It took 10 days for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists to catch a black bear cub in Marion County that was days away from death. They were ultimately successful, but it took extraordinary efforts from both FWC employees and local residents working together.
The 6-month-old cub, its two siblings and mother were regular visitors to unsecured trash containers in a small community near Weirsdale, in the Ocala National Forest. One day in late July, FWC dispatch got a call from one of the residents concerned about a cub running around with a clear, industrial-size plastic jar stuck on its head. The jar made it almost impossible for the cub to eat or drink.
The FWC’s Mike Orlando, Brian Scheick and Cathy Connolly, and Mike Connolly, a bear-response agent for the agency, knew that if they didn’t catch the cub, affectionately dubbed “Jarhead,” it would die, so they developed a plan to trap it.
“It was a lot easier said than done,” Orlando said. “The residents were really great about calling us when they saw the bears, but it seemed like we were always about 20 minutes behind.”
The team set traps in different areas, hoping to catch the mother and tranquilize her, which would then allow them to catch the cubs. Unfortunately, the good mother bear refused to be tricked by the baited trap.
After eight days of sightings, two days went by when nobody saw the bear family. The team feared the cub might have finally succumbed to his condition. Ironically, the day the team resigned to pull the traps and head home, Orlando got a call from FWC dispatch. A resident had called to report the bear family was back. The team rushed back to the community.
Orlando found the mother and was able to shoot her with a tranquilizer dart. Then Orlando and Scheick literally caught the cubs by surprise and managed to grab Jarhead. But the tough little bear lived up to its U.S. Marine moniker and did not give up without a fight.
Eventually, they subdued the cub long enough to get the jar off its head, and then let it go to rejoin its siblings. The team, with the help of some concerned residents, placed the mother bear’s sleeping body in a trap, and eventually the cubs joined her.
After observing the family overnight in the trap, and making sure it was able to nurse, biologists released the family in a nearby, less populated area.
Although the story appears to have a happy ending, it truly illustrates one of the worst things that can happen when wildlife gets into garbage.
To date, the FWC has not gotten any further reports of the bear family. And that’s good news indeed.
HYDRILLA TREATMENT FOR BUTLER CHAIN
Hydrilla treatments for the Butler Chain of Lakes are scheduled for Aug. 17-30 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Invasive Plant Management Section and Orange County.
The two agencies will post treatment notifications at the chain’s public boat ramps on the day of treatment and remove the signs once the 14-day irrigation restriction expires. To accomplish the treatments, they will be using various public boat ramps throughout the Butler Chain of Lakes.
Hydrilla is an invasive, exotic, aquatic plant spread easily by boats throughout the state’s lakes and rivers. It clogs waterways, making recreational activities difficult or impossible and chokes out beneficial native plants. Managing and treating it is necessary for the health of Florida’s waters and to enable continued recreational boating and other aquatic activities.
The hydrilla will be treated with Aquathol™, which has no restrictions for fishing or swimming. There is, however, a 14-day irrigation restriction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves Aquathol™ for use in lakes.
For questions about this treatment, contact Alicia Knecht, FWC invasive plant management regional biologist, at 321-229-8350.
ADOPTERS FOR JAX PET AMNESTY DAY
In an effort to keep unwanted exotic pets out of Florida’s native habitats, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), along with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, will host another Pet Amnesty Day at the zoo on Sept. 25. Currently, the FWC needs people who qualify to provide good homes for pets that are turned in at the event.
“We expect to get quite a few nonnative animals, so we need to make sure we have safe homes for them,” said Jenny Tinnell, FWC biologist. “Often, pet owners don’t understand the difference between native and nonnative species, or they don’t realize the possible effects releasing a nonnative species can have. This event gives pet owners who can no longer take care of their pets or no longer wish to keep them a legal, ethical option.”
The FWC is now looking for potential adopters in the Jacksonville area who are experienced exotic pet owners and are willing to provide a home for one or two more animals. All adopters must fill out the proper application form and have all necessary permits prior to the event and before they receive surrendered animals.
“This isn’t a free pet giveaway,” Tinnell said. “We’re looking for adopters with knowledge and expertise in caring for exotic pets. We’re not looking for folks who have always wanted a pet and think this is an opportunity to own one they don’t have to purchase.”
If you have an exotic pet that you can’t care for anymore, don’t just open the front door and set it free. It’s illegal to release a nonnative animal into the wild in Florida, and it could be detrimental for the animal and the environment.
Pet Amnesty Day is free and open to the public. Exotic animals can be surrendered to the FWC free of charge with no questions asked and no penalties.
“We will not penalize any pet owners who choose the responsible option of not releasing their pets into the wild. This is about curbing our ongoing problem of exotic fish and wildlife,” Tinnell said.
A veterinarian will examine each animal, and every attempt will be made to place all healthy animals with qualified adopters.
Pet Amnesty Day is also a free, family event. There will be live animals on display, and experts will be on hand to discuss proper care of exotic pets, so people who are thinking about purchasing one can learn from credible sources before they buy.
Nonnative pet amnesty events help to increase awareness of nonnative species problems. More than 400 nonnative species have been observed in Florida, and more than 130 have reproducing populations.
For more information on nonnative species in Florida, visit MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.
Anyone interested in adopting nonnative pets can download the adoption application there as well.
Adopters must have knowledge of natural history and caging requirements and have proper facilities for the animals they are interested in adopting. There is no fee for being an adopter.
BOWHUNTER JAMBOREE TO FEATURE FREE BOWHUNTING COURSE
People attending the Bowhunter Jamboree at the Citrus Wildlife Management Area, near Inverness, will have a chance to take a free bowhunting course, Sept. 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets to the jamboree range from $20 (youth) to $50 (families) and include a one-year membership in the Florida Bowhunters Council, sponsor of the event. There is no additional charge to take the course, offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Hunter Safety Section and the Florida Bowhunters Council.
“While this course doesn’t satisfy the hunter education requirements for Florida, it is well worth taking,” said Steve Robbins, FWC Hunter Safety coordinator in Lake City.
Previous jamborees have attracted approximately 600 archers, who test their skills with broadhead-tipped hunting arrows in a shooting competition. This year’s added attraction is the FWC’s bowhunting course, designed to meet the requirements of some states that require National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF) certification prior to purchasing a bowhunting license.
Participants can expect to learn all aspects of bowhunting including:
* History of bowhunting;
* Safe and responsible bowhunting;
* Know your bow and arrow;
* Preparing for the hunt;
* Shot placement and game recovery;
* Use of elevated stands and other techniques;
* Outdoor preparedness.
Participants must bring their own equipment, including bow and arrows. For their comfort, they should also bring a lawn chair.
Students should register for the course in advance by calling the FWC’s North Central Regional Office at 386-758-0525 or by visiting MyFWC.com/HunterSafety (click on “Bowhunter Education”). Students of all ages may participate.
For more information on the jamboree, visit www.floridabowhunters.net.