New generation of whooping cranes reach Florida

Whooping cranesWhooping cranes led by ultralight aircraft from their summer home in Wisconsin have made it to Florida, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The cranes winter in and around Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico and will return to Wisconsin and other northern areas on their own in the spring.

Researchers have been leading cranes to Florida every year since 2000. This year’s 17 cranes — the “class of 2007” — are part of an experimental flock that researchers are trying to establish in the eastern United States. (There is already an established flock in the west.)

Previous years’ cranes fly to and from Florida on their own, unassisted.

After the first few years of following the crane migration, every year that a new class of cranes comes to Florida and makes news, I wonder if I should still point it out on EcoFlorida. After all, you aren’t likely to see this experimental flock (there is another experimental flock of whooping cranes in Florida that doesn’t migrate), and even though it’s a fun story, it’s kind of almost like the story from the previous year.

However, I think the real key to what researchers are doing is helping re-establish whooping cranes in the eastern United States — and that it’s a good example for what could be done (and in some cases is being done) to help out other species. It would be great to see more endangered species being captive bred and introduced into the wild.

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Bears causing problems are bears that get euthanized

Black bearMore Florida black bears than ever are being euthanized when they cause problems around people, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Reports of bears in residential areas are way up, and so are roadkills (mostly in central Florida). Experts say the reason is population growth for both bears and people.

What I hope people get out of this article is this:

“Biologists say euthanasia is a last resort to handle a small percentage of problem bears, but residents can help avoid that outcome by learning how to keep bears away and not providing food for them. ‘Feeding a bear is like signing its death warrant,’ said fish and wildlife commission spokeswoman Joy Hill.”

So basically, this says if you really care about bears, don’t give them handouts or make it easy for them to get food. Otherwise, they could end up being killed for being a “problem bear” — all because they learned that people = food.

Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / R.I. Bridges

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Comment today to refurbish Flamingo

Flamingo, Everglades National Park

Thanks to a Sierra Club list, I found out today is the last day for public comments on what happens to Flamingo in Everglades National Park, which was ruined by hurricanes Katrina and then Wilma in 2005.

The picture above is a photo I took on New Year’s Day 2006, after Everglades National Park had just started letting people back into the area. I don’t know why they allowed people to visit Flamingo, because nothing was there — you couldn’t launch a boat, nothing was open, and what you see in the picture — that’s what things were like. A ranger sat at a picnic table to tell the few of us who showed up more pictures of the destruction.

This is what Flamingo could look like:

Now there’s a chance to rebuild Flamingo, and you can comment on it here.

Picture from Miami New Times

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Trying to do the right thing can cost you

It’s been a tradition for me for many years to take the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and go camping. My husband works a regular weekday-type job, so with this day off, it gives us a chance to go camping somewhere for a long weekend. January’s weather can be testy, but at least it’s not broilingly (is that a word?) hot.

This year, our planned camping trip fell through for a variety of reasons. We had reservations to camp at a Florida state park. I called ReserveAmerica the day we were supposed to arrive. I figured if I canceled my reservation, the campsite could be given to someone else — that’s all I was trying to do.

But the reservations agent told me she recommended against canceling because not only would I pay for the campsite that night (that’s ReserveAmerica’s policy if you cancel the day of), but I’d also get a $10 cancellation fee.

So I said, all right, how about if I cancel tomorrow night’s reservation? I had two nights.

The reservation agent said she couldn’t do that and again recommended against canceling.

So here I was, trying to do the right thing by putting my campsite back into the system for another camper — only to be told I’d be socked with additional fees.

Penalized for trying to do the right thing.

Just wanted folks to be aware.

If you need to cancel a reservation, try to do it as soon as possible to avoid having to pay for a campsite you won’t be using.

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Disappointed…Threatened species shot and killed

A bald eagle was shot and killed in Manatee County, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports, while a man in Okaloosa County has been charged with shooting and killing a Florida black bear in 2006, the Northwest Florida Daily News has said. Both species are considered threatened by the state of Florida.

I think it must be really hard for wildlife officers to investigate crimes like these. After all, many times, these species aren’t in populated areas where someone might have seen the shooting. Investigators definitely have their work cut out for them. It’s telling that it took more than a year to find the bear’s killer.

I am disappointed that the Daily News story didn’t elaborate about how the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the bear’s killer. And I’m disappointed the bald eagle that was shot was the male half of a mating pair just about to hatch their eaglets.

Disappointed, all around.

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Florida state Arbor Day

I think this coming Friday, Jan. 18, is Florida’s state arbor day, if I’m not mistaken. I haven’t seen anything about it in the news, but I wrote it on my calendar and thought I’d mention it.

A couple years ago, The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommended planting native Florida trees. That’s what my family plans to do to replace some trees that didn’t make it through Wilma — more than two years ago! I know, I know — we’re way behind. I guess we were just hoping some of the trees would pull through, but they didn’t.

Visit FloridaYards.org for Florida-friendly landscaping tips.

Image from Florida DEP

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Free to a good home

That’s what many people say when kittens are born.

When Florida panther kits are born, though, panther researchers have a lot of work to do to track the species, according to the News-Press.

The article points out that last year was a record for the number of kits born — 43 — even though it was also a record for the number of panther roadkills — 15.

More Florida panther stories from last year are in the article, too.

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