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Learn About Florida Snakes

Are you ready to learn more about Florida’s snakes?

On April 20, 2016, from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., Master Gardener Volunteer Karl Shaffer will conduct a session on snakes.

These elongated, legless reptiles are much more frightening to most than a simple legless lizard, and strike fear in the hearts of many a Florida resident. But, fear not! In this class you will learn how to identify poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, the advantages of having certain snakes in your landscape and how to avoid being bitten by snakes.

Most snakes are non-venomous, but those that are don’t really “strike” for self-defense, usually they attack if you look like a tasty meal! Venom can be deadly, and learning more about snakes will indeed save lives… theirs, and possibly yours.

The class will take place at the Yulee Extension office on Pages Dairy Road. It is free and open to the public. For more information, access their website, or call the Extension office at (904) 530-6350.

Landscape Matters 2016

Landscape Matters 2016The Nassau County Cooperative Extension monthly series, Landscape Matters, are held from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am and given by Nassau County Extension Agents and/or Master Gardeners.

These presentations will be held at the Yulee Satellite Office, 86026 Pages Dairy Road, Yulee. Rose Class and Pruning Class will be held at the Demonstration Garden, Yulee Government Complex, 96135 Nassau Place.

We have listed the presentations on our SearchAmelia.com event calendar; here are the presentations for the remainder of the year.

April 6th -Hummingbirds
Fee $10 for recycled feeder.
To register email rljordi@ufl.edu
Rebecca Jordi

April 20 – Snakes
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Karl Shaffer

May 4 – Hydrangeas
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Joanne Templeton

May 25 – Palm Trees
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Demonstration Garden Location
Yulee Governmental Complex
Rebecca Jordi

June 1 – Garden Pests
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Rebecca Jordi

June 20 – Lawn Problems
Fertilizing
Watering
Diseases
St. Augustine grass
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Nelson Peterson

July 6 – Drought Tolerant Plants
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Rebecca Jordi

July 20 – Native Plants
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Rebecca Jordi

August 3 – Vegetables
Joseph Smith

August 17 – Invasives and Alternatives
Rebecca Jordi

September 7 – Landscaping for Wildlife
Bea Walker

September 21 – Butterflies
Ginny Grupe

October 5 – Tree Planting and Selection
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Rebecca Jordi

October 19 – Bulb Propagation and Division
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Rebecca Jordi

November 2 – Herbs
10:00 a.m. to 11:00 am
Claudie Speed

November 16 – Are Bats Beneficial?
10AM – 11:30AM
Pre-register by Nov 9. Fee $15.
Cindy Steighner and Karl Shaffer

Nov 30 – Holiday Mailbox Decorating
Carol Ann Atwood & Sylvie Baxter

These programs are free to the public, so please call (904) 530-6350 or e-mail rljordi@ufl.edu if you plan to attend.

If response is too small, the program will be canceled.

Florida’s Snake Population, venomous and otherwise

snake biteFirst of the bat, if you don’t like snakes, you may have picked the wrong state to live in. There are no less than 45 species of snakes in Florida, 6 of which are venomous. They live in a variety of habitats, some aquatic, some land-based. All snakes are carnivores, and feed on a variety of small prey. Snakes can prove beneficial in reducing rats and mice, but many people prefer not to encounter snakes at all. It is worth noting that the venomous snakes are rare, and only 4 of the 6 venomous species live in Florida. People commonly misidentify snakes which is why it is highly recommended to not provoke or attempt to handle any snake that you cannot properly identify – it may be a venomous snake. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, you should immediately seek medical attention at a hospital.

Last week’s highly publicized “diamond back snake attack” in St.John’s County was a bit of a fluke, as the bitten man was actually trying to save the snake from potentially being killed by ignorant assholes, as it tried crossing the road.
Let me be up front, I’m not hugely fond of snakes, mostly because I’m too, brainwashed by media attention, folklore and the stupendous story of Eve getting us evicted from Paradise after being coaxed by a snake into eating the apple. The devil appearing as a snake has doomed the fate of snakes since history began and being called “serpent” has not added to us understanding the species’ importance in keeping rodent populations on earth under control. But I’m learning and fascinated.
Therefore if you set out to go and kill a snake in your yard or impulsively decide to swerve your car to kill one, you are an ignorant jerk in my opinion, with the emphasis on ignorant. Seriously, the only people who kill snakes are uneducated idiots who have never bothered to try to actually learn about and understand the world they live in.

Here are my two main reasons to never kill a snake (again):

1 – 85%, of all snakebites occur when people attempt to kill or capture snakes. Did you read that wright?? 85 PERCENT or 17 out of 20 snake bites. Put it differently form the 8,000 snake bites reported annually, 6,800 were provoked by humans. Just leave them alone! They will NEVER strike out of pointless aggression (unlike humans, who are undeniably the world’s most destructive superpredator).

2 – The odds that you actually saw a venomous snake are super slim. Almost all snakes killed by people are not only harmless, but rare and beneficial creatures that have a hard enough time surviving as it is. Remember this: Is the snake big and fat? No? It’s a slim snake? Then it’s harmless!

So here is a bit of snake education

The United States has about 20 species of venomous snakes which include 16 species of rattlesnakes, 2 species of coral snakes, one species of cottonmouth (or water moccasin), and one species of copperhead. At least one type of venomous snake is found in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. It has been estimated that 7,000–8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, and about 5 of those people die. That is 1/16th of ONE PERCENT!!! And that even includes suicidal idiots like Jamie Coots  and the Wolford clan up in West Virginia’s religious idiot reservations.
Most fatal bites are attributed to the eastern and western diamondback rattlesnake. Copperheads account for more cases of venomous snake bites than any other North American species; however, their venom is the least toxic so their bite is seldom fatal.

Correctly identifying a snake

There are no foolproof methods to always tell if a snake is venomous. Even harmless snakes have colors, triangular heads, and shake their tails. But a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the below photograph. You will see three of the most common snakes in Florida. First, a common Garter Snake, which is probably the most commonly seen snake in the United States. Next, a Yellow Rat Snake. The Red Rat Snake (corn snake) is also super common in FL. Then a Black Racer, which is the most common snake of them all in FL. Just knowing these three species covers about 75% of snake sightings in Florida.

garter snake shedding

Garter Snake Shedding

Yellow Rat snake

Yellow Rat Snake

Corn Snake or Red Rat Snake

Corn Snake -Red Rat Snake

 

The Cottonmouth, Coral Snake, and Diamondback are three of Florida’s venomous snakes. Get to know what they look like, and voila, you’ve got a good clue about which snakes are dangerous. It’s not hard, because there aren’t many venomous species.

The triangular head test is worthless. Pretty much ALL snakes have triangular heads, from common Garter Snakes, to rat snakes, and water snakes. But the venomous snakes of the US and Florida are almost all pit vipers, and these snakes are very fat. So if you see a super fat snake, then that’s a good clue.

easterndiamondbackEastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

This is the deadliest snake in North America. Most deaths in the United States due to snakebite are because of the Eastern, not the Western Diamondback. The Eastern Diamondback has a very potent venom, and it injects the venom in high quantity. This snake has an extremely fast strike – 175 miles per hour. However, it cannot slither very fast, and it will stand its ground and rattle its tail, and if you get to within 2/3 of its body length when its agitated like this, there’s a decent chance you’ll end up dead. Do not approach this snake for any reason.

Diamondback Rattlesnakes that are found in the United States come in two varieties; the eastern and the western diamondback rattlesnake. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is found in the coastal areas in the Carolinas, Florida and Louisiana. They are often found in wooded areas where there is both land and water. The western diamondback rattlesnake is found throughout the rest of the United States in mountainous and semi-arid to arid areas in states like Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Texas and California. The western diamondback rattlesnake lives in shrubby and rocky areas that it can easily conceal itself, however these areas are common to outdoor sport enthusiasts like hikers, rock climbers and mountain bikers which is where the majority of rattlesnake bites occur.

Diamondback rattlesnakes are one of the largest snakes in the United States, and one of the most deadly. Rattlesnakes reach an average size of four to six feet when they are full grown. There have been some diamondback rattlesnakes that have even grown up to seven feet, but this is very rare. The diamondback rattlesnake gets its name from the diamond pattern of its scales that resemble diamonds. These patterns, along with its color which are gray, tan, yellow or red, help it to blend into the background and escape the notice of predators. However, it is because of the rattlesnake’s excellent camouflage, that unsuspecting hikers might accidentally step into its line of attack. The most well known characteristic of the rattlesnake is its rattle that it shakes to warn predators of its presence.

Another striking feature of the diamondback rattlesnake is its triangular head and the very light colored stripe that starts at the corner of its mouth and wraps around the back of the head. This snake is a part of the viper family and has heat seeking sensors under its nose so that it can successfully track prey at night as well as in the day. The prey of a diamondback rattlesnake usually includes anything that it can overpower and swallow in one bite like birds, rodents, lizards, ground squirrels, toads, rabbits and the occasional small pet. The venom that a rattlesnake will inject into its victims attacks the blood, making it thinner and harder to clot, therefore the victim will either bleed out or bleed internally. If the victim should scamper off after it is bitten by a diamondback rattlesnake, the snake can follow its scent trail until the animal falls down dead or is too weak to defend itself.

Young rattlesnakes are born completely independent and will hunt and protect themselves from the day they are born. Diamondback rattlesnakes are mainly solitary, only meeting during mating season and to hibernate.

easterncoralsnakeEastern Coral Snake

Red Touch Yellow, Kills a Fellow – this is the Eastern Coral Snake. But remember Remember that this is not a hard rule, but a general guideline and it only applies to snakes in North America. Some of the snakes that are regularly mistaken for a coral snake include the scarlet snake, milk snake and the king snake.

You can see that it has red, yellow, and black bands. There are several snakes that mimic the color pattern of this snake, but this is the one with the deadly neurotoxic venom. You can see that in the arrangement of color bands, that red and yellow bands do touch.
There are over 70 different species of Coral Snake that range from the Midwest in the United States all the way down through South America. However, in the United States these snakes are more common in southern states such as Florida, North and South Carolina and Louisiana. In these southern states you are sure to find these snakes living in wooded areas in rotting logs, thickets and meadows that are near water sources. Coral snakes are good swimmers, so they like to live near water if they can. Coral snakes can also live in Southern and Southwest states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. For coral snakes that live in these states, they make their homes in scrubland, wooded areas, grassland and farmlands but they can also live in rocky mountainous areas also. The coral snake is very resilient and can survive in a variety of regions.

Look at the picture to tell the difference between the venomous coral snake and the harmless copycat colored snakes like the King Snake.

snakerhyme

pix

Most coral snakes are small and thin, only growing up to three feet long, but have been reported to grow up to five feet long. The coral snakes that live near water will have a flattened tail that they use as a rudder to swim. The fangs of a coral snake are fixed to their upper jaw and do not revert to lying flat when they close their mouths, and this is why their fangs are a bit smaller. However, just because the fangs are small does not mean that their venom doesn’t carry a powerful punch. The coral snake has deadly venom, but because they are elusive there are not very many reported coral snake bites. The snake will use its venom to subdue its prey, but instead of using a strike method, the coral snake will chew its prey to inject the venom. The usual prey of a coral snake includes smaller animals such as lizards, salamanders, skinks, birds, rodents and other snakes.

The coral snake has many predators that affect their life spans. Some of these predators include hawks, owls, coyotes, bigger snakes and larger dogs. A coral snake’s first line of defense is to flee or escape its predator’s grasp, but if it feels threatened it will strike. This is unfortunate for people who engage in a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking and gardening. If you should get bitten by a coral snake, or any other snake, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Fortunately, the coral snake is very elusive, only coming out of its territory during breeding season or after rainstorms. A good thing to remember is they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Do not go out of your way to rid your property of them (unless you have a nest of them) because chances are that they will move on quickly.

watermoccasinWater Moccasin or Cottonmouth

This is a sneaky snake as it turns color from brownish tan when they’re young to black when they’re adult.
They are members of the pit viper family. Most pit vipers are rattlesnakes that live on dry land, but the Water Moccasin does not have rattles, and it lives in water and swampy areas. This snake isn’t as aggressive as many of the rattlesnakes, but it’ll certainly bite if you get too close and it’s agitated (or if it senses your heat), and the bite is horrible. It’s lethal from a larger snake, and is sure to destroy your tissue and leave you without whatever body part got bitten. Be very careful around this snake.

Water moccasins, or cottonmouth snakes, are found near bodies of water in the southern part of The United States. These vipers are deadly, and received their name because of the way they present themselves when threatened. The cottonmouth will hold itself erect, opening its mouth. The inner tissue is white; a sharp contrast to the dark skin of the snake. There are no clear origins for the name water moccasin, though people attribute it to Native Americans and their experiences with the semi-aquatic snake. You will rarely have nuisance concerns with water moccasins. These snakes do not see people as prey, and they will leave humans along if the snakes are not harassed. The cottonmouth feeds on the animals that live in and near the water. It is capable of attacking its prey underwater as well as along the shore. These venomous snakes are often confused with brown water snakes. The main difference is that brown water snakes swim with most of their bodies submerged. Cottonmouths are very buoyant, and their length is visible while they swim. Because of the time spent in the water, the body temperature of these snakes needs constant renewal. For this reason, when not hunting, they are often seen sunning themselves along the bank.

When a water mocassin bites a human, it rarely injects enough venom to kill. The main goal of the snake is to get away; it does not see humans as a prey animal. If the snake wanted to eat us, there would be no problem injecting enough venom to do the trick.

copperheadCopperhead

The Copperhead is one of the most commonly mis-identified snakes in the United States. Many types of snake, especially the Northern Water Snake, the Banded Water Snake, and the Brown Water Snake are mistaken for the poisonous Copperhead. Although you can try to learn tricks, such as looking for an elliptical eye pupil (venomous pit viper) instead of a round pupil (harmless), your best bet is to click on the below photographs to take a good look at what the snake looks like, and get the image firm in your mind, so that when you see it, you’ll know for sure.

The Copperhead is one of the venomous snakes that can be found in the east and primarily south east of the United States, and just the northern part of Florida. On this page I have maps showing the Copperhead Geographical Range. The name is certainly an accurate description for this species. Like many of the snakes native to the United States the Copperhead has a fairly stable population, and most people will come into contact with these snakes while walking or working in woodland areas. Although the Copperhead is a venomous snake, it is unlikely that a bite would actually be fatal as their venom isn’t particularly highly concentrated.

The Copperhead gets its name largely for the color of the snake, which will vary from a combination of light and darker brown patches to a similar pattern in a reddish brown color. The variation will often depend on the habitat in which it is living, as the key reason for the color is that it is an excellent camouflage while slithering through dried leaves and ground litter in woodland areas. This species isn’t as large as some of the more feared species of snake, with most Copperheads being between a foot and a half and three feet in length once they have reached maturity. The body itself is quite heavy, but it does narrow before getting to the wide head of the snake.

Like many of the other snakes in the ‘pit viper’ family the Copperhead hunts by lying in wait for its prey and then pouncing when it is close enough. It will then strike and sinking its teeth into the prey and injecting its venom into the victim, before releasing it and following the prey until it dies. The majority of the diet of the copperhead is made up of small rodents and mammals such as voles and mice, although they have also been known to eat insects and frogs. There are also instances where there have been Copperheads observed climbing into the trees in order to eat young cicadas.

pygmyrattlesnakePygmy Rattlesnake

The Pigmy Rattlesnake are very secretive so they are rarely seen, but they can become a pest or a danger if they are found in a domestic yard or garden. Because this species is one of the smallest of the rattlesnakes, its rattle is actually very small and this means that it is only audible from a very short distance away.
The color patterns that can be found on the Pigmy Rattlesnakes can vary depending on its natural habitat, and these can vary with blotches and uniform patches running down the body which can be of various colors, from black and blue to dark green and various shades of red or brown. These snakes are not the most heavy bodied of snakes, and they will usually grow to between fourteen and twenty-two inches in length, but the largest known examples have been up to thirty inches in length. The head is generally in proportion with the body, and they will usually be encountered coiled up in the woods.
Although the Pigmy Rattlesnake is a very small snake, this doesn’t mean that it is calmer and more docile when it encounters humans, and is likely to strike if it is cornered or threatened. Fortunately, the amount of venom that it can produce will not be life threatening for the majority of humans, but it can lead to a significant amount of discomfort and would need to be treated. One of the problems is that it can be very well hidden, meaning that many people may get bitten before they realize that they are threatening to the snake, especially because the rattle is very small and is often inaudible to humans. They will prefer to live in a burrow if possible, but because they don’t dig their own they will often be seen in those vacated by a Gopher Tortoise. The species is found in much of North Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, and will often be looking for specific habitats that will suit their habits. This will generally mean that there is plenty of leaf litter, meaning that woodlands and mixed forests are particularly likely to be home to the Pigmy Rattlesnake, but sand-hills and marshes can also be home to these snakes.

timberrattlesnakeCanebrake or Timber Rattlesnake

The Timber Rattlesnake isn’t considered to be a particularly great threat to people, it does have potent venom and has long fangs to deliver it, but the numbers of attacks on people are relatively few and far between. The species became an important symbol during the American Revolution, and in 2008 the state of West Virginia adopted the Timber Rattlesnake as its official state reptile. In the southern states, it’s often called the Canebrake Rattlesnake. It does exist in Florida, but only in the very northern portions.

The Timber Rattlesnake isn’t the largest in the rattlesnake family, with the largest example ever caught being just over six feet in length, and weighing in at around ten pounds. However, most specimens are much smaller, usually between three and five feet in length and weighing less than five pounds. In terms of the pattern that is showed on the body of the snake, it is usually an irregular striped pattern, with narrow dark bands alternating with lighter green-brown bands. Although the majority of these snakes do have a striped pattern of green or brown scales, there are many of these snakes that actually are much darker, and in some cases can be entirely black.

One of the interesting aspects of the snake is that because it hunts at night it has an excellent ability to sense vibration, and even before it strikes at its prey it will know roughly the size of the approaching animal; precisely why it is generally quite docile when it comes into contact with people. It will generally use its rattle as a warning before striking, and is also known to feint a number of times to try and ward off a threat before actually striking. But because of its excellent vibration receptors the Timber Rattlesnake will often flee before even being noticed by people and will really only bite if there is no escape route and if it feels directly under threat.

Well there you have it. Six Venomous snakes, all preferring to never have to deal with a human, yet reality is that we all occupy this planet in encroaching proximity. It’s up to us humans to learn a bit more about snakes’ behavior and just be alert not to push them into a defensive predicament that leaves no other option but attack. If that happens however, make sure to clearly identify the attacker, so that medical assistance is in the know and can give the correct anti venom, as quick as possible.

Here are two interesting links to learn more about

Why not to kill Venomous Snakes and

Media sensationalism 

In episode 3 of this Florida Summertime Hazards series later this week I will talk about Alligators, Opossums, Armadillos and the likes and other reptilians to be aware of.

City Receives Grant from Turtle Conservancy

sea turtlesFlorida’s Sea Turtle Season has started again and this year the City of Fernandina Beach is proud to announce that it has been awarded a $10,000 Grant from the Sea Turtle Grant Program to be used for upgrading and modifying lighting at several beach parking locations, according to the City’s Administrative Service Manager Nicole Bednar in yesterday’s press release.

The unusually cold and long winter this year seems to have delayed female turtles to start onto our beaches. We haven’t seen any activity yet, but the heating trend of the last couple of days, may very well change this overnight. So beware of lights that may disorient the nesting turtles and replace bulbs with those approved.

Here is the city’s release.

Press Release_Sea Turtle Conservancy Grant 050514

 

Bird Detective, a Program for Beginning Birders

Bird Detective, a Program for Beginning BirdersFernandina Beach, FL – Would you like to be a birder and know more about the many species of Florida birds that live on or visit Amelia Island?

Do you know how to begin this birdwatching quest?

Wild Amelia and the City of Fernandina Beach, Department of Parks and Recreation, have announced that a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Program, Bird Detective, may be the answer to those questions.

This hour-long program will be offered to beginning birders of all ages on Saturday, February 16, at 10:00 a.m. in the Rec Room of the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center.

This program is free!

The instructor for the Bird Detective program will be Carole Adams of the Duval Audubon Society who has been a birder since the age of 10. A popular, in-demand lecturer, Carole has served as President of two Audubon chapters and has been a member of the Board of Audubon of Florida. She has worked tirelessly on habitat protection in Florida and was thrilled to be among a team of three who discovered the Great Sand-Plover on Huguenot in May 2009.

This informative Fish and Wildlife program, Bird Detective, explores the six clues to bird identification: body types, distinctive markings, bills, behavior, habitat and sound. Further, the program reveals what these clues teach about a bird’s identity and more!

Though the Bird Detective program was originally written for 3rd through 5th graders, it is useful for beginning birders of all ages. So both the young and the young at heart are welcome to attend!

Individuals who would like to attend the Bird Detective program should pre-register by calling the Recreation Center Administrative Office at 904-277-7350.

For more information about the Bird Detective program, check out floridabirdingtrail.com.

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Great Backyard Bird Count is Going Global

Great Backyard Bird Count is Going GlobalClick picture to enlarge the image

The GBBC is Going Global! February 15-18, 2013, the 16th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be integrated with eBird. For the first time, anyone anywhere in the world, with access to the world wide web, can participate!

eBird is a worldwide bird data collection program that allows users to keep track of their personal bird sightings and checklists.

Participants simply watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes, tally the numbers of each species they see, and report their tallies online at www.birdcount.org.

The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes. The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

Participating is easy. To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, plus downloadable instructions and flyers, visit www.birdcount.org. The count also includes a photo contest and a prize drawing for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online.

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Wild Amelia Nature Festival 2013 Begins with Turtle Release

Wild Amelia Nature Festival 2013 Begins with Turtle Release Saturday, September 1, at 11:30 a.m. at Main Beach in Fernandina, the Wild Amelia Nature Festival 2013 will kick off the Festival year with a sea turtle release. Three rehabilitated green sea turtles will be released into their native Florida waters by the staff of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. All are welcome to witness this heartwarming event. Parking is limited, so come early and get a great spot for photos and to wave goodbye!

The first in a series of monthly Wild Nite nature forums, sponsored by the Wild Amelia Nature Festival, will be held on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 7:00 PM. The topic will be Florida Native Gardening, and the guest speaker will be Barbara Jackson of the Florida Native Plant Society.

The Wild Nites events are free and open to the public. The Fernandina Beach Parks & Recreation Dept. is co-sponsoring this series. The lectures will begin at 7:00 PM in the Peck Center.

For more information visit: www.wildamelia.com/Seminars.htm.

Here is a video by SearchAmelia of a turtle release in May 2011: www.searchamelia.com/maybe-there-is-hope-for-the-turtles-video

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Join White Oak for a Sunset Safari

Join White Oak for a Sunset SafariOne of these days I am going to make it to White Oak Conservation Center and this Sunset Safari sounds wonderful. Here is there latest adventure:

Join our Conservation Center staff for a tour of the wildlife area as the sun sets and the animals are most active!

Evening is the perfect time for photographs, and the tour’s open-air trolleys provide a great view to capture the magic of White Oak at sundown. The 600-acre Conservation Center is one of the world’s premiere wildlife breeding, research, and training facilities, and is located along the St. Mary’s River in northeast Florida.

After the tour, enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a gourmet dinner in one of White Oak’s beautiful dining areas; the beautifully appointed Great Hall formal dining room, or the outdoor Pavilion located along a scenic stretch of the St. Mary’s River.

This event is ideal for couples looking for a unique dinner experience, or wildlife enthusiasts searching for that perfect zebra picture.

Guests can combine the Sunset Safari with an overnight stay in one of White Oak’s distinctive guest houses to create a weekend to remember.

Three events are scheduled:
Saturday, September 22nd, October 13th and November 17th
5:30-8:30pm September and October dates. 4:00-7:00pm in November
$175 per person and $300 per couple
Overnight packages are available, call (904) 225-3285 for pricing information.

For questions about supporting White Oak Conservation Center, please contact us at (904) 225-3396 or visit www.whiteoakconservation.org.

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Indian Rhino Calf Born at White Oak Conservation Center

Indian Rhino Calf Born at White Oak Conservation CenterWith all of the negative things in the news lately, here is a positively exciting tidbit from the White Oak Conservation Center:

Yulee, FL – White Oak Conservation Center’s female Indian Rhino gave birth to a male calf on June 2, 2011. This birth marks the first Indian rhino born at White Oak Conservation Center and is the result of the Center’s collaboration with the AZA Indian Rhino Species Survival Plan. The infant’s sire (father) was the first Indian Rhino born in North America (1974) who came to the Center in 2006 from the Toronto Zoo after siring calves there. The calf is doing well being raised by his dam (mother) who came to the Center in 2009 from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“A new rhino calf is always an exciting addition for both staff and guests, but this particular birth took years of planning and coordination,” said Steve Shurter, Director of Conservation. “With the help of zoo partners, and a lot of patience and care from our vets and keepers, we were able to provide just the right environment for the parent rhinos to produce and raise their bouncing baby rhino calf. We couldn’t be more pleased with the result.”

The Indian, or Greater One-Horned Rhino, is considered to have a vulnerable status in the wild with a population of approximately 2,500 remaining. They are found in Nepal and India where they live in moist river valleys. The lifespan is expected to be 35-40 years. The Indian rhino is known as the “plated rhino”, having thick shields of skin that protect the animal’s vital areas during attacks or fights with other rhinos.

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The Best Way to Deal With House Rodents

The Best Way to Deal With House RodentsOne of the most common pests that enter a home uninvited is the house mouse called the Mus musculus. These mice can cause quite a disturbance in the home and can be quite a nuisance. If there is anyone in the house that is afraid of mice, it can turn into a catastrophe! In these cases you’ll need to call a pest management company to get rid of these animals quickly, not only for your peace of mind but for your family’s safety as well.

Mice can get into your food and can contaminate it with their droppings. This can be the cause of food poisoning and mice can also spread nasty diseases. At the first sign of a mouse in the house, it’s time to act.

Mice can also chew on electrical cords and leave wires openly exposed. This is a serious situation if you have young children in the home or even adults that don’t notice that the wires have been gnawed on. If you have noticed any rodents in your home, it’s a good idea to check all of the wires leading to electrical outlets to make sure that they haven’t been damaged at all.

Make sure that your food is stored properly at the first sign of mouse droppings. Keeping things in hard plastic containers will stop mice from eating any foodstuff. Make sure that there are no crumbs left behind on your tabletop or counters. Basically, you don’t want to give a mouse any reason to enter your kitchen.

There aren’t too many mice that enter homes through the front or back door. They usually find an entrance point that can be difficult to find. Sometimes there is an extremely small entranceway into the home and you’ll need the help of a pest management company in order to find it. These businesses know the common points of entry for house mice and can give you guidance and help tracking it down. Openings for vents, air conditioner outlets, and pipes may need to have some type of netting or mesh added to them to help keep the mice out.

When dealing with house mice it’s always best to call in a professional company to make sure that both the mice that are in the house are dealt with as well as the entrance points. It really doesn’t make sense to get rid of a couple of mice that are running around your home when two more can enter the next night. A permanent solution needs to be found so that you don’t have this pest problem to deal with any longer.

Joel Mayer is a freelancer who writes about pest control on behalf of Advanced Pest Management.

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The Turtles Need an Extra Hand after TS Beryl

Amelia Oceanfront BB welcomes sea turtles

What you need to know about magnificent Sea Turtles

Two days before TS Beryl came to batter us with high winds and sweeping oceans, a turtle momma had decided to lay her eggs smack in front of the entrance door to the Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast. We were reluctantly excited as a result of last year’s ruckus, but as always willing to learn during the process of incubation and hatching. Unfortunately Beryl showed no mercy at all and took out the nest as she claimed large pockets of beach and a a large number of the early nests this season.

Florida’s beaches host approximately 90% of all the sea turtle nesting in the U.S. But sadly, over 40% of Florida’s beaches are classified as critically eroding due to changes in the natural landscape of these beaches. Urban development has made it hard for sea turtles to maintain their historical habitat for nesting.
Walking the beach almost every morning I have seen quite a few false crawls in recent weeks, probably because momma turtle came out of the water, looked around, inspected the sand and the neighborhood and decided it was not a good spot to lay her eggs. She could have seen too many harsh lights, a piece of beach furniture left out for the night, a retainer wall, the sand may have been to hard or cold, erosion may have made her emergence a steep climb. Many of the dangers and obstacles put in momma Turtle’s way can be avoided if we just realize how little effort it takes from us.

Each year thousands of hatchling turtles emerge from their nests along the southeast U.S. coast and enter the Atlantic Ocean. Sadly, only an estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 will survive to adulthood. The natural obstacles faced by young and adult sea turtles are staggering, but it is the increasing threats caused by humans that are driving them to extinction. Today, all sea turtles found in U.S. waters are federally listed as endangered, except for the loggerhead which is listed as threatened.

The survival odds for sea turtles have drastically diminished since humans became a part of the picture. In nature, sea turtles face a host of life and death obstacles to their survival. Predators such as raccoons, crabs and ants raid eggs and hatchlings still in the nest. Once they emerge, hatchlings make bite-sized meals for birds, crabs and a host of predators in the ocean. After reaching adulthood, sea turtles are relatively immune to predation, except for the occasional shark attack.
But let’s be honest, that has been the threat for ages. To understand what really threatens sea turtle survival, we must look at the actions of humans.

Having an Inn on the beach, we ourselves have had our misunderstandings about the impact of artificial light on the survival chances of these magnificent reptiles. We wrongly assumed that mandatory red or amber lighting would impact the guest experience of our beachfront Inn. But nothing was further from the truth. Our guests love to help the turtles survive their hazardous stay on the beaches and so we complied with local and state ordinances and have become ambassadors for the plight of the turtles.

In speaking with local code enforcement compliance officer Michelle Forstrom we not only learned how easy it is to comply, we also learned that she has a lot of printmaterial from table cards to bumperstickers and from reference cards to leaflets. If you are interested in promoting the protection of sea turtles you may contact her at 904 277 7342 Ext. 230 or email her at mforstrom@fbfl.org

You can also learn much more on the Sea Turtle Conservancy website to share with others.

Street Signs and Turtle Lights

code enforcement to remove this sign 75 ft from street

REALLY!!!!!!!!!!

My little Snorkie growled and I knew the sound of the doorbell would be just seconds away. Through the side window I saw the truck of the City’s Code Enforcement Officer in my drive way and realized that somehow I had already subconsciously anticipated a visit after I had published the story about the first turtle nest of the season at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island last Sunday morning. Why the subconscious anticipation of her visit? Because of the ruckus and the ensuing witch hunt that took place last year with the unfortunate traffic death of 13 newborn turtles at the Inn we took over on January 1st of this year.

Another reason for the anticipation was anchored in the fact that we have a great community here on Fernandina Beach and the friendly officer confirmed that completely, as she came to warn us that Turtle Nesting Season is immediately upon us and to please make sure that no white lights at the Inn would be visible from the beach. We quickly assessed which White Lights would have to be replaced until the end of September for turtle protective measures and settled on the fact that even the Inn’s street sign spotlights would have to be darkened. Red is apparently the preferred color, but somehow I don’t see myself putting a red light on the sign, considering that where I was born, a red light on a building signifies a house of ill repute.

I already wrote in one of last year’s articles how the rest of the world uses effective alternative protective measures not detrimental to business, but rather than pushing the issue, I decided to ease the job of the code enforcement officer and local turtle watch dogs and just comply, even though that means that my guests now have to take a flashlight with them when they go out for dinner, because our front entrance lobby is on the beach rather than on the street side. On clear moonlit nights no problem, but on dark nights a potential liability lawsuit waiting to happen.
While talking about signs, the friendly officer pointed out that my little 6 inch high by 20 inch long SearchAmelia sign near my garage, an estimate 75 feet from the street, had apparently been the recipient of some neighbor complaints as “commercial” signs are not allowed in residential neighborhoods according to the code, never mind that every other car in the neighborhood’s driveways have commercial magnets on the doors, several contractors promote windows and the quality of their work with signs throughout the neighborhood as does every pest service in the city and beyond.
Get this, the only signs allowed are political and real estate signs. After sharing with me a handful of other (most self serving) examples of signs that are permitted, my musical brain played a live version of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant”, she walked to her truck to retrieve a copy of  Chapter 5.03 of the Fernandina Beach Land Development Code, titled Accessory and Temporary Uses and Structures – SIGNS: an amazing 18 PAGES full of what cannot be done inside of the city limits with signs.
18 Pages full of restrictions, limitations, size and design requirements, permit requirements, enforcement, exceptions, applications and more. I had heard about horror stories from f.e. the former Indigo Alley owners, a Suntan operation on 14th street, even previous owners of the local Sears store and I always wondered if these were taken a bit out of proportion. Now I know they were not.

Like I mentioned in a recent article on Tax Freedom Day (April 17), it would be more telling to use the Cost of Government Day (August 7) to measure the impact government has on your life and business if you are running a business inside the city limits. Mind you, I’m not in favor of chaos and I do like decorum and balance and therefor appreciate some oversight and guidelines, but 18 pages on something as straightforward simple as signs is ludricrous.

I am going to study this Code piece a bit more intense in the upcoming weeks as I understand that hearings are coming up to alter, expand or compact this document. In other words another chance for those of us who truly believe that democracy only survives when we all participate.
In the meantime I have turned my Searchamelia yard sign around so it only shows a white space to those in the neighborhood who took offense and found it necessary to call Code Enforcement. It does however baffle me to learn on what trivial things some people elect to spend their precious time. So the reverse sign is for you.

My way of mooning the complainers

My way of mooning the complainers

Call it my form of ‘mooning’. And Yes officer, I am an almost 62 year old Rebel with a Southern heritage that calls for minimal government interference in life and accepts the sanctity of the individual as the highest human accomplishment. The entire Southern US at one time was the home of  Rebels, according to the North. Now I often wonder what happened.

Thank you for taking the time and initiative however to personally come and warn me about the turtle lights. That’s small town living at its finest. Kudos.

And The Turtles Are Baaack…….!

First Leatherback Turtle nest of 2012 on Amelia Island

First Leatherback Turtle nest of 2012 on Amelia Island

Not only did we get a visit of two French Navy schooners with some 50 plus crew this weekend, it seems that a 1,000lbs female Leatherback turtle must have followed them in their slipstreams.

Early Sunday morning a guest at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island spotted the turtle making her way back to the ocean after a night of hard labor laying about 60 eggs, making this nest the earliest one on record on Amelia Island.

Earlier today I received this update from the resort’s Director of Public Relations, Joseph (Joe) Murphy:

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, it is our policy not to report on celebrities visiting the hotel but today we can share that a rare Leatherback turtle chose our property to nest. It’s the first nest of the season on Amelia Island and one week before the official season begins. It’s also the earliest date that a turtle nest has been recorded on Amelia Island. The turtle weighs an estimated 1000 lbs. and buried an estimated 60 eggs. It’s distinctive sand tracks are still in place. The Sea Turtle Watch organization has marked the nest near the resort’s Ocean Front Lawn.

So let this be a warning for all of us on the beach, it’s once again time to pay attention to the bright light issue along Fletcher Ave. homes, condos and resorts, to keep the turtles safely away from the road.

Great Fun with French Navy

Also in town were the French Navy Schooners ‘Etoile” (Star) and “La Belle Poule” – the Pretty Hen is the literal translation, but what is really implied is a beautiful girl. Actually the legend is that the original 26 gun warship was named after one of Napolean’s sweethearts, he had nicknamed “La Belle Poule”.

We had the pleasure of having dinner with the entire crews on Friday Evening at the American Legion and on Saturday we went out to see the ships and had some champagne French style on the beach.

With the impromptu organization of a Pétanque Tournament on the Riverfront Sunday afternoon and some final toasts to a joyful visit and happy continuation of the Festivities, the two magnificent schooners left our Fernandina Beach docks around 10:30pm on their way to Jacksonville, Savannah, Annapolis, Philadelphia, New York and St.Pierre-Miquelon before heading back across the Atlantic ahead of the hurricane season.

Bon Voyage Nos Amis, you gave us a great practice run ahead of next week’s Shrimp Festival.

Celebration of White Oak 2012

Celebration of White Oak 2012White Oak Conservation Center is having their annual Celebration of White Oak on Sunday, April 29th and space is limited so get your tickets now!

From 1:00 to 5:30 PM, experience unforgettable animal encounters of the Conservation Center, then enjoy a delicious dinner along the St. Marys River. Please dress for a casual afternoon spent outdoors.

Space is limited and tickets are $200 per person. ($100 of the $200 qualifies as a tax-deductible contribution to White Oak Conservation Center, Inc.)

For reservations or more information, please call 904-225-3396, or visit the website at www.whiteoakconservation.org/events.

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WOCC Welcomes Pair of Cheetah Cubs

WOCC Welcomes Pair of Cheetah CubsNassau County, FL – White Oak Conservation Center is celebrating two of our newest residents, a pair of female cheetah cubs. These cubs are the offspring of Pia and Duma. This is the second litter for Pia. Duma has sired several litters, including one last year!

The two female cubs are being hand-raised because their mother was unable to produce enough milk to feed them. When the cubs were newborns, they were fed by bottle 9 times a day by our keepers. Today they receive a raw meat diet 4 times a day.

These cubs are being raised as part of our ambassador program to help teach the importance of cheetah conservation to guests at the Conservation Center.

Currently there are fewer than 10,000 cheetahs in the wild. This is the first litter for WOCC this year. Last year, two litters were born at White Oak Conservation Center.

For questions about supporting White Oak Conservation Center, please contact them at: (904) 225-3396 or visit the website: www.whiteoakconservation.org.