Tag Archive: Living

The Benefits of a Living Shoreline

The Benefits of a Living Shoreline

Imagine this…

You are a sailor on a 16th century Spanish galleon anchored in a Florida Bay south of Tampa. You, along with others, are ordered to go ashore for a scouting trip to set up a base camp.  You transfer over to a small skiff and row ashore to find a forest of root tangled mangroves.  There is no dry beach to land so you disembark at the edge of the trees in knee-deep water.  The bottom is sandy and your footing is good but you must literally crawl through the tangled mess of mangrove prop roots to finding dry ground.  As you do, you encounter spider webs, numerous biting insects, and the bottom becomes muddy and footing is less stable.  I am sure I would have returned to the ship to report to the captain that there is nothing of value here – let’s go back to Spain!

The dense vegetation of a black mangrove swamp in south Florida.
Photo: UF IFAS

Along the shores of northwest Florida it would have been different only that they would have encountered acres of grass instead of trees. The approach to Pensacola would have found a long beach of white sand and dunes.  Entering the bay, they would have found salt marshes growing in the protected areas, with the rare exception of dryer bluffs in some spots – which is where de Luna chose to anchor.  These marshes are easier to traverse than the emergent root system of the mangrove, but the muck and mire of the muddy bottom and biting insects still remain.


For centuries, Europeans have sought to alter these habitats to make them more suitable for colonization. Whether that was for log forts and houses or marinas and golf courses, we have cleared the vegetation and filled the muck with fill dirt. But have we lost something by doing this?


Yes… Yes we have, and some of what we have lost is valuable to us.


We have lost our water quality.

These emergent shoreline plants filter debris running from shore to the sea during rain events. The muck and mire we encounter within the marsh would otherwise entered the bay or bayou.  Here it would cloud the water and smother the submerge seagrasses.  My father-in-law told me that as a kid growing up on Bayou Texar in Pensacola he remembered clear water and seagrasses.  He remembered throwing a cast net and collecting 4-5″ shrimp.


That has changed.

In our modern world, it is not just mud that is running off towards our bays. We can add lawn fertilizers, lawn and garden pesticides, oils and grease from cleaning, and a multitude of other products – including plastics.


We have seen a decline in living resources.

The large shrimp my father-in-law talked about are not as common. He spoke of snapper – very few now.  Bay scallops are basically gone in Pensacola and have declined across much of Florida’s gulf coast. Horseshoe crabs have become rare in many locations.  Moreover, salt marsh/mangrove dependent species, such as diamondback terrapins, are difficult to find.

Storm drains, such as this one, discharge run-off into local bays and bayous.
Photo: Rick O’Connor

Maybe of more concern is the decline of commercially important aquatic species such as crabs, shrimp, and finfish. It is known that 80-90% of these commercially important species spend at least part of their lives in the marshes and mangroves.


And this we are losing.


And then there is the shoreline itself.

The emergent plants the Spanish encountered actually act as a wave break. Sand running off the land is trapped to form a “beach”, albeit a mucky one, and the wave energy is absorbed by the plants reducing the energy reaching the shore.  The damage in south Florida from hurricane Andrew was devastating.  But that same storm made a second landfall in the marshes of Louisiana and there was little to write about – the marsh absorbed much of the energy.  The removal of these vegetated shorelines has enhanced the loss of coastline across the Gulf States.


Can we restore these shores and return these “services”?



Whether communities want to or not is another question, but we can.

Studies have shown that a marsh 10′ across from water to land can remove 90% of the nutrients running off. Nutrients can trigger hypereutrophic conditions in the bay – which can lead to algal blooms – which can lead to low dissolved oxygen – which can lead to fish kills and seagrass loss.  In addition to removing nutrients, marshes and mangroves can remove a variety of other contaminants and plastics.  Many sewage treatment facilities discharge their treated effluent through the coastal plant communities before it reaches the bay, thus improving water quality.


We know that restoring a living shoreline will enhance the biological productivity of the bay. Studies have shown that swamps and marshes can produce an annual mean net primary production of between 8000 – 9000 kcal/m2/year, which is equivalent to tropical rainforest and the open estuary itself.


Finally, living shorelines will stabilize erosion issues, much longer than seawalls and other harden structures. Studies have shown that seawalls will eventually give in.  Wave energy is increased when it meets the wall and reflects back.  This generates higher energy waves that decrease seagrasses and actually begins to remove sediment around the wall itself.  You will see the land begin to erode behind the wall and eventually it begins to fall forward into the bay.  The east coast of Florida recently experienced this during hurricane Irma.  Interestingly the west coast experienced negative tides.  The exposure of these seawalls to an empty bay had the same effect.  Without the water pressure to hold them, they began to crack and fall forward.  A living shoreline can sustain all of this.

FDEP planting a living shoreline on Bayou Texar in Pensacola.
Photo: FDEP

So how do restore my shoreline?


  1. You will need a permit. The state of Florida owns land from the mean high tide seaward. To plant above this line you do not need a permit, but you will want to plant at and below to truly restore and benefit from the services. Permitting can be simple or complicated – each property is different. Visit http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/permitting-living-shorelines/ to learn more about the process.
  2. You will need plants. There are a few nurseries that provide the needed species. There is a zonation to the plant community and it is important to put the right plant in the right place. The above link can help with this and the Extension office is happy to visit your location and give recommendations.
  3. You will need to plant them. Fall and spring are good planting times. A recent project we helped with planted in April and it has been very successful.
  4. You may want to monitor the success of your project. This not needed, but if interested the Extension office we can show how to do this.I certainly understand why many would rather remove these shoreline ecosystems, but I think you can see the benefits outweigh the problems. It is not an all or none deal. Living shorelines can be designed to allow water access. If interested in learning more contact your county Extension office.


I certainly understand why many would rather remove these shoreline ecosystems, but I think you can see the benefits outweigh the problems. It is not an all or none deal.  Living shorelines can be designed to allow water access.  If interested in learning more contact your county Extension office.




Permitting a Living Shoreline; can a living shoreline work for you? http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/permitting-living-shorelines/.

Miller Jr., G.T., S.E. Spoolman. 2011. Living in the Environment: Concepts, Connections, and Solutions. 16th edition. Brooks and Cole Cengage Learning. Pp. 674.


Sharma, S. J. Goff, J. Cebrian, C. Ferraro. 2016. A Hybrid Shoreline Stabilization Technique: Impact of Modified Intertidal Reefs on Marsh Expansion and Nekton Habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Ecological Engineering 90. Pp 352-360.


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/2017/10/06/the-benefits-of-a-living-shoreline/

Am I living in a Floodplain?

Floods are a common concern in many areas of the U.S. Gulf coastal residents should be particularly aware. Floods may come in the form of flash floods, which come with little warning. Other flood conditions come on slower, as with large thunder storm fronts and tropical storms. With hurricane season not far away, it’s a good time to think about your property and the floodplains in your area.

Figure: Flood Information Portal.

Photo: Courtesy of the Northwest Florida Water Management District.

Floodplains are broadly defined as land susceptible to flooding by any source. Areas designated as flood hazard areas are known also as “base flood” or “100-year-flood” zones. However, this can be confusing to some. A 100-year-floodplain does not mean that once your property floods, you’ll most likely see it flood again in 100 years. The calculation actually means that there is a 1% chance that flooding will occur in any year.  Floodplains are calculated by statistical estimates based on historical storm data.

Most mortgage lending agencies and banks, as well as real estate and insurance companies are well informed sources regarding floodplain information. Floodplain maps are updated periodically and are available for the public online and in print. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program has recently revised the digital flood insurance rate maps for many counties in Florida.

The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) offers a great tool for us in the Panhandle.  The NWFWMD has created a map website, known as the “Flood Information Portal”. This site is dedicated in showing the extent of areas of flood risks. The site is also helpful in determining flood insurance rates and building requirements. The site is very user friendly with a search function, where one can search for floodplain information for a specific address. A detailed report can also be generated showing both the effective and preliminary flood map for the particular address selected. The map website can be found at http://portal.nwfwmdfloodmaps.com. For further information please contact your local county extension office and county or city planning department.

Before a flood strikes, find out if buying flood insurance is right for you. If you are in an areas prone to flooding already, consider modifying your home to combat any future flooding issue. If you believe your property is at risk, please be prepared. Keep in mind that flooding in an area can lead to street closures, power outages and temporary reduction in public services.

Supporting information for this article can be found in, “The Disaster Handbook” at the UF/IFAS web address: http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/

UF/IFAS Extension is An Equal Opportunity Institution.





Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture & Natural Resource, Horticulture, Sea Grant

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/26/am-i-living-in-a-floodplain/

Panhandle Florida Master Naturalist graduates opt to use living shorelines to enhance habitat and protect their coastal properties.

Panhandle Florida Master Naturalist graduates opt to use living shorelines to enhance habitat and protect their coastal properties.

FMNP_Main_IFAS_Vert_Color_thumbThe mission of the Florida Master Naturalist program (FMNP) is to promote awareness, understanding and respect of Florida’s natural environment. FMNP graduates, Paul Bennett and Charlie Lurton have both worked diligently through the permitting process to place living shorelines consisting of oyster shell bags and marsh plants along their coastal properties.

Living Shorelines incorporate a range of natural structures to protect coastal shorelines from erosion and enhance habitat for wildlife. Oyster shell bags, biologs, plants and sand fill may be used or a combination of natural materials may be used in a living shoreline project. These projects provide “soft” shoreline protection that offers economic and ecological benefits to the property owner. They are recommended for use in low wave and erosional settings.

In higher wave energy areas, seawalls and bulkheads may be required for shoreline protection. These types of projects “harden” the shoreline, and do not allow for intertidal habitat and eliminate the natural slope of the shoreline. “Harden” projects can have a detrimental effect on nearby properties as wave energy is deflected and can increase erosion nearby, alter sand movement and decrease intertidal habitat.

Both Mr. Bennet and Mr. Lurton realized the importance and benefits of shoreline protection using natural materials, both men attributed this knowledge to their experiences in the FMNP. The FMNP graduates worked with the local branch of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Coastal Office, Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves, to obtain funding and permits for the projects. DEP’s Florida Coastal Office has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Services’ Coastal Program to promote and support living shoreline projects across the Panhandle.


Oyster reef breakwater along the Shoreline of Bayou Grande, Charlie Lurton’s project. Photo credit: Zachary Shang

Paul B

Installing the oyster reef breakwater along the shoreline of Paul Bennett in East Bay, Santa Rosa County, FL. Photo Credit: Beth Fugate

Mr. Lurton worked with seven of his neighbors to create 1,200 linear feet of shoreline. This project on Bayou Grande in Escambia County incorporated 39 oyster reefs, each built of 200 bags of recycled oyster shells. Each bag of recycled oyster shell weighs approximately twenty pounds for a total of 78 tons of shell! 11,300 native grasses and salt tolerant plants will be installed along the shoreline this year.

Mr. Bennet’s project along East Bay in Santa Rosa County consists of 5 reefs built along the mouth of a freshwater marsh located on his property for a total of 10 tons of shell. DEP’s Florida Coastal Office will determine if native grasses and plants are needed for the project in the future.

“The conversation for both of these projects started years before we were able install any materials so it’s rewarding to see them take hold,” said Zachary Schang, environmental specialist with the Northwest Florida Aquatic Preserves. “It was in large part due to the persistence of the property owners who wanted to deal with a natural problem using a natural solution.”

These types of habitat restoration projects allow for ecological and economic benefits for the property owners. The Fl. Master Naturalist Program promotes understanding and awareness of natural resources, these two graduates have demonstrated what it means to be a FMN.

Watch this newsletter for more about the FMNP and FMNP graduates. For more information about the FMNP and classes being offered in your area, check out http://www.masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/.








Author: Chris Verlinde – chrismv@ufl.edu

Chris Verlinde

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/01/19/panhandle-florida-master-naturalist-graduates-opt-to-use-living-shorelines-to-enhance-habitat-and-protect-their-coastal-properties/

Pollen and Allergy Season: The Price We Pay for Living in a Lush Landscape

Pollen and Allergy Season: The Price We Pay for Living in a Lush Landscape

It’s that time of year again, that time when your car changes color like a chameleon in order to mimic the surrounding landscape. Anything that stands still long enough will become coated with a light green to yellow dust. What is this dust you might ask? What you are seeing is pollen, a sure sign that spring has arrived and allergy season is here! The pollen that can be seen is from pine trees and is not a major contributor to allergies, but the invisible pollen from oak trees and other plants can wreak havoc on sinuses. And while you may be cursing the trees for causing your eyes to water and coating your car, it’s important to remember that plants need pollen in order to reproduce.

Pollen disseminating from a pine tree. Picture courtesy of http://supermanherbs.com/megadose-pine-pollen/

Pollen disseminating from a pine tree anther. Picture courtesy of http://supermanherbs.com/megadose-pine-pollen/

Pollen is disseminated from blooming trees and plants. The process of pollination develops new plant seeds. Pollen is dry and light, enabling it to float through the wind and travel several miles. Plants that depend on wind for dispersal have to produce massive amounts of pollen since only a small amount will actually result in seed production. Plants pollinated by insects don’t have to produce as much pollen because of the efficiency of the insects in distributing the pollen. Changes in the weather directly influence the amount of pollen and how it will affect allergy sufferers. Rain dampens pollen and reduces its ability to flow through the air. A freeze can also slow down a tree’s rate of producing pollen. Windy and warm weather can increase pollen amounts.

A Leon County allergy and asthma specialist stated that roughly 40 percent of the population suffers from pollen allergies. The best thing you can do if you are part of this 40 percent is to reduce your exposure to pollen. Here are a few ways you can keep your allergies at bay:

  • Dry clothes in an automatic dryer rather than hanging them outside to avoid pollen collecting on clothing and being carried indoors.
  • Consider limiting outdoor activities during the pollen season (Florida trees often release pollen from January to June).
  • Stay inside during peak pollen times (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Restrict outdoor activities during days with high winds and low humidity.
  • Shower after spending time outdoors to remove pollen from hair and skin.
  • Use air filters and clean regularly, or run an air conditioner and change the air filter frequently.
  • Wear a dust mask when mowing the lawn, gardening, or raking leaves.

If you would like to know what trees are producing pollen in your area at certain times of the year you can visit this website http://www.pollenlibrary.com/State/Florida/. As always, feel free to contact your local Extension Office for more information.


Author: Taylor Vandiver – tavandiver@ufl.edu

Taylor Vandiver

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/03/24/pollen-and-allergy-season-the-price-we-pay-for-living-in-a-lush-landscape/

Living Soils Foster Healthy Farms

Living Soils Foster Healthy Farms

Full Earth Farm - Carrots in Soil Profile

Promote healthy soils to secure the health of the many fruits and vegetables your farm grows.

For small-scale farmers relying on cover crops and compost to fulfill their garden’s nutritional needs, it is important to remember healthy soil requires “life.”  What is it that separates soil that can support fruit and vegetable production from soil that cannot? The answer is in the microbiology or microscopic life forms of the soil.  As soil transitions from being impoverished to being enriched, many microscopic living entities will form complex ecosystems.

Just a teaspoon of healthy topsoil can contain up to one billion bacteria and numerous other microorganisms such as fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. As a small-scale farmer, you can obtain and support these beneficial microorganisms within your agricultural production by increasing the organic matter content of your soil.  The organic matter also supplies a slow-release nutrient source for your fruits and vegetables.

Microorganisms will develop your soil by providing soil structure, aeration, and the conversion of insoluble nutrients into soluble, plant-available forms. When soil microorganisms decompose organic matter, they create soil aggregates. The soil aggregates will reduce soil compaction and greatly increase porosity for strong root growth, aeration, and improved drainage.

The portion of organic matter known as humus is very beneficial. Humus decomposes very slowly, and is comprised of many complex organic compounds, including lignin, protein, and sugars that will enhance your soil’s physical and chemical properties. This part of organic matter is the glue that binds the small soil aggregates, providing micro, meso, and macro (small, medium, and large) pore space for improved infiltration, but also enhanced soil water retention. Humus will provide a slow-release nutrient source, as it has a very large surface area capable of retaining many essential nutrients imperative for plant development. Humus acts as a soil buffer, which helps maintain proper soil pH, and can also bind heavy metals which otherwise may cause plant metal toxicities.

Microorganisms such as rhizobia bacteria and mycorrhizae fungi provide direct benefits to your farm by their reciprocal interactions (symbiotic relationships) with leguminous crops for atmospheric nitrogen fixation. This essentially provides free fertilizer, so be sure to include legumes within your crop rotation. Soil also provides an excellent habitat for beneficial nematodes. Although the plant-parasitic types give nematodes a bad reputation, most soil nematodes are actually free-living and can be very valuable for their ability to decompose organic matter.

By adding compost and incorporating cover crops and organic mulch, you can encourage a favorable environment for life. It is also important to keep the soil properly irrigated and aerated, as all life requires water and most good bacteria are aerobic and therefore require oxygen. Many pesticide applications can negatively affect diverse microorganism populations, and should be kept at a minimum if your goal is to build strong microorganism populations. Although plastic mulch can be useful for growing many crops, avoid excessive use in one location, as it can reduce air flow and can disturb the formation of organic matter.

For small-scale farmers that rely upon compost and cover crops to meet their crops’ nutritional needs, it is imperative to maintain all of the components that life requires, including food, water, and air. This will promote soil microbial diversity, and therefore a complex food web, which will assist in combating crop pests and diseases, which are numerable in the Southeast’s humid climate. By securing the health of your soil, you are also actively securing the health of the many fruits and vegetables your farm will be able to produce for years to come.

For more information on this topic, please see the following UF/IFAS Publication:

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners: Organisms in the Soil



Author: mjameson – mjameson@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/02/14/living-soils-foster-healthy-farms/

Resolutions for Living Well

ResolutionsThe Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “resolution” as “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.; the act of resolving something.” Now that 2015 is here, what are you seeking to resolve this year?

If you read Living Well in the Panhandle articles, you probably have noticed a theme. The theme is information on Living Well – not just for one day or one month but for the whole year. With that in mind, what do you resolve to do this year to live well? While identifying your resolutions, it is important to note that, unless your chosen resolution becomes a habit, you may fail to achieve it. However, regardless of what your resolution is this year, here are a few things to consider to help you with your resolve.

Join an organization that supports people with the same resolve. For instance, many people resolve to save more money each year. From personal experience, it is tough to change spending habits without moral support. However, organizations like America Saves motivate people who want to save for different goals. Pledge to save during America Saves Week – February 23- 28 (www.americasaves.org) or any time before then. This is one avenue many people across the country have used to stick with their resolution to save. The resolution becomes a habit because, on the America Saves website (www.americasaves.org), you can find motivation from other savers or prospective savers like yourself. You also can sign up to receive a free newsletter with information on how to maximize your effort.

Judging by the number of weight loss commercials in the media, the other most common resolutions include eating right, exercising, and losing weight. There are several web sites you can visit that provide unbiased information as you work your way toward living well. At Small Steps to Health and Wealth (http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/), you can sign up for the Online Challenge that will help you make small daily changes to improve your health and personal finances.

A good resolution should focus on improving one’s life. That said, choose to read Living Well in the Panhandle and live well not just for a day or a month but for the rest of your life. For more information on Living Well in the Panhandle, contact your local UF/ IFAS Extension Agent. Happy New Year!



Author: Elizabeth – gorimani@ufl.edu

FCS faculty with University of Florida/IFAS Extension in Gadsden County


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/01/30/resolutions-for-living-well/

Living with Florida Snakes

Living with Florida Snakes

Warming temperatures have awaken snakes that have been dormant during the winter months.  As a result, they are more active during abnormal times of the day and move more than they typically do while searching for food.  This also means more people are likely to encounter with them.

Even though most snakes are nonvenomous, many people fear them and will go out of their way to kill them if an encounter occurs.  Interestingly, 95% of the humans bitten by snakes are either trying to catch or kill them; suggesting the best thing to do when encountering a snake is to leave it be.

Brush piles such as these attract snakes.  These should be kept away from where family members play.  They can actually be used to move snakes away from areas where you do not want them.  Photo: Rick O'Connor

Brush piles such as these attract snakes. These should be kept away from where family members play. They can actually be used to move snakes away from areas where you do not want them. Photo: Rick O’Connor

How can you reduce your chance of encountering a snake? 

Most snakes found around the house are either seeking suitable habitat or food.  Anything that could attract rodents or amphibians could attract snakes.  Overgrown landscaping, trash or brush piles, bird feeders, water features, garbage, and greenhouses are examples of snake attractants many people have.  To reduce your chance of an encounter you should move such items away from the house, and for those that you cannot – keep as clean as you can.  Snakes do not like to cross short grass, so a frequently mowed yard helps as well.  If you live near good snake habitat you may have to invest in silt fencing, or a similar product, that has a slick surface which is difficult to crawl over.  If placing silt fencing along the boundary you should have the wooden stakes on your side of the fence; snakes can climb these.

What do I do if I encounter a snake?

The first thing you should understand is that, like most animals, there is a zone around snakes in which they feel threatened.  When they detect you, they react as if you are the predator.  If you are outside their zone they will remain motionless.  If you cross the line, they will try to move away to avoid being attacked.  If they have nowhere to move they will turn and defend themselves; this could mean a strike.  If a snake is encountered, try not to move towards the snake and if you are already close try to give the animal an escape route.  Many will want to know if the snake is venomous.  Of the 46 species and subspecies of snakes in our state only six are venomous.  Of these, five belong to the family Viperidae and can be identified by the elliptical eye pupil, the triangle-shaped head, and the second set of nostrils (pits) on the snout.  These include the three species of rattlesnakes, the moccasin, and the copperhead.  One venomous snake, the Eastern Coral Snake, does not have the appearance of a viper.  The coloration of this snake is red, yellow and black with red touching yellow.  They also differ from their kingsnake mimics by having a black head.

This copperhead shows the elliptical pupil and pit commonly found in Florida's pit vipers.  Photo: Molly O'Connor

This copperhead shows the elliptical pupil and pit commonly found in Florida’s pit vipers. Photo: Molly O’Connor

If the unfortunate happens and a snake bites you, the first thing you should do is not get bit twice.  Many people react by trying to kill the snake and multiple bites can happen.  Nonvenomous bites should be washed with warm water and soap.  If the bite is from a viper, remember–do not get bit twice.  With venomous snakes many feel the hospital will need the snake for identification of the proper antivenin.  This is not necessary and, again, could lead to multiple bites.  Viper bites can be extremely painful and, if venom is injected, can induce severe swelling.  You should remove rings, watches, or any garment that may impede swelling.  Many of the traditional first aid treatments for snake bites can cause more harm than the bite.  It is recommended that you hold the bite below heart level if possible and calmly go to the hospital.  Coral snake bites are often undetected but are very serious and medical attention is needed.

As we approach spring, locals should be aware that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to track three species of local snakes; the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Florida Pine Snake, and the Southern Hognose.  If you think you see one of these FWC would like to know.  A GPS mark and photograph is needed.  You can find the log site at FWC’s website: www.MyFWC.com.  For more information on snakes, contact your local County Extension Office.

This nonvenmous gray rat snake has a head shaped more like your thumb and the round pupil.  Photo: Molly O'Connor

This nonvenmous gray rat snake has a head shaped more like your thumb and the round pupil. Photo: Molly O’Connor


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/2014/10/09/living-with-florida-snakes/

2014 Green Living Expo to be held in Crawfordville


April 26, 2014 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Crawfordville, Florida TCC Wakulla Center and Hudson Park

April 26, 2014
9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Crawfordville, Florida
TCC Wakulla Center and Hudson Park


Come one, come all to the Green Living Expo offered to all citizens of the Big Bend area.  I love the adopted tagline… Experience a simpler, more sustainable life.  Learn ways to save money and reduce your impact on the Earth.

Those of you who have attended a previous Expo will remember this event is a gathering of all kinds of people who are like-minded in that resource management is a life goal.  The event is offered to allow people to share ideas on how to incorporate these sustainable practices into their lives.

The Green Living Expo provides an opportunity for the entire family to attend and spend time as a family in addition to pursuing independent activities based on age and interest.

Activities to be offered:

  • Sustainability Workshops
  • Bicycle Events
  • Green Flea Market
  • Green Exhibitors and Products
  • Children’s Activities
  • Food
  • Raffles

Go to www.sustainablebigbend.org or call Wakulla County Extension at 850-926-3931 for more information.


Author: Shelley Swenson – sswenson@ufl.edu

Shelley is the FCS/EFNEP Agent in Wakulla County. She joined the UF/IFAS Wakulla County staff in 2008 after re-locating in Florida. She previously worked for the Kansas State University’s Extension Service for 13 years in a county position. She also spent 15 years in various administrative roles in the Kansas community college system. She owned and operated an interior business for five years.

Shelley Swenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/04/07/2014-green-living-expo-to-be-held-in-crawfordville/

Living with Coyotes

Living with Coyotes

Coyotes can be a nuisance to pet and livestock owners as well as vegetable farmers. They are true scavengers and will eat just about anything – sheep, calves, poultry, deer, watermelons, snakes, foxes, cats, rabbits, grass, carrion, pet food…

Although they are mainly active at night, coyotes can be seen during daylight hours close to sunrise and sunset.


Photo by J. Gamble

Coyotes are brownish gray in color with light gray or cream colored belly. They have erect pointed ears with a slender muzzle and bushy tail. They weigh between 20-45 pounds and are found in deserts, swamps, tundra, grasslands, brush, forests and even in the suburbs. Coyotes become bolder when living in urban areas and can be a threat to pets. Small dogs and pet cats are easy prey. Garbage cans are another easy food source.

So what can you do to reduce the chance of having a coyote conflict?

  • First, never feed coyotes!
  • Eliminate water sources near your home.
  • Place bird feeders out of reach.
  • Secure garbage containers.
  • Feed pets indoors when possible and store pet food where coyotes cannot access it.
  • Trim shrubbery near ground level to reduce hiding cover.
  • Fence your yard. The fence should be at least 6 feet high with at least 6 inches buried.
  • Don’t leave small children unattended outside if coyotes have been seen in the area.
  • Don’t allow pets to roam free, especially at night.
  • Discourage coyotes from getting too comfortable and close to humans, pets, homes, or  buildings – shouting, loud noises or throwing rocks at them normally works. Coyotes generally will not challenge an adult human.

For additional information please read The Coyote: Florida’s Newest Predator from the University of Florida / IFAS.

Video of coyote in backyard of a home.


The University of Florida is conducting a study of coyote and bobcat diets in Florida. Your help is needed in this study.  Of particular interest is the importance of popular wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, turkeys, and bobwhite quail, livestock, and pets in the diet of these predators. Diets will be determined by examining the stomach contents of coyotes and bobcats legally harvested or obtained in Florida.

We are asking for help in obtaining legally acquired coyote and bobcat carcasses, with or without pelts. We will also accept coyote and bobcat stomachs and intestines if you cannot store the whole carcass.  Carcasses or stomachs and intestines should be frozen in a suitable bag or container, and include the name of contributor, animal sex, date harvested/obtained, and location harvested/obtained. We have obtained a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for this project, and will keep information provided by you for this project anonymous to the extent possible by law. Your assistance with this valuable study is greatly appreciated. Researchers will coordinate combining your animals with others in your area for a pickup or provide instructions for delivery in Gainesville  Please contact Lauren Watine (352-846-0558lnwatine@ufl.edu) or Bill Giuliano (352-846-0575docg@ufl.edu) at the University of Florida for more information.



Author: Jennifer Bearden – heady@ufl.edu

Agriculture Agent
Okaloosa County

Jennifer Bearden

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/12/07/living-with-coyotes/

Living With Snakes… 2013, Year of the Snake

Living With Snakes…   2013, Year of the Snake

The Timber Rattler, also known as the Canebrake Rattlesnake can grow to over 6 feet. Commonly found in damp woodland environments. Photo Courtesy of Molly O'Connor

The Timber Rattler, also known as the Canebrake Rattlesnake can grow to over 6 feet. Commonly found in damp woodland environments. Photo Courtesy of Molly O’Connor

The Southeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation has dubbed 2013 as the “Year of the Snake”.  There are many animals that strike fear in humans but little cause more than snakes.  Interestingly kids seem to like them. It is when we become an adult that we do not. Why is that?

Snakes are very cryptic and stealthy hunters preferring the mode of hide-ambush.  We encounter them along a trail only to be surprised and the “surprise” scares us to death!  Many people do not like surprises and never want to experience that feeling again; so snakes become enemies.

The ole saying “the only good snake is a dead snake” is very true to many people. Many of us have encountered snakes and a few may have been bitten. Studies suggest that 95% of humans bitten by snakes are either trying to catch it, or kill it.  So the lesson is clear… if you do not want to get bit, leave it alone.

Snakes in fact do very good things for us.  They are one of the best “rodenticides” you will find. It is actually better to find a snake in your barn than a rat.  Like spiders and bats, which consume thousands of unwanted insects, snakes should be appreciated for what they do for us and left to do it.


This diamondback has beautiful camouflage markings, helping it hide and ambush prey. Photo courtesy of Molly O’Connor.

A large snake like this almost invites the adventurous to chase and pick it up. This is not recommended since 95% of snake bites occur while trying to pick-up or kill a snake. Better to leave in place and give space. Photo courtesy of Alan Dennis.

A large snake like this almost invites the adventurous to chase and pick it up. This is not recommended since 95% of snake bites occur while trying to pick-up or kill a snake. Better to leave in place and give space. Photo courtesy of Alan Dennis.

Ray Ashton lists 66 species and subspecies of snakes in the state of Florida.  Only 6 of these are venomous.  60 (91%) of Florida snakes belong to the Family Colubridae.  All colubrid snakes in Florida are non-venomous.  They can be distinguished from the others by their round pupils, narrow heads, and solid (non-hollow) teeth. There are five species of Florida snakes in the Family Viperidae.  The “pit-vipers” have hollow hinged fangs through which they can inject venom.  They possess elliptical pupils and have a “pit” between the eye and nostril that can detect infra-red heat.  One species, the coral snake, is found in the Family Elapidae.  Elapids are some of the most venomous snakes in the world and include such animals as the cobras and sea snakes.  They differ from pit-vipers in that they have round pupils and small heads (not “diamond” shaped) and differ from colubrids in that they have straight hollow fangs for injecting venom.

Snakes do not chase people down; they are actually afraid of us and only bite in defense.  All snakes warn before they bite.  Some snakes will musk hoping you smell it and move away.  Most snakes will shake their tails; often against dead leaves to make a rattling sound.  Many will make themselves look larger by opening their mouth wide or by flattening out their head and/or body.  They do not want to bite; they bite as a last resort.

Rick O'Connor shows non-venomous snake to kayakers on recent field trip.

Rick O’Connor shows non-venomous snake to kayakers on recent field trip. Photo courtesy of Carrie T. Stevenson.

To celebrate “THE YEAR OF THE SNAKE” we will be posting articles on different snakes found in Northwest Florida each month over the course of 2013.  If you are interested in more information, contact Rick O’Connor at roc1@ufl.edu or call 850-475-5230. This month’s Snake Pictures are rattlesnakes!


 Ashton, R.E., P.S. Ashton. (1981). Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida, Part One; the snakes. Windward Publishing. Miami FL. pp. 176.

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

The smallest of the rattlesnakes is the pygmy. It's also the smallest venomous snake in Florida. Despite it's size, it's capable of holding it's own when it feels threatened. Photo courtesy of Molly O'Connor

The smallest of the rattlesnakes is the pygmy. It’s also the smallest venomous snake in Florida. Despite it’s size, it’s capable of holding it’s own when it feels threatened. Photo courtesy of Molly O’Connor


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/2013/02/07/living-with-snakes-2013-year-of-the-snake/

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