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.
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!
Andrew West, accomplished photo-journalist with the Fort Myers News-Press, publishes weekly online videos which represent his views of southwest Florida and his experiences photographing for a variety of news stories.
This week Andrew has created a spectacular video about his experience with high waters and a snake at CREW. His photography is stunning and his narration speaks to the magic that is CREW. Be sure to take a few minutes to watch this fabulous piece “Andrew’s View: High Waters and a Snake” from the News-Press website. It’s worth it!
…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?
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 Androidor 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)
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.