Florida, even along the coast, has its fair share of wildlife, a vast majority of it protected in one way or another by Federal and State law. In our little corner of northeast Florida, our beaches, dunes and forest hammock areas are home to birds, frogs, salamanders, tortoises and snakes. All of which you can experience just outside your oceanfront condominium.
If you are staying or own a condominium alongside the ocean, on any given day you may see the following animals; osprey (with or without a fish in its tallons), an eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise in the dunes between the buildings and the beach, a north Atlantic right whale or a leatherback or green back sea turtle. Trips to the river side of the island could reveal West Indian manatee, Florida alligators or sandhill cranes.
Here are some things to remember when experiencing Florida’s native wildlife in its natural habitat.
1. Predatory birds, including ospreys and bald eagles, have been known to drop their prey. Occasionally you will see a fish in a parking lot with no explanation how it got there.
2. The dunes and sea oats are protected as well as the animals that live there. Please do not venture into the dune for a closer look or pick the sea oats. It’s possible to cover up the entrance to a tortoise hole or stumble upon an indigo snake. Sea oats help to preserve the dune system.
3. Sea turtles come ashore in north Florida and lay their eggs from May to August. Sea turtle monitoring occurs along all of Florida’s beaches. If you experience a sea turtle egg nest, stay clear and remove any beach ware you may have brought to the beach with you. When the eggs hatch, hatchlings can become entangled in chairs, canopies and towels preventing their return to the ocean. Disturbing sea turtle nests is punishable by up to a year in prison and fines upwards of $50,000. For specifics, see Florida Statute Chapter 379.
4. Alligators, especially a nesting female, are aggressive. If you come across an alligator, give him a wide berth. If the alligator is a possible nuisance, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
5. Manatees, while not aggressive, are protected from harassment from humans. If you have the unique experience of seeing a manatee, look but please do not touch.
For specifics on all of Florida’s protected species, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website here.