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Gopher Tortoises CANNOT Swim — Don’t put them in the Water!

Posted on May 20th 2015 by Arthur in Florida, Wildlife

We were sitting at the Lake Monroe boat ramp in Deltona this morning (waiting for the rocket launch) when a guy parks behind us and proceeds to walk from his car onto the floating dock holding a gopher tortoise! It took me a second to realize what he was about to do and I quickly yelled at him to STOP! I ran over to the dock and the man explained that he found the animal in the middle of the road and was going to ‘help’ it by dropping it in the water. Facepalm! I explained that he was holding a gopher tortoise, that this is a land animal and that it would drown if he dropped it in the water. The man backed up and went to release the poor tortoise behind the picnic tables and then left.

Is this a common thing? Are there many people picking up gopher tortoises from roads across the state to then go to the nearest lake and drop them in the water, thinking that they’ve done the creature a huge favor by saving it from certain death on the road? I shudder to think of how often this happens. Standing there on the dock watching the rocket launch I had this horrible picture in my head of hundreds of tortoise shells laying around me at the bottom of the lake.

Back home behind the computer I found many news stories from last month about the FWC urging people to stop putting baby gopher tortoises in the ocean. Apparently people were misidentifying them as baby sea turtles and there were several reports of wannabe good Samaritans releasing the hatchlings into the sea. Doh!

tortoise-vs-cooter

Top: Gopher Tortoise; Bottom: Cooter

No wonder these animals are endangered if people can’t even tell them apart from turtles. A couple of years ago we were at a very swampy park when a guy got out of his car holding a gopher tortoise that he had found a few miles down the road. He was about to release it there in the swamp, thinking that it would be a much safer place than the busy road he had found it at. Of course, in reality the tortoise was yanked from his home territory, where it had made its burrows and had perhaps lived for decades until this person brought it to a park miles from his home with inappropriate habitat where the tortoise might not even be able to ever make a burrow again. We have on numerous occasions seen gopher tortoises in parks where we think the habitat isn’t quite right, making us wonder if someone dropped them there. What are people thinking?

If you see an uninjured turtle or tortoise on the road you can best bring it to the side in the direction it was headed. See this page for more tips. Leave it in its home territory and don’t drive it miles to a park that may not have the right habitat. Chances are it is already quite old and has been doing fine where it is. Of course, if you really think the gopher tortoise is in the wrong place or in a very dangerous place, you should call Florida Fish and Wildlife. Injured tortoises and turtles should be taken to your local wildlife rehabilitators (see this list of facilities in Florida).

Air Conditioner Cover to Prevent Snakes, Frogs and other Critters from getting Killed

Posted on December 10th 2014 by Arthur in Florida, Home Improvement, Yard

It has happened twice in the last year that I heard a loud noise coming from our A/C unit outside as if there was a rock banging around inside. Both times it turned out that a poor snake had crawled inside and was killed by the spinning blade. We have also found dead lizards and frogs inside as well. It is a terrible death for the poor animals to be cut into small bits by the spinning fan blade, and it also stinks when the corpses are rotting in the bottom of the A/C.

I started looking around and couldn’t find anything specifically to keep critters out of air conditioners. I did find this Air Conditioner Cover on Amazon.com to keep leaves out and decided to give it a try. The product has some good reviews but none of the reviews nor the product description itself mention anything about keeping snakes or other animals out. It turns out that it works perfectly:

The cover has been on the A/C unit for several months now and there is no way a snake, frog or lizard can get into it anymore. The four bungee cords hold the cover tight so that nothing can crawl under. On the sides and bottom I don’t see any openings where animals could crawl in either. I love this product and recommend it to anyone who has this problem. As a bonus it also keeps leaves out so the inside stays nice and clean. You can get this air conditioner cover on Amazon. I highly recommend it.

Trimming our big Live Oak tree

Posted on December 3rd 2014 by Arthur in Florida, Yard

For a while I have been wanting to get a company to cut some branches off the big Live Oak tree in our backyard. Some branches were hanging over or very close to the house. In the front we also had a live oak with a large branch almost touching our electric wires. A few weeks ago a guy rang the doorbell and asked if we needed to have our palm trees trimmed. I said that that wasn’t necessary, but I asked him if he would be able to do the big tree in our backyard. After an estimate we decided to hire his company and a couple of days later he and two other guys came by to do the work.

Here are two before pictures:
One of the guys climbed into the tall tree with ease. He tied a thick rope to each limb before cutting it off with his chainsaw so that it could be lowered down slowly.
We found some Florida Rough Green Snakes in the branches that fell down. They were okay and Amy relocated them to another part of our yard.
We asked if they could leave some of the wood, so they cut them up and left us a nice little pile for our fireplace.
And here's an after picture with two large branches removed.

Visiting CROW on Sanibel Island

Posted on December 2nd 2014 by Arthur in Florida, Wildlife

We recently visited the Education Center of CROW, or Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, on Sanibel Island here in Florida. CROW is a teaching hospital dedicated to saving wildlife. They have a veterinary hospital and visitor education center open to the public. I found the visitor center quite impressive with very informative interactive exhibits and really enjoyed looking around and learning about the work they do at the clinic. Every year over 4,000 sick, injured or orphaned animals are treated at CROW.

Our car parked in the shade under the Education Center
This map inside the visitor center shows how CROW has expanded over the years to become a world-renowned wildlife hospital and rehabilitation facility. Only the building marked "CROW Education Center" is open to the public.
The interactive exhibits of the Education Center teach you about the work done at the clinic and the importance of saving wildlife. There is a timeline of CROW's history, patient rescue stories and information about testing, treatment methods and past medical records.
Each exhibit area talks about a different part of the rehabilitation process. This stations is about radiographs, with sample x-rays of different animals.
Check out the fractured skull on this Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Surgery was performed to align the fracture pieces and the turtle was released back into wild just five months after arrival at CROW.
There are three large monitors that show live views from cameras in the clinic. We saw them take in some newly arrived baby possums.

For more information and to donate you can visit crowclinic.org.

The Final Space Shuttle

Posted on July 24th 2011 by Arthur in Florida, Space

Now that we live a mere one hour from Kennedy Space Center, we had a chance to see the launch and landing of Atlantis STS 135, the final space shuttle mission. This was our second shuttle launch after seeing STS 129 from the NASA Causeway in June 2009.


© NASA

This time we drove to Titusville to try and find a place near Space View Park. The launch was scheduled for 11:30am, so we thought leaving home at 2:00am would give us plenty of time to find a good place. However, when we arrived at 3:00am the town was already extremely crowded. We found a parking spot for $30 and walked toward the Indian River with our bags and chairs. We were planning to put down our chairs in the little park just south of Wachovia Bank, but this was already completely packed with people. This whole area of Titusville had been turned into an improvised campground, with small tents taking up every available space. We set up our chairs on the sidewalk, right next to a guy sleeping in a hammock tied to a street sign.

We went back to our car to get some sleep. When we woke up it was light and thousands more people were now sitting everywhere on sidewalks and streets. We were lucky to find our chairs still there. Among all these people we sat for several hours as the countdown continued.

There was only a 30% chance all day that weather would permit the launch to continue and cloud cover was too thick for most of the morning. Fortunately, shortly before lift off the sky cleared up and the shuttle was go for launch. There was a small scare when we heard from a radio behind us at T-31 seconds that there may be a malfunction, but this was quickly resolved and shuttle Atlantis lifted off at 11:29am. A crowd of nearly one million people on the Space Coast cheered as the four astronauts blasted into the sky. We had a nice view, but not as good as from the NASA Causeway two years earlier. Nevertheless it was incredible to see the final space shuttle take off.


© NASA

Two weeks later, on July 21st, we headed back to Titusville to try and see the landing. This was scheduled for 5:57am, or a half hour before sunrise, so we were unsure if we would be able to see anything in the dark. We’d never seen a shuttle landing before and this was our only chance, so we had to try. We arrived at Space View Park at 5:00am and there were a few hundred people there. Several TV crews had set up their cameras and we could see thousands of people on the Max Brewer Bridge.

A few minutes before landing we heard an extremely loud “BOOM BOOM”. I knew we were going to hear the sonic boom, but I had no idea it would be that loud!! Shortly after that we heard people cheer and we could see the shadow of the shuttle fly across Merritt Island against the pre-dawn sky. We had a great view considering the darkness and were both very happy to have seen this historic journey from beginning to end.


© NASA

For more STS 135 Atlantis pictures see The Big Picture.