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Wildlife Park features Alligators in February

By Susan Strawbridge Posted on February 2, 2017

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park’s monthly focus during the month of 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. Two special programs will be presented on the American alligator. (featured image at top of article by Joe Dube)

The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be hosting a special program by Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) bio-scientist and alligator expert Kyle C. Mader on the American alligator on Thursday, February 16, 2017, starting at 1:00 pm in the Florida Room of the Wildlife Park’s Visitor Center, located on US 19.

Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) bio-scientist and alligator expert Kyle C. Mader.

Kyle was born and raised in central Florida and from a young age loved the outdoors.  He received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida (2013).  Before receiving his diploma he spent the majority of his time volunteering with the FWC on a variety of projects which led to a part-time Technician position.  Here Kyle was able to continue to work on a variety of projects including the monitoring of chronic wasting disease in Florida’s deer population, non-migratory American kestrel monitoring, and American alligator population monitoring.  Since receiving his degree Kyle is now a Biologist in the reptile and amphibian subsection of the FWC primarily focusing on Crocodillians but continues to assist on a variety of other projects.

His presentation will in include a general alligator biology, the differences between American alligators and American crocodiles, and the history of alligator management in Florida. Mader will also discuss current research including annual alligator night-light surveys, thermistors in alligator nests, and Methylmercury in alligators. He will also cover the topic of living with crocodillians. There is no charge to attend this special program. Mader will discuss his work with alligators as biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

American Alligators by Susan Strawbridge

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.

Alligator image by Ralph Bischoff

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 in order 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.

Homosassa Springs resident, Waldo climbing on a raft. Image by Ralph Bischoff.

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 February 18th at for this presentation with a live alligator!”

The Wildlife Jeopardy program on American Alligators will be presented by Volunteer Barbara Cairns on Saturday, February 18, 2017 in the Discovery Center inside the Wildlife Park. She uses a 20-question format and invites visitors of all ages to test their knowledge about alligators. Handouts will be available. This program is included at no additional charge with regular park admission. It is a ten-minute walk from the Park’s West entrance on Fishbowl Drive to the Discovery Center. Regular park admission will apply for entrance into the Park.

Barbara Cairns, Park Volunteer, presents Wildlife Jeopardy.

Barbara works as a docent in the Discovery Center and as a retired school principal has taught in overseas Dept. of Defense Schools in Labrador, Germany and Panama. She is a published author with articles and stories in books, magazines and newspapers. A few of her books include Cracker Cow: a Narrative of Florida History and the Gatsby’s Adventures series.

The Wildlife Park will be hosting two upcoming art shows. The Wildlife Park Arts and Crafts Show and Sale will be held inside the Visitor Center on US 19 on Saturday, February 4, 2017 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 talented artists and artisans and have the opportunity to purchase an original art work or handcrafted item.

The Citrus Watercolor Club’s Spring Show is at the Park February 18-19.

The Citrus Watercolor Club will be holding its Spring Art in the Park exhibit and sale in the Visitor Center of the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park on March 4-5, 2017. This show features the artwork of the Club’s many talented watercolorists. Originals, prints and cards will be available for purchase. This will be a great opportunity to shop for gifts for family and friends or for yourself. The Citrus Watercolor Club donates 20% of sales from the show to the Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. There is no charge to attend the exhibit. Regular park admission will apply for entrance in to the Wildlife Park.  For more information, please call Susan Strawbridge, Mondays through Fridays, in the Park office at (352) 628-5445, ext.1002.

Citrus County Audubon will be leading a monthly bird walk on Saturday, February 25, 2017. 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. There is no charge to use the Pepper Creek Trail or to take the return boat trip

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