Celebrate Spring Wildflowers with Special Hikes at CREW


The CREW Trails are spectacular showcases for wildflowers in the springtime. The CREW Marsh Trails and the Cypress Dome Trails are particularly bountiful. We are already seeing a few grass pink orchids (Calapogon tuberosus) popping up along the trail edges, along with sneezeweed, shiny blueberries, marsh pinks, violets, a variety of milkworts, and much more.

To celebrate and help you enjoy these flowers, we have two special wildflower walks scheduled for early April:

glen stacell wf hike
Glen Stacell
Roger Hammer
Roger Hammer
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Time to Register for Alligator Strolling Science Seminar

Alligator at Bird Rookery

You’ve seen them. You may have even heard them bellow. But how much do you really know about the science of the American Alligator? Here’s your chance to learn what makes this amazing animal tick, how it helps other species, and what it does to impact the functioning of wetlands in south Florida.

Sign up today for the last CREW Strolling Science Seminar of this season, The American Alligator: Engineers of the Everglades led by Ian Bartoszek, biologist with The Conservancy of SWFL. This walking seminar will be held at the Bird Rookery Swamp Trails on Saturday, March 29th, 9 AM to noon. Registration is required. Register today by clicking here ( http://goo.gl/VTX8lR ).

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New Spring Wildflower Walk Added to CREW Schedule


We are happy to announce an additional Spring Wildflower Walk has been added to our spring schedule. Local authors and wildflower experts, Glen Stacell and Dr. Gary Schmelz have agreed to lead a walk at the CREW Marsh Trails on Friday, April 4th. Register today for this one-time walk. Click the link below to register…

Wildflower Walk with Glen Stacell and Gary Schmelz on April 4, 2014, 9:30 AM to noon


Other CREW guided walks can be found here.

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CREW Trust Celebrates 25 Years of Conservation

CREW Marsh after a Tropical Storm
CREW Marsh after Tropical Storm Faye in 2008 (Photo by Deb Hanson)

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2014. This is a watershed year for the CREW Land & Water Trust as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary! The CREW Trust was formed in 1989 by Joel Kuperberg (a former Naples City Councilman, botanist, head of Florida’s Internal Improvement Fund, and later Director of the Trust for Public Land) as a public-private partnership to coordinate the land acquisition, management, and public outreach for the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW). Since then, this watershed stewardship project has accomplished much that it set out to do, including protecting over 45,000-acres of land within the established boundaries of the watershed.

This accomplishment has been the result of efforts by multiple agencies, organizations, landowners, businesses, and private citizens. The CREW Land & Water Trust’s strength over the years has been to build partnerships and bring people together with the vision of protecting this watershed which provides drinking water for residents and visitors to southwest Florida. Some of the main partners are:

  • The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) – the primary landowner and land manager within CREW.
  • Lee and Collier Counties – both of which have purchased land within CREW
  • The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – which oversees wildlife management, hunting, and law enforcement on CREW lands
  • Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – which is located in the heart of the CREW and whose former Director, Ed Carlson, helped write one of the initial proposals requesting the SFWMD to purchase Bird Rookery Swamp
  • ALICO – which sold the first land to the CREW project – the Corkscrew Marsh unit off of Corkscrew Road.

Here’s a very abbreviated timeline of some of the highlights of our 25 years….

CREW Timeline

The CREW Trust has multiple events planned throughout the year to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. Registration is required for all of these events. You can register at http://crewtrust.eventbrite.com

  • January 16 – CREW Wine & Cheese Social (Invitation Only -Members and Volunteers)
  • February 1 – Hike the Loop: 12-Mile Hike at Bird Rookery Swamp
  • February 14 – Love in the Wild Hike
  • March 1 – CREW Concert & Silent Eco-Auction – tickets at http://crewconcert2014.bpt.me/
  • March 21 – CREW Horseback Ride from Flint Pen to Bird Rookery Swamp
  • April 5 – Butterfly Hike with David Cooper @ Marsh Trail
  • April 5 – Geocaching with The Unusual Suspects @ Cypress Dome Trail
  • April 12 – Wildflower Hike with Roger Hammer @ Marsh Trail
  • October TBD – CREW Golf Tournament
  • October TBD – 10K Trail Run
  • November 15 – Vitamin N Hike for Families
  • December 6 – Bike the Loop: 12-mile Bicycle Trail Ride at Bird Rookery Swamp

We hope to see you at one of our events. Come celebrate with us!

And thanks to Chad Gillis and Andrew West for the article in today’s Fort Myers News-Press about the CREW Trust’s 25th Anniversary.

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CREW Deer Monitoring Reveals Unexpected Wildlife Encounter

Monitoring wildlife populations helps us understand the health and status of various species and provides essential information when making land and wildlife management decisions at CREW.

Kathleen Smith, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist assigned to CREW, conducts  deer surveys in portions of CREW using remote sensing cameras. In addition to providing information on the deer populations, these surveys help test specific methods for estimating deer populations. Using baited stations with remote sensing cameras set up nearby, the bait stations and cameras are deployed for about two weeks. Then the photos are analyzed and deer numbers, gender, ages, and activity recorded.

Anytime remote cameras are set up in the woods, it is expected that a variety of wildlife will appear and be captured as they enter the viewfinder of the camera. But you don’t always expect “action shots” of animals doing crazy things in the wild. This year, however, was an exception. As the photos got downloaded to the computers, and Kathleen and her team were quickly flipping through them, one particular action shot caught their attention. Take a look at the following sequence of photos to see what caught their eye… (click on each photo for a larger image)

Raccoon visits bait station (Photo by FFWCC)
Raccoon visits bait station (Photo by FFWCC)
Alligator attacks raccoon (Photo by FFWCC)
Alligator attacks raccoon (Photo by FFWCC)
Alligator after attack on raccoon (Photo by FFWCC)
Alligator after attack on raccoon (Photo by FFWCC)

How’s that for a surprise? Pretty amazing timing for a remote camera shot! And so much for the bait station! What do you think…did the raccoon get away?

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Hole Montes, LLW, and EGCSA Sponsor 2013 CREW Golf Tournament

Golf Tournament FoursomeThank you to Hole Montes, Inc., Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A. (LLW), and the Everglades Golf Course Superintendent’s Association (EGCSA) all of whom have agreed to be major sponsors for the 2013 CREW Stanley Hole Golf Tournament. This tournament – one of two annual fundraisers for the CREW Land & Water Trust – will be held October 25, 2013 at the Old Corkscrew Golf Course on Corkscrew Road in Estero, FL.

Proceeds benefit the CREW Land & Water Trust in its mission to preserve and protect the natural communities and water resources in and around the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. Additional hole sponsors are needed. Hole sponsors, players, and foursomes can find registration information here.

This tournament is named in honor of Stanley Hole, who was a founding board member of the CREW Trust and instrumental in developing partnerships in the early days of CREW. Stanley was also an avid golfer.

For more information or to register for the golf tournament, click here.

How to Report a Python Sighting at CREW

…or a boa, or any other non-native, invasive snake.

You’ve seen the news reports. You know they are here. But have you ever actually seen a python while out hiking in southwest Florida? And what should you do if you see one at CREW?

Python photo from FFWCC

The first known sighting of a python in CREW occurred in Bird Rookery Swamp in 2005. Since then, no other sightings have been reported in the watershed – until this year. In June 2013, a 10-foot python was seen near the CREW field office off Corkscrew Road in Lee County. Last week, a 9-foot common boa was found by exotic plant treatment contractors in Flint Pen Strand off Bonita Beach Road.

These two recent sightings confirm that these large non-native snakes are moving into the CREW watershed, so we want you to know what to do if you see one while out hiking on the CREW trails.

  • First – do not approach the snake, but do confirm its identity, and if you can, take a photo and mark the GPS coordinates of the snake’s location.
  • Second – if the python or boa is still in your view and staying put, call the FWC Exotic Species Hotline number 888-IVE-GOT1 (888- 483-4681) to report the location.
  • If the snake is moving away and out of your sight, report it using the IVEGOT1 smartphone app for iPhone or Android or the website form at IVEGOT1.org (register ahead of time, so you don’t have to do that part in the field)
  • Do not attempt to remove the snake. Only permitted, trained individuals may remove pythons or boas (also known as conditional species) and even then only from certain Wildlife Management Areas and other public lands with permits/permission from both FWC and the landowner.

And if you want to get more involved, you can complete this online training course from the University of Florida that will help you recognize and report large invasive reptiles. (REDDY – Reptile Early Detection and Documentation training)

REDDY Training

Additional info: http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/REDDy/alreadyreddy.shtml

Quick Reference guides: http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/REDDy/resources.shtml

Reporting your sighting helps FWC, the SFWMD, and other agencies manage these invasive exotic species and determine their distribution and range. Burmese pythons and boas  are non-native snakes introduced in Florida by accidental and intentional releases by pet owners. They can be found in or near freshwater aquatic habitats like marshes and swamps and can grow up to 20 feet in length. They eat alligators, birds, mice, rabbits, raccoons, deer, and other small mammals. To learn more, visit the Python pages on the FWC website.

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Panther Resources

Panther at CREW - 2012 (Photo credit: Bob Melin)
Panther at CREW – 2012 (Photo credit: Bob Melin)

Below are additional resources and information related to panthers for our Strolling Science Seminar participants.

  • Florida Panther Identification Guide – a 20-page identification guide by Florida Defenders of Wildlife
  • Statement on Estimating Panther Population Size  – written by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission panther team
  • Panther Safety Tips – what to do if you encounter a Florida panther
  • Panthernet.org – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s “multidisciplinary interactive website on the Florida panther and its southwest Florida environment, designed for everyone interested in learning more about the state’s official animal. It includes the latest information and activities on the natural history of the Florida panther, its habitat, threats to its survival, and history and conservation efforts.” Lots of research papers here…
  • Panther Sighting Registry – use this page to report a panther sighting, especially any sightings north of the Caloosahatchee River.
  • Mountain Lions in Arizona – 10 minute video by Arizona Game and Fish – talks about population estimates – mentioned by Marc Criffield during the panther seminar.
  • Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge – US Fish & Wildlife Service Panther Refuge website
  • Friends of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge – website for the non-profit friends groups for the Panther Refuge

Saw Palmetto Season Brings Illegal Activity to CREW

Saw palmetto berries on bush

It’s summer.

It’s hot.

It’s humid.

And it’s saw palmetto berry season.

That means there’s a lot of new activity in CREW – and some of it is illegal.

Saw palmetto berries are the fruit of the saw palmetto plant (Serenoa repens). Saw palmetto is the predominant understory plant in CREW’s pine flatwoods communities. The berries, which ripen in late summer, are an important food source for wildlife – especially the threatened Florida black bear.

They are also used as an alternative medicine by over 2 million U.S. men to treat benign enlargement of the prostate, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. That and other markets for the berries bring berry pickers to CREW each summer to harvest these fruits, which bring from 10 cents to $3.00 a pound, depending on scarcity and conditions each year.

Evidence the pickers are active

Berry picking on CREW lands is illegal. CREW lands are owned by the South Florida Water Management District and are designated as a Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The regulations for CREW prohibit the taking of any plants or plant parts, including saw palmetto berries which are a significant wildlife food source. FWC law enforcement officers do patrol the area regularly.

These lands are managed specifically for water and wildlife, so when berry-pickers illegally take berries, it disrupts food supply for animals that the CREW land managers and biologists work so hard to protect.

The berry-pickers were busy at CREW today. Our land manager discovered full berry bags and collection buckets all along the Cypress Dome Trails. The CREW staff then went out and helped to collect all the berry bags we could find, along with all the picking gear (and trash) left behind.

Full berry bags

If you are hiking on CREW lands during the next month or so and see anyone picking berries or if you see bags or other evidence of berry-picking, call the FWC Hotline at 888-404-3922. The more feet and eyes out on the trails during this time, the better – for the bears and all of CREW.

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