By FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto
Sometimes wildlife needs a little help
Sometimes wildlife needs a little help, and sometimes it needs a lot. Things that affect wildlife can be manmade or natural or a combination of both. Sometimes it's best to let nature run its course; other times the situation requires human intervention.
An example of the latter is the cold snap last month that took a toll on several imperiled species the American crocodile, Florida manatee and sea turtles. Obviously, this was a natural, yet uncommon occurrence. Cold snaps that packed this kind of punch most recently occurred in 1989 and 1977. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its state and federal partners were working feverishly to save as many animals as they could. Authorized non-profit and volunteer groups worked equally hard. Other people, too, when asked by the FWC, jumped in, eagerly doing what they could to help.
Helping wildlife doesn't end once a situation such as this occurs. A helping hand can be in the form of just being alert and slowing down for manatees, sea turtles and other species, and not just because law enforcement officers may issue a citation for speeding in slow-speed zones.
Slowing down and being alert in Florida panther territory could prevent an accident that could cost one of the endangered cats its life. This past year, 14 Florida panthers died on the state's roadways. Panthers are most active between dusk and dawn. Though the number of these animals has increased to approximately 100, the species remains in danger of vanishing forever, and the untimely death of a single one of them, nudges the species closer to the gaping jaws of extinction.
Other critters on the roadways could use a break as well.
Florida black bears are attracted to garbage, barbecue grills, bird feeders and pet food left outside. Once bears discover a recurring source of food other than what nature provides them in their natural environment, they often return to the source repeatedly and become a nuisance. Unfortunately, when a bear becomes a nuisance, it poses a threat to people, and, too often, the FWC must euthanize it. Fifteen or 20 minutes and a little bit of effort to put away attractants is the helping hand that that ensures survival of Florida's black bears.
We all know that littering is illegal. Lots of bad things can happen to wildlife because of it. A bag of fast-food leftovers thrown on the side of the road brings wildlife close to the road and in danger of being hit by a vehicle. Discarded monofilament fishing line has injured and killed manatees, sea turtles, birds, fish and numerous other species. It happens every day.
Did you know the release of helium balloons (nine or more) is illegal? What goes up, must come down, and very often, lighter-than-air balloons come down in the water, where birds and aquatic and marine species, such as sea turtles, eat them and get entangled in the strings attached to them.