in the Everglades, Lion Fish in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Cuban Tree Frogs as well as Bufo Frogs in Sewall’s Point, and Pacu Fish with their “human like teeth” in the Lake Okeechobee—that of course is periodically dumped into our rivers—our world is changing. Native species are being replaced and overwhelmed.
In their 5th Biennial Review of Progress in the Everglades or lack thereof, the National Reasearch Council noted Invasive Species as a top concern for Everglades Restoration.
I read about all this and get upset at the invasive species problem…then it dawns on me that some may say “we, modern man, in South Florida, are an invasive species too.”
Food for thought anyway….
Thank you to Ricardo Zambrano and Kelly Gestring of the Florida Wildlife Commission for replying to my question about PACU and Lake Okeechobee as seen below:
Dear Commissioner Thurlow-Lippish,
To the best of my knowledge, this report of a singleton pacu being caught by a commercial fisherman in Lake Okeechobee is true. The reporter contacted several FWC people and I was asked to confirm the identity of the fish.
We receive numerous reports every year of singleton pacu being caught (primarily in HOA ponds) every year from locations around the state. However, there is no indication that pacu are reproducing in any of our waterbodies. This strongly suggests that the illegal releases of pacu are by owners who no longer want their pet.
Pacu are primarily herbivores and pose little threat to native species. Anglers should be careful removing the hook as pacu’s have very strong jaws and their molar-shaped teeth could inflict a lot of damage to a finger.
We encourage anglers that catch a pacu to remove them to reduce any potential impacts they may have on the environment.
Thank you for your concern and if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Non-Native Fish and Wildlife Program Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 10216 Lee Road Boynton Beach, FL 33473 (561) 292-6007 office (561) 234-9925 cell firstname.lastname@example.org
In first grade, I attended Parker Elementary School in Stuart. In 1970 it was called “Parker Annex.” I remember those days well and can still recall many of the names of the kids in my class; my teacher’s name was Mrs Jerdeman. Tomorrow, I will be returning to the school, 45 years later, as a guest speaker on the subject of “River Kidz and the protection of sharks”—a subject chosen at the requests of students in Mrs Maya Gebus-Mockabee’s first grade class.
Am I a shark expert? No. But I can give a good lesson as a former teacher and someone interested in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon as well as our Atlantic near shore reef habitat that is connected to our rivers. I have been a guest in many schools, mostly elementary. It’s a riot. A blast. I taught middle and high school, but elementary kids seem smartest of all. So creative! So enthusiastic! So wanting to help! Visiting these young students gives me hope for our rivers and “puts gas in my tank.”
Interestingly, if one takes a look at the River Kidz workbooks, both first and second edition, one will see that it is the bull shark who recites the River Kidz mission statement: “Our mission is to speak out, get involved, and raise awareness because we believe kids should have a voice in the future of our rivers.”
Hey, did you know that the Indian River Lagoon is considered the second most important bull shark nursery in North America? Mother bull sharks come here (mostly central IRL) to have their live young and these juveniles may stay here for up to nine or ten years? Did you know that bull sharks swim way up into estuaries, can endure fresh water, and have even been reported to live in Lake Okeechobee?!
Cool! Yikes! Wow!
The River Kidz’ mission of course applies to ocean reefs as these waters and the creatures of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are all connected!
We all know they are often needlessly exterminated for “fun,””sport” or wasteful “shark-fin soup.”
Kids with their creativity and sensitivity are able “see” that the fear and hatred directed towards sharks is sometimes extreme. And all kids know, hating just to hate, is not good.
Yes, we humans need to be careful and stay out of their way….but we need not hate sharks; it is better to respect them for the role they play in our oceans keeping disease at bay and populations in check.
3. Bull- 10 feet (The IRL is a bull shark nursery)
4. Hammer Head- 20 feet
5. Nurse- 14 feet
6. Bonnet 5 feet
7 Lemon-10 feet
8. Spinner-10 feet
9 Sand bar-10 feet
10. Great White- 21-26 feet (sometimes off our shores as they migrate through)
Legions of sharks migrate through our waters, and in winter especially, can be seen by plane sometimes by the hundreds. My husband Ed and I have seen this. And although I like and respect sharks, I have had visions of the plane crashing into the water and having a really bad day!
Yesterday, Terry Gibson, of the Pew Charitable Trust, and I spoke. What I got out of that conversation was that sharks are “really not protected;” this has to do with the politics and structure of federal and state agencies, and a “conflict of interest.” (Kind of like the Department of Agriculture oversees the Department of Environmental Protection for the state of Florida—now that’s something to be afraid of! )
Personally, I have seen boats right at our St Lucie Inlet, over the nearshore reefs, catching sharks and leaving them on deck longer than they could possibly survive– holding them up hooked to take pictures and then throwing them back hours later to sink to the bottom. I witnessed this from afar when I was a volunteer on Nancy Beaver’s Sunshine Wildlife boat from 2011-2012.
There is a long history of shark fishing in our area and acting like “sharks will last forever.” It is well documented that Port Salerno was an active and “productive” shark fishery in the Martin County’s early days—–until the resource was exhausted of course.
We must admit, that over recent generations, many of us have not been good stewards to our waters, or to sharks. Many of us we were not educated to be….I remember the movie JAWS in eighth grade. Do you? I never thought that sharks could become as they are today, a threatened species.
Hopefully the upcoming generations will be better than we were, than our parents and grandparents were. Considering these Parker students asked to study and protect sharks all on their own, a brighter future just may be coming.
Usually, my husband, Ed, does not like it when I ask him to “do things”…like take out the trash or blow leaves off the driveway. But he always likes it if I ask him to go up in the plane. He did so yesterday, and was able to visually document the polluted discharges pouring into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.
Yes, once again.
The Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE), and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) agreed to have the Army Corp start releases this year on January 16, 2015 at 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) through S-308 into the C-44 canal which is attached to the South Fork of the St Lucie River, and then in turn is connected to the Indian River Lagoon “my town,” Sewall’s Point.
Exhausting isn’t it?
The ACOE is now discharging at a rate of “950 cfs.” This rate goes up and down. It is going up because Lake Okeechobee is not going down…
Today I will share Ed’s photos and show how to “see” how much the ACOE is releasing at S-308. (Structure 308) which is located at Port Mayaca, in Indiantown, Martin County.
Ofcouse, there are discharges from area canals C-44, C-23, C-24 and C-25 as well, but today for simplicity’s sake, I will focus on the lake discharges today, which in my opinion, are the worst of all anyway—because they are not at all “ours.”
You can search “Jacksonville, ACOE” or just go to this link: (http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/reports.htm). You can then very quickly check two things: Lake Okeechobee’s level and how much the ACOE is dumping at S-308 from the lake.
To do so, after accessing the site, go to “Current Lake Okeechobee Water Level” at the top left: Always one day behind or so, the latest date reported is 3-7-15– Lake O is at 14.71 feet. Then go back to the main page to the last link: “Port Mayaca Lock, S-308 Spillway.” View by date; the last date shows 873 cubic feet per second (cfs) being discharged.
Here are some more photos Ed took yesterday, 3-8-15, of the SLR/IRL.
When Ed got home, he said I was lucky I did not go up with him as it was windy which means bumpy…He also said the plume looked different from what we have seen before. It looked “chalky” as is seen in these two photographs below and extended about two miles off shore and further south of the St Lucie Inlet.
I am no scientist, but I would imagine this is silt/suspended solids in the water as everything is “stirred up” from the wind. Suspended solids falling on and smothering our reefs….
In closing, I must thank my husband for the photos, and I must point something out.
This area around Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point, this “confluence” of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, in the not too distant past, has been documented as the most bio-diverse estuary in North America (Dr. R. Grant Gilmore, senior scientist with Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc., (ECOS)(http://www.floridaoceanscouncil.org/members/bios/gilmore.htm).)
The map below allows us to see where these precious seagrass beds are/were located. The map above shows where our “protected” near shore reefs are located just outside the St Lucie Inlet where the discharges go out to sea. These reefs are the northern most “tropical reefs” on the east coast of Florida…
I think it is a truly a sin that the ACOE and SFWMD year after year discharge onto these productive sea grass beds and near shore reef habitats that are the breeding grounds for thousands of fish and sea creatures. Its loss is felt all the way up the food chain, including “us.”
Where is the Department of Environmental Protection? Where is the Florida Wildlife Commission? Where is NOAA?
Not to mention, last year a designation of “Critical Wildlife Area,” —the first in 20 years for Florida—for 30 plus species of nesting and resting protected birds, was established on “Bird Island,” located just 400 feet off south Sewall’s Point….”Now” is right before nesting season’s height. Where will the birds find food when the seagrass beds are covered in silt and the water is so dark they can’t really see? Chances are these releases will continue.
Don’t our state agencies have a duty to protect? Don’t they have a voice or has it been muffled? Not a word? Not a peep. Where is our governor? Isn’t this money? Isn’t the productivity our of waterways linked to our businesses? Our real estate values? Where is our local delegation? Have we all become numb to this destruction? Beaten down and manipulated so long we that have no reaction?
It breaks my heart.
Our state and federal government entities responsible for “protection” especially should hang their heads in shame.
If nothing else “speak out” about how bad it is. Recognize the loss. Address the “constraints,” killing this ecosystem and local economy. Take leadership!
Be true to our heritage. We are the United States of America. Be brave. Speak out!
When I was a kid in the 1960s and 70s growing up in Stuart, urban legend was that a large, male panther lived on Jupiter Island. Both local fisherman and doctors swore they had seen this panther swimming across the St Lucie Inlet to Seminole Shores, today’s Sailfish Point.
During my childhood, these stories resonated and inflamed my imagination, but I, myself, never saw a panther…
Now that I am older, I am still fascinated with these captivating creatures eking out a life as an endangered species in a much changed Florida. Recently, I came upon information that helps support my childhood beliefs that until fairly recently, they lived right here in Stuart as I usually associate them with Florida’s west coast.
Let’s take a look…
As seen above, before Florida was “developed,” and the animal was over-hunted; its range included the entire state and far beyond. Today, as seen in the map below, their range has been greatly reduced and no longer includes the Treasure Coast. Sightings and unfortunate “road kills” are usually in the -south-western part of the state.
When I started asking my historian mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow, if there were any accounts of panthers here, she shared a transcript by Rush Hughes of Mrs Ethel Porter taped in 1960. At this point, Mrs Porter was of very advanced age. She lived right here in Stuart in what we know as todays “Owl House,” as a pioneer beginning in the late 1800s until her death. Her account of seeing a panther at her homestead along the shore of the St Lucie River is quite entertaining, here is an excerpt:
Did you ever have any trouble with the Indians?
Oh no. No.
Did you ever have any experience with the wild animals?
Well yes. I had company from North Carolina and we heard something coming up the path, where the bank is now. It was crying like a child. And I said, “That cannot be a child, because there is no child anywhere around. It couldn’t be lost because there is no family near enough.” When it got almost opposite the house – it was in the days of lamps – I took a lamp and I went out on the porch and took a lamp and held it above my head and out of a clump of bushes came two great big eyes of fire and I screamed and when I did, I could hear it jumping. Then my husband came in and I told him about it and he said, “You know you have such fear down here that your imagination goes ahead of you.” But next morning we went down on the beach – we used to have beach before the canal – and there was a footprint of a panther that a number two tomato can could not cover.
My goodness – that was a big one!
Yes, but I didn’t mind that like I did the snakes…
In my option, a woman’s knowledge of a #2 tomato can’s size in the late 1800s is about as solid as documentation gets!
Another sure-fire documentation is a photograph taken along the Indian River Lagoon area in around the 1870’s by Jupiter Lighthouse keeper, James A . Armour and/or Melvin Spencer. This photograph is widely distributed and is now in the archives of the Historical Society of Palm Beach. The photograph shows a dead, 106 pound, 6 foot 8 inches panther, a sad trophy but reflective of the values of the era.
Today, thankfully, we protect these graceful and secretive creatures and appreciate their struggle to survive…
In closing, before you go to sleep at night, never think that the panthers only belong to Florida’s west coast; they belong here as well. After all, the St Lucie Indian River Lagoon, is really a “jungle….” 🙂