Alligators are the Focus in February at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park’s monthly focus in February will be on the American alligator. Displays will be available in the Visitor Center on US 19 and in the Discovery Center inside the Wildlife Park. A special program on Alligators in Florida will be presented on Thursday, February 22, 2018, starting at 1:00 pm in the Florida Room of the park’s Visitor Center located on US Highway 19 in Homosassa, Florida.
Ryan Ford is a Biological Scientist III and Crocodile Response Coordinator with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Hunting and Game Management. He is 34 years old and was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. He received his B.S. in Biology from Florida State University and a M.S. in Biology from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville FL where he completed his thesis on the diet and reproduction of blacknose sharks. He joined FWCs Fisheries Independent Monitoring division in 2012 where he monitored fish populations in the lower St. John’s River using seines and trawls. In November of 2017, he transferred to Ocala to become the Crocodile Response Coordinator with FWC’s Division of Hunting and Game Management where he handles nuisance crocodile calls and assists in alligator population monitoring by conducting nightlight surveys.
Alligators in Florida Program February 22
Ford’s program will focus on the basic biology and ecology of alligators including their reproduction and diet as well as their ecological impact. He will then discuss their management and population status, and will explain how to safely coexist with alligators. Ford will go over the differences between alligators and crocodiles. Ford will be bringing a live alligator with him. There is no charge to attend and questions are welcome.
The alligator is a remarkable story of successful habitat and species management in Florida. The successful passage and enforcement of the Lacey and Endangered Species Acts helped to curtail the illegal hunting of alligators in the state of Florida in the early 20th century. Alligators are now hunted and regulated in the state of Florida, although they do remain classified on the endangered species list as threatened due to similarity of appearance with the American crocodile.
Most of our current research relates to habitat use by alligators as well as quantifying the size of populations on some of Florida’s most popular waterways. One of the agencies main tools in quantifying population is by surveying for alligators. This is done by shining a spot light from an airboat or outboard boat and using eye shine to estimate population trends. Occasionally alligators are captured to collect measurements as well as tissue samples to test for harmful chemicals in our water sources. Nests are also periodically checked to insure the health of our alligator populations.
These steps are important because alligators are top predators that are long lived and slow growing. This combination of factors makes them an important indicator species for the health of the entire ecosystem since during different stages of life alligators eat just about everything in the swamp! To learn more about one of the oldest and most charismatic species in Florida come to Homosassa Springs State Park on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm.
Arts & Crafts Show February 10
Also, this month the Wildlife Park will be presenting two art shows. The Wildlife Park Arts and Crafts Show and Sale will be held inside the Visitor Center on US 19 on Saturday, February 10, 2018, from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm. Admission to the Arts & Crafts show is free, although regular park admission applies for entrance into the Wildlife Park. See the work of variety of artists and artisans and can purchase an original art work or handcrafted item. There will something to please everyone from paintings to wood crafts, photography, jewelry, cards, and more.
Spring Watercolor Show & Sale February 17-18
The following weekend of February 17 and 18, 2018, the Wildlife Park will be hosting its Spring Watercolor Show and Sale. The Show and Sale has over 130 members featuring their best work. This juried show will also offer many paintings, prints, cards and more. The park invites you to come out and discover the work of these talented artists and enjoy the opportunity to support the artists and at the same time support the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park who will receive 20% of all sales from the event.
Audubon Bird Walk February 24
Citrus County Audubon will be leading a monthly bird walk on Saturday, February 24, 2018. An experienced birder from Citrus County Audubon, will lead the walk on this trail–one of 19 birding trails in Citrus County that are part of the West Section of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Participants should meet at 7:45 a.m. at the entrance to the park’s Visitor Center. The bird walk will begin at 8:00 a.m. Binoculars and a field guide are suggested, but not required. There is no charge to participate in the bird walk on Pepper Creek Trail. Pepper Creek Trail is approximately 3/4 mile in length and follows along the park’s tram road, connecting the Visitor Center on U.S. 19 and the West entrance on Fishbowl Drive. Participants can either walk back down the trail or wait and take the first returning boat after the park opens.