CREW Small Game Season Opens December 6th

Armadillo
Armadillo
Armadillo (photo by Bob Melin)

Small Game Hunting Season at CREW opens December 6th, 2015 and runs through January 3rd, 2016 at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails, Caracara Prairie Preserve, and in portions of the Flint Pen Strand unit of CREW. Specific Small Game season regulations for CREW are listed below. Complete regs for the CREW area can be accessed at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

The Cypress Dome Trails will remain open to other users – hikers, bikers, geocachers, campers and horseback riders – during hunting seasons. Trail hikers are encouraged to wear bright colors (hunter orange) when hiking during hunting seasons or use an alternative CREW trail. No hunting is allowed at the CREW Marsh Trails or at the Bird Rookery Swamp Trails.

Small Game Season:December 6 through January 3.

Permit, Stamp and License Requirements – Hunting license, management area permit, migratory bird permit (if hunting migratory birds), and state waterfowl permit and federal duck stamp (if hunting waterfowl).

Legal to Hunt – Gray squirrel, quail, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, armadillo, beaver, coyote, skunk, nutria and migratory birds in season.

Regulations Unique to Small Game Season-

  1. Hunting with bird dogs and retrievers is allowed.
  2. Hunting with centerfire or rimfire rifles is prohibited.

The CREW lands are open to a variety of public recreational use activities. One of the most historical and storied recreational uses of CREW is hunting. Hunting is an important wildlife management tool and provides many sportsmen and sportswomen a way to enjoy the outdoors and put food on their tables. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has designated CREW as a Wildlife & Environmental Area (WEA) and regulates the hunting rules and seasons on CREW lands. FWC law enforcement officers patrol CREW lands all year long.

Small Game Season Opens December 6th at CREW

 

Raccoon (photo by George Luther)
Raccoon (photo by George Luther)

Small Game Hunting Season at CREW opens December 7th and runs through January 4th, 2014 at the CREW Cypress Dome Trails, Caracara Prairie Preserve, and in portions of the Flint Pen Strand unit of CREW. Specific Small Game season regulations for CREW are listed below. Complete regs can be accessed at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

The Cypress Dome Trails will remain open to other users – hikers, bikers, geocachers, campers and horseback riders – during hunting seasons. Trail hikers are encouraged to wear bright colors (hunter orange) when hiking during hunting seasons. No hunting is allowed at the CREW Marsh Trails or at the Bird Rookery Swamp Trails.

Small Game Season:December 6 through January 3.

Permit, Stamp and License Requirements – Hunting license, management area permit, migratory bird permit (if hunting migratory birds), and state waterfowl permit and federal duck stamp (if hunting waterfowl).

Legal to Hunt – Gray squirrel, quail, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, armadillo, beaver, coyote, skunk, nutria and migratory birds in season.

Regulations Unique to Small Game Season-
Hunting with bird dogs and retrievers is allowed.
Hunting with centerfire and rimfire rifles is prohibited.

The CREW lands are open to a variety of public recreational use activities. One of the most historical and storied recreational uses of CREW is hunting. Hunting is an important wildlife management tool and provides many sportsmen and sportswomen a way to enjoy the outdoors and put food on their tables. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has designated CREW as a Wildlife & Environmental Area (WEA) and regulates the hunting rules and seasons on CREW lands. FWC law enforcement officers patrol CREW lands all year long.

Rare Amelanistic Pygmy Rattlesnakes Born at CREW

Earlier this summer a rare occurrence was discovered at CREW. A dusky pygmy rattlesnake gave birth to six offspring, three of which were amelanistic – meaning they lack the dark pigment (melanin) in their skin. According to Kevin Enge , a herp expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, this is extremely rare and to have three of the six born amelanistic is quite amazing. No amelanistic pygmies have ever been documented before in Florida.

It is likely these three would not survive long in the wild because their rare coloration makes them easy to see and more vulnerable as prey. Below is a picture of the adult (with typical coloration) and one of the three amelanistic juveniles. Pretty cool, huh?

The location and the time of discovery were kept secret until after the young dispersed in order to prevent collectors from trying to find and collect them to sell. We assume that nature has taken its course, because after about five days the snakes had all moved on and haven’t been seen since early July.

Juvenile amelanistic pygmy rattlesnake
Juvenile amelanistic pygmy rattlesnake

 

 

Adult dusky_pygmy_rattlesnake
“Momma” Adult dusky pygmy rattlesnake

 

The Life and Death of a Snake

water-moccasin
Water moccasin

Visitors and volunteers to CREW’s Bird Rookery Swamp got a shock on Wednesday, March 5th, when they discovered two resident water moccasins had been killed – heads smashed – and left by the side of the trail.  The two moccasins had been visible sunning themselves on a log or by the base of a tree for weeks in the same spot near the old railroad tie exhibit along the south tram. They had become regular sightings as well as a good teaching tool for guided walks. Then, suddenly, they were dead – killed on purpose by humans.

It is beyond our comprehension that any visitor who cares at all about the environment and the wildlife of Bird Rookery Swamp would think it OK to take the lives of two creatures who make their home there. While snakes are often the objects of fear for many humans, they rarely strike at people who keep their distance and respect their space. These two snakes belonged in Bird Rookery Swamp, maintaining the balance of nature and acting in the role they were born to play. Now, they are gone.

The primary purpose of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) project is to protect the land, water, and wildlife resources within the watershed. Recreation and public access is a secondary goal. Water and wildlife come first – always. So, it is the responsibility of each visitor to be respectful and to give all wildlife (and plants) the space they need to go about their business with the least stress possible. That means giving the alligators a wide berth (and NOT throwing sticks at them), being careful not to step on snakes crossing the trail, keeping dogs on leash and children under control, and taking photographs from a respectful distance. Our personal safety and the safety and well-being of all the animals which reside there is the responsibility of each and and every person who visits the trails. Educate your friends and family. Do your part. Be respectful. Leave the animals to live their lives in relative peace.

FWC law enforcement officers do patrol the CREW trails, but they can’t be there at all times, so it is up to each visitor to honor the place and the animals and show the respect they deserve. If you see anyone harming plants or animals within CREW, please report the violation immediately to the FWC Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). Information leading to an arrest can make you eligible for up to a $1000 reward.

Let’s make sure the trails remain open to the public by protecting the animals that live there and share their space with us!

 

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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?

BurmesePython
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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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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