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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Community Partners Blog

August Is Florida Panther Month At The Wildlife Park

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Florida Panther Kitten Yuma will move into Park’s Panther Habitat on August 21
Guest article by Susan Strawbridge, Park Services Specialist

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be highlighting the Florida Panther during the month of August. Early this year, the Wildlife Park started introducing monthly themes featuring special programs on the month’s topic. Two programs are planned on the August’s Florida Panther theme.

The first program will be presented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s wildlife biologist Mark Lotz on August 11, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m. in the Education Center. The audience will hear Mark Lotz talk about his work as a wildlife biologist specializing in Florida Panthers. He started with the agency 20 years ago when the estimated number of Florida Panthers was between 30-50. Since that time Mark and the FWC panther team have worked with partners to increase the panther population to current levels. Mark’s duties include the envious task of capturing adult panthers for on-going radio-telemetry studies and examining kittens (like Yuma) in the den when they are only a few days old.

Lotz is also on the front lines of resolving human-panther conflicts resulting from the successive recovery of the Florida Panther. Mark was one of three biologists recently recognized by the Florida Wildlife Federation for contributing greatly to the research, management and conservation of the panther population in Florida. Originally from Ohio, Mark graduated from the Ohio State University with a degree in wildlife management. Immediately following graduation, Mark worked for the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge for three seasons as a wild land firefighter before beginning his career with the FWC. Mark plans to give his talk on some basic panther biology and maybe focus more on kitten work tying it into Yuma. He will also talk about the state of the panther and what FWC does and the agency’s role in panther conservation efforts.

Thursday, August 21, 2014, will be the day that Yuma, the endangered Florida Panther kitten, will be moving into his new home in the Wildlife Park’s Panther exhibit. Yuma will then be seven months old and will weigh over 30 pounds. He will be released into the refurbished habitat at 10:00 a.m. on that day. The 80’ by 120’ exhibit has been re-planted with new sod and includes a rock-bordered pond.

In January, the approximately 7-day-old kitten was rescued in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County by biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The 1-pound male kitten was found in a matted-down area of sawgrass and was non-responsive with a dangerously low body temperature. Biologists determined that the kitten was in very poor condition and would not survive without intervention. The decision was made to rescue him and bring him into captivity.

The kitten was immediately transported to the Animal Specialty Hospital in Naples where veterinarians and staff performed life-saving measures to treat him for dehydration, malnourishment, and to raise his body temperature. Once stabilized, he was transported to Lowry Park Zoo for further rehabilitation and vaccinations. While in their care, he continued to improve, gaining weight and strength.

On April 3, 2014, the Florida Panther kitten was moved to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where he will make his home. The kitten who was named Yuma, meaning “Son of the Chieftain,” was kept for the first few weeks in the Felburn Wildlife Care Building so he could acclimate to a new environment and to the Wildlife Care staff. He was then moved to an outdoor enclosure with a night house behind the Panther Exhibit.

Both programs are included in regular park admission, which is $13 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $5 for children ages 6 through 12. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. Come to our programs, and you may enjoy an all-day visit to the Wildlife Park. Learn about our new Florida Panther kitten and see him at a distance, weather permitting.

In other news at the Park, The Education Center reopened in March after the first phase of restoration was completed on this historic building. The building was the original entrance to Nature’s Giant Fish Bowl and was built in the 1940s. The roof was replaced, and brick work was added to the lower half off the interior walls to protect the building from water damage. The remaining interior walls were repainted. The Springs Time Line, a new educational exhibit, will soon be installed featuring a series of panels that will tell the story of the Park’s first-magnitude spring and the Park through history.

The Wildlife Puppeteers will be presenting a puppet show on Saturday, August 9, 2014, starting at 1:00 pm. The puppet show is entitled “Whose Habitat is it Anyway?” starring Tori, a little girl, and her new friend Beary, a Florida Black Bear cub. They meet in Tori’s backyard and learn about each other and how they can better get along and share the habitat.

As you can see, we have a lot planned for August and we encourage you to visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn about the importance of the Endangered Florida Panther and all of Florida’s wildlife. For more information on either event or to register for the Florida Panther program, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.

Monday July 21, Gopher Tortoise Program At Wildlife Park

homosassa-wildlife-park-logoThe Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be offering the second program on the theme of tortoises and turtles this month. On Monday, July 21, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m., Florida naturalist Jim Bierly will present a program on Gopher Tortoises.

Bierly was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and lived there until moving to Citrus County fifteen years ago. He says, “My association with and interest in Gopher Tortoises began when I was four or five years old. Our neighborhood had several Gopher Tortoises until housing development killed almost all of them in the area.” After moving to Sugarmill Woods, he met several wildlife officials who helped him in the relocation of Gopher Tortoises in the development. He also served on the committee to reclassify the Gopher Tortoise from “A Species of Special Concern” to “Threatened.” Bierly is also interested in native plants and founded the Citrus County Native Plants Society, serving as its President for several years.

The Gopher Tortoise program will be held in the Education Center, and is included in your regular Park admission, which is $13 for adults (ages 13 and over) and $5 for children ages 6 through 12 years. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. For more information or to register for this program, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.

July Is Turtle Time At The Wildlife Park

Guest article by Susan Strawbridge, Park Services Specialisthomosassa-wildlife-park-logo

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be focusing on Gopher Tortoises and Florida Turtles during the month of July. Early this year, the Wildlife Park started introducing monthly themes featuring natural and cultural resource opportunities in Florida State Parks. In addition to special exhibits in the Visitor Center and in the Education Center, special programs are scheduled on the month’s topic.

Two programs are planned on the theme of tortoises and turtles. The first program will be presented on Friday, July 11, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m. in the Education Center. The audience will hear Dr. Peter A. Meylan from the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust talk about his book entitled “The Biology and Conservation of Florida Turtles” and what he learned by putting the book together. The book was published in 2006 and is an edited volume with chapters on all 25 of the turtle species found in Florida, written by a group of 40 turtle experts.

Dr. Meylan is Richard R. Hallin Professor of Natural Science in the Collegium of Natural Sciences at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he teaches courses in ecology, evolution, zoology, vertebrate anatomy, herpetology, and the ecology of amphibians and reptiles. He is a Research Associate of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, New York), the Bermuda Aquarium (Flatts, Bermuda), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama City, Panama). His research interests include the morphology and phylogeny of turtles, the biology of marine and freshwater turtles, and general herpetology.

On Monday, July 21, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m., Florida naturalist Jim Bierly will present a program on Gopher Tortoises. Bierly was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and lived there until moving to Citrus County fifteen years ago. He says, “My association with and

interest in Gopher Tortoises began when I was four or five years old. Our neighborhood had several Gopher Tortoises until housing development killed almost all of them in the area.” After moving to Sugarmill Woods, he met several wildlife officials who helped him in the relocation of Gopher Tortoises in the development. He also served on the committee to reclassify the Gopher Tortoise from “A Species of Special Concern” to “Threatened.” Bierly is also interested in native plants and founded the Citrus County Native Plants Society, serving as its President for several years.

Both programs are included in regular park admission, which is $13 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $5 for children ages 6 through 12. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. Come to our programs, and you may enjoy an all-day visit to the Wildlife Park. Learn about our new Florida Panther kitten and see him at a distance, weather permitting.
The Education Center reopened in March after the first phase of restoration was completed on this historic building. The building was the original entrance to Nature’s Giant Fish Bowl and was built in the 1940s. The roof was replaced, and brick work was added to the lower half off the interior walls to protect the building from water damage. The remaining interior walls were repainted.

The Wildlife Puppeteers will be presenting their first puppet show on Saturday, July 12, 2014, starting at 1:00 pm. The puppet show is entitled “Whose Habitat is it Anyway?” starring Tori, a little girl, and her new friend Beary, a Florida Black Bear cub. They meet in Tori’s backyard and learn about each other and how they can better get along and share the habitat.
The Wildlife Park will also be holding their second Wildlife Ranger Camp from July 14 through July 20, 2014, for children ages 10 through 12. For more information on the summer camp, please contact Tricia Fowler at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1006.

As you can see, we have a lot planned for July and encourage you to visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn about the importance of Florida’s wildlife including Gopher Tortoises and Florida’s Turtles. For more information or to register for the Florida Turtle and/or Gopher Tortoise programs, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.

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