Panhandle Outdoors

Invasive Exotic Species and Control Workshop

Invasive Exotic Species and Control Workshop

Join us to learn about identifying and controlling some of the most troublesome invasive exotic plants like cogongrass, Japanese climbing fern, privet, and others.  We will also address exotic insects that are causing, or will cause, big headaches for forestry and natural resource professionals.  Earn pesticide applicator CEU’s, forestry CEU’s and connect with partnership and assistance opportunities.

 

Presented by the Six Rivers CISMA and the Florida Forest Stewardship

September 28, 2017

9:00 – 3:00 CDT

Okaloosa County Extension Office

3098 Airport Rd.

Crestview FL 32539-7124

invasive_species17_six_rivers_announcement

Registration:

Japanese Climbing Fern can quickly cover natural vegetation. Spores and small plants can be potentially transported in pine straw. Climbing ferns are a problem for managed timber and home landscapes. Photo by L. Scott Jackson

$ 10 per person; lunch and materials included

http://fsp-workshop092817.eventbrite.com/

Or, call Okaloosa County Extension at (850) 689-5850

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/18/invasive-exotic-species-and-control-workshop/

Steps for Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife

Steps for Dealing with Nuisance Wildlife

White-tailed deer, a species that is both highly sought after by sportsmen and an unwanted nuisance to many. Sportsmen modify habitat to attract deer and homeowners can modify habitat to stop attracting deer. 
(Photo by Eric Zamora)

As a County Agent, I receive a wide variety of calls from clients relating to wildlife. The majority of these calls are quite positive; clients need help improving wildlife habitat or simply need a creature identified to satisfy their curiosity. However, from time to time, situations develop where wildlife behavior becomes a nuisance to a client. The following are some key concepts that can be applied to stop ongoing nuisance wildlife and/or lessen the likelihood of future nuisance wildlife causing issues around your home. For clarity, nuisance wildlife are specific animals (not an entire species) that are causing a specific problem.

Animals frequent various areas because those areas provide resources necessary to meet the animals’ needs. Animals have three basic needs: 1) Food 2) Water 3) Cover. If an animal(s) is frequenting your property and causing some kind of damage, as to become a nuisance, it is incredibly likely that the animal’s presence and nuisance behavior are related to the animal seeking food, water, or cover.  With this concept in mind, there is a four-step process that can be utilized to alleviate the issue.

Step 1: Identify the species of animal responsible for the nuisance behavior. Accurate identification of the species causing the problem is key to developing a successful plan of action for stopping the issue. Do not make assumptions or guesses, use available resources to make a definitive identification. Animals can generally be identified by looking at the type of damage caused (i.e. soil disturbance, tree bark damage, vegetation clipping, garden damage, etc.), signs left by the animal (scat, tracks, etc.), and the time of day/night the damage occurs. Careful observation of these factors should lead to an accurate identification of the nuisance animal.

Step 2: Determine why the animal is frequenting your property. After you have identified the problem animal and familiarized yourself with its normal behaviors you should be able to deduce what the animal finds appealing about your property. In some cases, the damage caused by the animals plainly shows why they are there, other times it might not be as obvious. Remember, they are likely there in search of food, water, or cover.      

Step 3: Implement steps to address the situation. After you have determined “what & why” you can formulate an appropriate plan for addressing the issue. Generally, the plan will include steps in one or more of the following categories:

1) Habitat modification – This is generally the most practical approach to dealing with nuisance wildlife. In its simplest form, habitat modification is simply removing or altering whatever environmental factor is attracting the nuisance wildlife. The most common example of habitat modification is the removal of wildlife food sources (i.e. pet food, bird feeders, easily accessible garbage and/or compost).

2) Deterrents – Any measure that restricts access to the resource desired by the nuisance wildlife. These measures can include, physical barriers (fencing, etc.), hazing or scare tactics (eyespot balloons, holographic foil, motion-sensitive sprinklers, noise-makers, dogs), and chemical repellents. Deterrents are generally more expensive than habitat modification and their effectiveness tends to decrease over time.

3) Trapping or killing the nuisance animal – These are only to be considered as last resorts. Even when trapping or killing is the only option, they generally only provide a temporary solution to the problem if the environmental factor drawing the animals is not also addressed. Additionally, many state and federal regulations that dictate when trapping or killing wildlife is permissible.

Step 4: Evaluate your level of success and make necessary adjustments. Observe any changes in wildlife behavior and modify your approach as necessary. Begin with habitat modification; if that is not effective make sure the correct modification(s) was made. If no additional modification can be made look at deterrents. Only if all habitat modification and deterrent options have proven ineffective would you move on to trapping or killing. As you move through this process you may wish to seek professional assistance. Contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension Office for general advice or FWC for a list of professional nuisance wildlife trappers.    

 

This article was adapted from Overview of How to Stop Damage Caused by Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard by Holly K. Ober and Arlo Kane. There are links throughout the article to a series of publications by the same authors that explore the various topics in detail.

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Author: Mark Mauldin – mdm83@ufl.edu

I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.
http://washington.ifas.ufl.edu

Mark Mauldin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/18/steps-for-dealing-with-nuisance-wildlife/

The Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

The Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)

the “cottonmouth” gape of this venomous snakes is a warning. Notice the banded coloration of this individual.
Photo: UF IFAS Wildlife

Also known as the Water Moccasin, this is a snake that is all too familiar with most Floridians… Or is it? Several non-venomous water snakes are often confused with the cottonmouth and are thus killed.  That said, cottonmouths are common in the state near areas of water and many residents do have encounters with them. This fact sheet will provide information that help reduce negative encounters with this venomous snake.

 

DESCRIPTION

  • cottonmouths have a relatively thick-stout body with a broad head and thin neck
  • they are generally banded and can be brown, gray, reddish in color; many become darker with age and may be solid black; cottonmouths who frequent tannic waters may have cooper color to them
  • average length 36″ (3 ft.); max length 74″ (6 ft.)

 

JUVENILE DESCRIPTION

  • copper colored with a yellowish-green tipped tail; used to attract prey

 

HOW TO TELL FROM NON-VENOMOUS WATER SNAKES

  • there are several species of water snakes from the genus Neroidia which are confused with cottonmouths
  • the scales between the eyes on top of the head are larger than others on the head; they have narrow necks
  • Neroidia will have heads shaped more like your thumb and neck is as wide as head – NOTE: Neroidia CAN WIDEN THEIR HEAD WHEN THREATENED
  • when head is viewed from above, the eyes of the cottonmouth are hard to see
  • cottonmouths have a creamed colored cheek with dark “mask” extending from eye to back of lower jaw
  • Neroidia may have creamed colored cheek but will lack “mask”; will possess thin vertical stripes that extend from lower to upper jaw
  • there are single scales extending from the vent (anus) to tip of tail in cottonmouths; those same scales are divided into multiple ones on Neroidia
  • the underside of the cottonmouth tail is usually dark; Neroidia is usually lighter in color
  • pupil of cottonmouth is elliptical; it is round on Neroidia
  • cottonmouths, being members of the pit viper family, will have heat sensing pit between nostril and eye; Neroidia will lack this pit
  • scales are keeled, but this is true for some non-venomous snakes

This banded water snake is often confused with the cottonmouth. This animal has the vertical stripes extending from the lower jaw, which is lacking in the cottonmouth.
Photo: University of Georgia

 

HOW TO TELL FROM OTHER PIT VIPERS

  • cottonmouths are often confused with copperheads – both in same genus
  • copperheads will lack characteristic “mask” found on cottonmouths and rattlesnakes
  • the bands of the copperhead are more uniformed than the cottonmouth and are shaped like an hour glass
  • copperheads are generally lighter in color
  • it is difficult to tell young copperheads and cottonmouths apart; both have the light yellow-green tipped tail and light body coloring

 

SUBSPECIES OF COTTONMOUTHS

  • there three recognized subspecies of cottonmouths
  • the Florida Cottonmouth (Florida (A.p.conanti) – is darker, many times black, with two vertical bars on snout; found throughout the state of Florida
  • the Eastern Cottonmouth (A. p. piscivorous) is lighter in color than the Florida and has no pattern on snout; found in extreme western Florida panhandle and the Appalachian valley of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina
  • the Western Cottonmouth (A.p.leucostoma) – is similar to the eastern cottonmouth but darker in color; found in Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma

 

WHATS IN A NAME

  • The Cottonmouth and the Water Moccasin are the two names for the same snake; herpetologist prefer to use the name Cottonmouth
  • The snake was originally described by B.G.E. Lace (1789) using the term “piscivorous”; which means “fish eater”
  • Gerard Troost (1836) describe the western subspecies using the term “leucostoma”; which means “white mouth”
  • Howard Kay Gloyd (1969) described the Florida subspecies using the term “conanti”; which was honoring the herpetologist Roger Conant of the Philadelphia Zoo

Many in the panhandle use the terms cottonmouth and copperhead interchangeably. They are closely related but this photo of a copperhead shows the lighter coloration and the hour-glass shaped pattern of the blotches along the body.
Photo: UF IFAS Wildlife

 

BEHAVIOR

  • cottonmouths are found throughout the southeast United States but avoid mountainous areas
  • they are usually found with 30 feet of a water source, though some have been found as far as 100 feet away
  • they prefer slow, quiet, backwater areas over faster flowing waterways
  • they are most common in pine flatwoods but can be found in a variety of habitats and do well near humans
  • they have been found in brackish water areas but freshwater is usually nearby
  • they are becoming more common on barrier islands, and in some cases in high numbers, but do need sources of freshwater; they cannot extract from seawater
  • cottonmouths hunt primarily at night; though daylight hunting happens
  • on cool mornings they may climb lower branches of trees to bask; usually close to water
  • they will remain still in one location for long periods of time waiting for prey to come within range; but they are known to stalk prey as well
  • when prey are found they will strike using their hollow fangs to inject a hemotoxin; this venom is known to contain components that cause death, by attacking the muscle and circulatory system, and digestive enzymes to begin the process before swallowing
  • in the cooler parts of their range cottonmouths will hibernate; but tend to be active year round in FL

 

PREY

  • cottonmouths are carnivorous and opportunistic; prey include fish, small mammals, reptiles and birds; they will feed on smaller cottonmouths
  • they are known to scavenge and are attracted to the smell of dead fish
  • they hunt primarily at night but are known to during daylight hours as well
  • they hunt fish and CAN bite underwater – despite the legend that they cannot

Cottonmouth’s are known to feed on a variety of prey including carrion.
Photo: University of Florida

 

PREDATORS

  • primary predator include alligators, kingsnakes, and larger cottonmouths
  • secondary predators include large mammals, birds, hawks, and owls
  • cottonmouths tend to “freeze” when they first detect a predator – no movement at all
  • if the predator gets too close they will vibrate their tail in leaf litter to alert the intruder and may gape their mouth showing the white inside of their “cottonmouth”; they may also flatten their bodies to appear bigger and release a musk as a warning
  • they prefer to flee than bite but they will strike if they have nowhere to flee

 

REPRODUCTION

  • mating occurs in spring and sometimes fall; in Florida they may mate year round
  • males sense pheromones from females to know when it is time and, like other vipers, males may fight for the right to mate
  • females can store sperm for long periods of time and typically breed every other year
  • females give live birth in late summer to early fall; they sometimes congregate to give birth
  • the average number of offspring/litter is 7-12 but can be as high as 22

Is this a cottonmouth?
No, it is not…
Can you tell why?
Photo: University of Florida

 

DEALING WITH ENCOUNTERS

 

KEEPING THEM AT A DISTANCE

  • when hiking in cottonmouth territory it is recommended to wear high boots and look down while walking; if you need to look ahead we recommend you stop walking – look ahead – and then put your eyes back to the ground while walking
  • stay on trails; snakes do not like short grass; avoid walking in tall grass where they may be hiding
  • to keep cottonmouths away from your home – reduce food sources, freshwater sources, and shelter areas
  • cottonmouths like fish ponds and are often found in the filter system; they may be attracted to swimming pools
  • cottonmouths also eat rodents; bird feeders, sacks of corn, wood and brush pikes can attract cottonmouth prey, and thus cottonmouths
  • if you must have brush piles and bird feeders place them away areas where people frequent – away from front and back doors, sidewalks, etc.
  • many properties have natural ponds and swimming pools; if encounters are a problem consider placing some small mesh fencing to keep them from reaching the source may be helpful; this fencing should be buried 2-6″ below the surface and the wooden stakes should be on your side of the fence – snakes can climb the rough wood stakes; if you cannot continue the fencing across your entire property – make a 90° turn AWAY from your property to encourage them to return from where they came

 

IF I ENCOUNTER ONE

  • despite stories, cottonmouths do not chase people; most will sit very still hoping you do not see them; I have personally accidentally placed my foot within inches of a cottonmouths with no reaction from the snakes; their first reaction is to “freeze”
  • if they feel you are getting too close they often will begin to vibrate their tail very fast; this means they are getting nervous and are warning you to stay clear; many times they are in leaf litter when they do this and you can hear them – DO NOT APPROACH ANY CLOSER; the probability of a strike is still low, but has increased
  • another warning behavior is mouth gaping and showing of white mouth- “cottonmouth”; though strike probability is still low, studies show that gaping cottonmouths tend to strike more often than tail vibrating ones – DO NOT APPROACH; move back and allow the snake to pass

The dark phase of the cottonmouth. This is an older individual.
Photo: UF IFAS

 

BUT WHAT IF I ALLOW IT TO PASS AND IT IS HEADING FURTHER ON TO MY PROPERTY?

  • great news right?
  • statistics show that about 95% of people bitten by snakes are trying to catch it or kill it – so trying to remove it yourself significantly increases your chance of getting bit
  • many have had success with sweeping non-venomous snakes into a trash can with a broom and releasing somewhere… But these are non-venomous snakes, we recommend professionals for venomous snake removal
  • you may have no other optional than to kill the snake; if this is the case be careful… Again, many are bitten trying to kill snakes; also know that snakes are known to strike after they are a dead

 

WHAT IF I AM BITTEN?

  • first know that death from cottonmouths is very rare; annually in the U.S. about 7,000 – 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes (about 1 in 40,000 people) and about 5-6 die (about 1 in 50 million)
  • also know that many times vipers give what is called a “dry bite” – no venom injected; but you do not know this so treat as if venom was injected; MANY WHO DIE FROM VENOMOUS SNAKE BITES DID NOT SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
  • first rule is DO NOT GET BIT TWICE; after being bit many people will then try to kill the snake and are bitten again; many feel that they need the snake at the hospital for identification – they do not
  • second rule is to remain calm; easier said than done, but an elevated heart rate will move the toxin within the blood faster
  • with toxic viper bites there will be pain and swelling; remove watches, jewelry, or any tight fitting clothing from bite area
  • you do not need to add ice or heat
  • we do not recommend tourniquets, lancing the bite and sucking out venom; many times the venom has spread from the bite area and health officials have found that many times there are more problems with the “first aid” than with the bite itself
  • try not to move the limb where bite occurred- easier said than done; if you can elevate your heart above the bite this is good
  • do not drink alcohol; you may think you need a drink right now but you do not; alcohol or caffeine can accelerate heart and spread venom faster
  • call 911 and alert the closest hospital that you have a snake bite victim coming in; answer any questions they may have to the best of your ability
  • again, do your best to relax and get to a hospital; fatalities are rare due to the excellent medical care in this country

All of this said, there is a lot of concern surrounding cottonmouths in Florida. As we expand our neighborhoods into more of their habitat, we will encounter more of them.  In some cases, the location for their resources may be our neighborhoods.  We will need to learn how to identify them and understand their behavior to avoid negative encounters.  The statistics show that they are not as big a threat as they are perceived to be, but folks are still concerned for their family and pets – and understandably so.  Hopefully information in this fact sheet will be of help to you.

 

REFERENCES

 

Ashton, R.E., P.S. Ashton. 1981. Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida; Part I Snakes. Windward Publishing. Miami FL. pp. 175.

 

Gibbons, W., M. Dorcas. 2005. Snakes of the Southeast. University of Georgia Press. Athens, GA. Pp. 253.

 

Gibbons, W. 2017. Snakes of the Eastern U.S. University of Georgia. Athens GA. pp. 416.

 

http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2994/1808-9798(2008)3%5B175:TEOICS%5D2.0.CO%3B2

 

http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1643/CH-04-243R1?journalCode=cope

 

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/58/10/947/245888/Pitviper-Scavenging-at-the-Intertidal-Zone-An

 

http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9j69w675

 

http://ufdc.ufl.edu/files/UFE0046057/00001/WIXSON_J.pdf

 

http://www.herpconbio.org/Volume_10/Issue_2/Hanson_McElroy_2015.pdf

 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2008.02075.x/full

 

http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1643/0045-8511(2002)002%5B0195:DBOCAP%5D2.0.CO%3B2

 

https://academic.oup.com/beheco/article/15/2/365/223992/Size-based-variation-in-antipredator-behavior

 

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3890390?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-snakes/list/agkistrodon-piscivorus-piscivorus/

 

http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/cottonmouth.pdf

 

 

 

 

Johnson, S.A. Frequently Asked Questions About Venomous Snakeshttp://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/venomous_snake_faqs.shtml.

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/12/the-cottonmouth-agkistrodon-piscivorus/

Trying to Solve the Marine Debris Problem

A variety of plastics ends up in the Gulf. Each is a potential problem for marine life. Photo: Rick O’Connor

Since the early 1970’s, when Chief Iron Eyes Cody shed a tear on a television commercial, we have been trying to reduce the amount of solid waste found along our beaches and within our waters.   Though numerous agencies and civic groups, led by the Ocean Conservancy, have held beach and underwater clean ups over the last few decades, the problem still exist.

 

However, we can say this – the problems have changed. Many groups collect data while they collect the debris to determine what, and how much, has been collected.  This information can give folks an idea of what the major issues are.  Because of this data, aluminum can pull-tabs and glass bottles are not as common as they once were.  Communities saw they were a large problem and either removed them from the market or developed ordinances that banned them from beaches – this is certainly a success story.  There are agencies and researchers who compile solid waste data to let people know what they are throwing away.  Once we know this, we can be more effective at reducing marine debris.

 

Solid waste is not just a problem for coastal beaches; it is problem throughout society. Landfills will fill up, and communities will then need another location, or a new method, to dispose of it.  Though the human growth rate has declined from 1.23% to 1.11% in the last decade, we are still growing and are currently at 7.5 billion humans on the planet.  Each human will require resources to survive and, thus, will generate waste that will need to be disposed of.  According to a paper published in 1990, humans were generating about 550 pounds of solid waste/person/year, which generated 1.3 billion tons of solid waste each year.  In 2009 that increased to 2.3 billion tons.

 

So how much of this solid waste is being recycled?

 

According to the U.S. EPA, 258 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated in the United States in 2014. 89 million tons (34%) was recycled.  This is an increase from the 30% reported in many environmental science textbooks 10 years ago and <20% 20 years ago.  Some states are doing much better than the national average, Washington reports they are now recycling 51.4% of their solid waste, and some nations are recycling more than 90% – so things are improving but there is room for improvement.

Recycling trends in the United States.
Source: U.S. EPA

What is the situation in the Pensacola Bay area?

 

A non-profit organization called Ocean Hour cleans selected beaches for one hour every weekend.  The team coordinates volunteers to help collect the debris by providing buckets, tongs, and gloves; they also dispose of the waste.  Part of their mission is to provide data on what they are collecting so that the community is aware of what their largest problems are.  Based on their data the top three items reported by volunteers for each year were:

 

Year #1 Item #2 Item #3 Item
2015

 

Cigarette butts Food wrappers Plastic bottles
2016 Plastic bottles Aluminum cans Cigarette butts

Foam

2017 (to date)

 

Cigarette butts Food wrappers Plastic and foam pieces

 

The graph produced from Ocean Hour’s data by Escambia County Division of Marine Resource Intern Ethan Barker, shows all of the items they have collected this year but the bulk of it is associated with smoking and eating. Marine biologist and artist Shelly Marshall used 1200 cigarette butts collected by the Ocean Hour team to create a 3-foot sea turtle she calls CIG.  She then used plastic bottles and plastic bottle caps, again collected by Ocean Hour, to create a 5-foot “bottle”nose dolphin called CAP.  Both of these pieces of marine debris art are displayed at different locations in the community, and at community events, to educate the public about our marine debris problems.

Marine debris collected by Ocean Hour during the first half of 2017.
Image: Ethan Barker

So what do we do about it?

 

That is really up to us. Again, agencies, researchers, and non-profits have been reporting on the problem for almost five decades now.  We will continue to produce waste, not much can be done there, but the question is what we will do with it.  The obvious answer is dispose of properly and recycle when we can.

 

Cigarette Butts

  • If you are a smoker, please dispose of your cigarette butt properly. There are “pocket ash trays” some folks use to keep the butt with them until they can find a place to dispose of it.

Food Wrappers – Foam

Much of the debris is related to eating – wrappers, plastic film, foam cups, straws, etc. Much of what we find is associated with this activity.

  • You can use your own cup and not the foam cups provided by food establishments
  • You can bring your own container to take leftovers home
  • If you have to purchase food and drink with all of the wrappers and foam, and I understand that there are times you must, then do your best to dispose of properly.

Ocean Hour will continue their efforts to remove the debris from area beaches. If you can, volunteer to help now and then.  You can find their schedule at https://www.oceanhourfl.com/.

 

If Ocean Hour is not conducting a clean up in your area, consider having your own. The Ocean Hour team can assist with the logistics of how to conduct one.

 

Again, we are not going to stop waste production – but maybe we can do better with waste disposal.

 

CIG is a sea turtle created by artist Shelly Marshall using 1200 cigarette butts collected by Ocean Hour in a 40 minute period on Pensacola Beach.
Photo: Cathy Holmes

CAP is a 4-5′ bottlenose dolphin created by artist Shelly Marshall from plastic bottles and bottle caps collected by Ocean Hour on Pensacola Beach.
Photo: Shelly Marshall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

 

Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures. 2017. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/smm/advancing-sustainable-materials-management-facts-and-figures.

 

Al-Salem, S.M., P. Lettieri, J. Baeyens. 2009. Recycling and Recovery Routes of Plastic Solid Waste (PSW): A Review. Waste Management. Vol 29 (10). Pp. 2625-2643. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X09002190.

 

Miller, G.T., S.E. Spoolman. 2011. Living in the Environment; Concepts, Connections, and Solutions. Brooks/Cole Publishing. Belmont CA. 16th edition.  Pp. 674.

 

Solid Waste Recycling. 2016. Department of Ecology. State of Washington. http://www.ecy.wa.gov/beyondwaste/bwprog_swDiverted.html.

 

Sullivan, C. 2017. Human Population Growth Creeps Back Up. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/human-population-growth-creeps-back-up/.

 

WorldoMeters. 2017. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/.

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/12/trying-to-solve-the-marine-debris-problem/

Panhandle Outdoors Water School – St. Joseph Bay

Panhandle Outdoors Water School – St. Joseph Bay

Our first POL program will happen this week – August 17 – at the Navarre Beach snorkel reef, and is sold out!  We are glad you all are interested in these programs.

 

Well!  We have another one for you.  The Natural Resource Extension Agents from UF IFAS Extension will be holding a two-day water school at St. Joseph Bay.  Participants will learn all about the coastal ecosystems surrounding St. Joe Bay in the classroom, snorkeling, and kayaking.  Kayaks and overnight accommodations are available for those interested.  This water school will be September 19-20.  For more information contact Extension Agent Ray Bodrey in Gulf County or Erik Lovestrand in Franklin.  Information and registration can be found at https://stjosephbay-waterschool.eventbrite.com.


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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/panhandle-outdoors-water-school-st-joseph-bay/

Beekeeping in the Panhandle Summer Series – Starts August 17th

Beekeeping in the Panhandle Summer Series – Starts August 17th

European Honey Bees
Photo: Ashley N. Mortensen; University of Florida

The UF/IFAS Extension Panhandle Agriculture Team is pleased to offer three intermediate level beekeeping classes.  These classes will be offered via interactive web-conferencing at a number of Extension Offices across North Florida and will be taught by state and nationally recognized specialists.  This summer series will be Thursday evenings from 6-7:30 pm Central Time, 7-8:30 pm Eastern Time.  Each presentation will be followed by a question / answer period with the speaker.  Registration for all three classes is $ 15 per person, or $ 25 for a family up to four, and covers course materials and refreshments. 

Here is the lineup:

Thursday August 17th, Fall Pest and Disease Management -Varroa Mites and Nosema presented by Cameron Jack, UF/IFAS Bee Lab Apiarist

Thursday August 24th, Working With Pollination Contracts, presented by Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection

Thursday September 7th, Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides, presented by Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection.

Here is a link to a printable flyer and further details: Beekeeping in Panhandle Summer Series 2017. 

Please call your local UF/IFAS Extension Office to register.

Call and register today!

 

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Author: Judy Biss – judy.biss@ufl.edu

Judy Biss is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent in Calhoun County, Florida

Judy Biss

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/11/beekeeping-in-the-panhandle-summer-series-starts-august-17th-2/

Summer Rain in the Florida Panhandle

Summer Rain in the Florida Panhandle

ARTICLE BY DR. MATT DEITCH; water quality specialist – University of Florida Milton

Summer is a great time for weather-watching in the Florida panhandle. Powerful thunderstorms appear out of nowhere, and can pour inches of rain in an area in a single afternoon. Our bridges, bluffs, and coastline allow us to watch them develop from a distance. Yet as they come closer, it is important to recognize the potential danger they pose—lightning from these storms can strike anywhere nearby, and can cause fatality for a person who is struck. Nine people were killed by lightning strike in Florida in 2016 alone, more than in any other state. Because of the risk posed by lightning, my family and I enjoy these storms up-close from indoors.

Carpenter’s Creek in Pensacola
Photo: Dr. Matt Deitch

A fraction of the rain that falls during these storms is delivered to our bays, bayous, and estuaries through a drainage network of creeks and rivers. This streamflow serves several important ecological functions, including preventing vegetation encroachment and maintaining habitat features for fish and amphibians through scouring the streambed. High flows also deposit fine sediment on the floodplain, helping to replenish nutrients to floodplain soil. On average, only about one-third of the water that falls as rain (on average, more than 60 inches per year!) turns into streamflow. The rest may either infiltrate soil and percolate into groundwater; or be consumed and transpired by plants; or evaporate off vegetation, from the soil, or the ground surface before reaching the soil. Evaporation and transpiration play an especially large role in the water cycle during summer: on average, most of the rain that falls in the Panhandle occurs during summer, but most stream discharge occurs during winter.

The water that flows in streams carries with it many substances that accumulate in the landscape. These substances—which include pollutants we commonly think of, such as excessive nutrients comprised of nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as silt, oil, grease, bacteria, and trash—are especially abundant when streamflow is high, typically during and following storm events. Oil, grease, bacteria, and trash are especially common in urban areas. The United States EPA and Florida Department of Environmental Protection have listed parts of the Choctawhatchee, St. Andrew, Perdido, and Pensacola Bays as impaired for nutrients and coliform bacteria. Pollution issues are not exclusive to the Panhandle: some states (such as Maryland and California) have even developed regulatory guidelines in streams (TMDLs) for trash!

Many local and grassroots organizations are taking the lead on efforts to reduce pollution. Some municipalities have recently publicized efforts to enforce laws on picking up pet waste, which is considered a potential source of coliform bacteria in some places. Some conservation groups in the panhandle organize stream debris pick-up days from local streams, and others organize volunteer citizens to monitor water quality in streams and the bays where they discharge. Together, these efforts can help to keep track of pollution levels, demonstrate whether restoration efforts have improved water quality, and maintain healthy beaches and waterways we rely on and value in the Florida Panhandle.

Santa Rosa Sound
Photo: Dr. Matt Deitch

 

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/29/summer-rain-in-the-florida-panhandle/

Snorkel the Gulf Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary

Snorkel the Gulf Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary

Photo Credit: Mike Sandler

Join the UF/IFAS Natural Resource Extension Agents as we explore the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary.

Thursday, August 17, 2017 from 9 am until 1 pm.

Register today at: https://nbsnorkel.eventbrite.com

The Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary consists of 30 reef structures in the Gulf of Mexico. The whole site is as large as a football field. Reefs are located in 6 to 15 feet of water.

Participants will enjoy a brief introduction about the history of the reefs and economic impacts for the community. We will then head out to snorkel the reefs and observe the wildlife that can found in the area.

Participants will be expected to swim at least 375 feet to access the site and be experienced swimmers/snorkelers. Participants may see marine life such as: sea turtles, octopi and many fish species that inhabit the reef. Participants will need to bring a mask, snorkel and fins, flotation device such as a boogie board or a buoyancy compensator vest, sunscreen, etc. Cost is $ 20.00, lunch is included.

We will meet at the Sea Oat Pavilion which is at the second Gulf side parking lot in the NB Marine Park. There are picnic tables, restrooms, changing area and shower at the Pavilion.

This adventure is weather dependent, refunds (minus the Eventbrite fee) will be provided if we have to cancel due to inclement weather conditions or poor water visibility. If you have questions, please contact Chris Verlinde, 850-623-3868 or chrismv@ufl.edu.

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Author: Chris Verlinde – chrismv@ufl.edu

Chris Verlinde

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/29/snorkel-the-gulf-navarre-beach-marine-sanctuary/

Lemon bacopa, a beautiful pond plant or a weed?

Lemon bacopa, a beautiful pond plant or a weed?

Bacopa caroliniana, also known as lemon bacopa, is a popular aquatic plant. It is mostly found in the southeastern United States in states such as Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and even Texas. Lemon bacopa has a perennial life cycle which could make it a weed to some, or desired plant to others. Also, it can be found submersed or emersed.

Lemon bacopa
Photo: UF

It tends to grow near shorelines and sometimes in water that is less than 3 inches deep. Lemon bacopa has a single stem with opposite leaf growth. The leaves are thick and juicy. The reason some people enjoy and even encourage planting this plant is because of the pretty, attractive, purple-blue flower that sprouts. They are a popular plant used to add beauty to water gardens and to provide habitat in wetland enhancement as well as restoration projects. However, this plant can be easily propagated which could lead to it becoming weedy if not paid attention to carefully. Lemon bacopa roots easily from cuttings, so whether if it is purposely cut or by natural causes it can easily spread and take over a water garden.

 

This species is very adapted and common throughout Florida. Although lemon bacopa can be weedy in some situations, it is most often considered a beneficial native plant that brings a number of desirable characteristics to almost any aquatic setting.

 

Source:  UF IFAS EDIS publications

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Author: zadwiggins – zadwiggins@ufl.edu

zadwiggins

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/29/lemon-bacopa-a-beautiful-pond-plant-or-a-weed/

Snorkeling Safety at the Jetty

Snorkeling Safety at the Jetty

The St Andrew Bay pass jetty is more like a close family friend than a collection of granite boulders. The rocks protect the inlet ensuring the vital connections of commerce and recreation. One of the treasured spots along the jetty is known locally as the “kiddie pool”, which is accessible from St Andrew’s State Park. There are similar snorkeling opportunities throughout northwest Florida. Jetties provide an opportunity to explore hard substrate or rocky marine ecosystems. These rocks are home to a variety of colorful sub-tropical and migrating tropical fish.

sergeant majors

Snorkelers and divers who visit are likely to see a variety fish like sergeant majors, blennies, surgeon and doctor fish, just to name a few. Photo by L Scott Jackson.

Exploring a jetty is more like a sea-safari adventure than an experience in a real swimming pool – it is a natural place full of potential challenges that first time visitors need to prepare to encounter.

Divers and snorkelers are required to carry dive flags when venturing beyond designated swimming areas. These flags notify boaters that people are in the water. Brightly colored snorkel vests are not only good safety gear but they help you rest in the water without standing on rocks which are covered in barnacles and sometimes spiny sea urchins.

Long Spined Sea Urchin

According to the Florida Department of Health, most sea urchin species are not toxic but some Florida species like the Long Spined Sea Urchin have sharp spines can cause puncture injuries and have venom that can cause some stinging. Swim and step carefully when snorkeling as they usually are attached to rocks, both on the bottom and along jetty ledges. Photo by L Scott Jackson

Dive booties also help protect your feet. I found out the hard way! A couple of years ago my foot hit against a sea urchin puncturing my heel. The open back of my dive fin did not provide any protection resulting in a trip to the urgent care doctor. My daughter later teased it was an “urchin care” doctor! Sea urchin spines are brittle and difficult to remove, even for a doctor. Lesson Learned: “Prevention is the best medicine”.

After a couple of weeks of limping around and a course of antibiotics, I recovered ready to return one of my favorite watery places – a little wiser and more prepared. I now bring a small first aid kit, just in-case, to help take care of small scrapes, cuts, and other minor injuries.

Gloves are recommended to protect hands from barnacle cuts and scrapes. Shirts like a surfing rash guard or those made from soft material help keep your body temperature warm on long snorkel excursions. Along with sunscreen, shirts also protect against sunburn.

Properly Prepared Snorkeler

There’s opportunity to see marine life from the time you enter the water with depths for beginning snorkelers at just a few feet deep. Some SCUBA divers also use the jetty for their initial training. Most underwater explorers are instantly hooked, and return for many years to come. Photo by L Scott Jackson

Finally, know the swimming abilities of yourself and your guests, especially when venturing to deeper areas. It’s good to have a dive buddy even when snorkeling. Pair up and watch out for each other. Be aware that currents and seas can change dramatically during the day. Know and obey the flag system. Double Red Flag means no entry into the water. Purple flags indicate presence of dangerous marine life like jellyfish, rays, and rarely even sharks. Local lifeguards and other beach authorities can provide specific details and up to date safety information.

Follow these beach safety tips for helping your family enjoy the beach while protecting coastal wildlife.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.

 

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Author: Scott Jackson – lsj@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Bay County Extension Florida Sea Grant Regional Specialized Agent (Artificial Reefs and Fisheries)
http://bay.ifas.ufl.edu

Scott Jackson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/07/14/snorkeling-safety-at-the-jetty/

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