No-smoking beach proposed to the south, bat-friendly bridges?
Could the butt police be coming to a beach near us soon? Perhaps.
Angered at the quantity of cigarette butts littering beaches, Sarasota County commissioners have instructed staff to draft an ordinance prohibiting smoking along the shore.
Enforcement of the no-smoking policy would probably fall upon a newly created group of park rangers, trained in code enforcement practices. They would also enforce the no-glass, no-litter policies. It is conceivable the rangers would also handle marine turtle ordinance infractions.
Apparently California has adopted a smoke-free beach policy in some spots, and about 40 miles of its coast has smoking bans.
No date on public hearings have been set as yet in Sarasota.
Cigarette butts are always a big-ticket pickup issue during coastal cleanup efforts, with tens of thousands of butts collected and categorized during the twice-annual events.
Ironically, Sarasota County has no prohibitions on drinking alcohol at the beach, although alcohol sales on Sunday do not commence until noon. Manatee County prohibits beach drinking, but allows sale of beer and spirits Sunday morning.
Is a layer of butts spread across our beaches obnoxious? Of course.
Is a law prohibiting smoking on the beaches necessary? Jeez, seems like there ought to be other things more pressing for government to address than butts on the beach.
Never mind the anti-T-back bathing suit legislation ...
Kinder, gentler DOT for bat lovers
Forget megabridge issues - the Florida Department of Transportation is focusing part of its attention on constructing bridges that appeal to bats.
It seems that the DOT and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had teamed up to conduct a $92,000 study on making bridges more comfy for bats to roost under during the day.
Bats are a major source of pest control in Florida. Contrary to the usual belief that bats colonize caves, bats are also found under manmade structures during the day, like bridges and interstate overpasses.
The problem of late apparently is that new bridge designs don't give the little guys a clawhold to doze away the day, hence the study.
A bat byproduct, guano, apparently isn't much of an issue for bridge-nesting bat lovers, although one DOT representative did admit that the bat bridges "did require some extra cleaning," according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times.
DOT workers are already cognizant of bridge bat colonies, having found the little mammals apparently like to cram themselves into expansion cracks. Workers use nets after night has fallen and the bats have departed to keep them out while repair work is being done.
There are 18 species of bats in Florida. About five species like bridges for roosting spots. Each bat can eat thousands of insects, like mosquitoes, each night, so the bat potential for pest removal is high.
The study will look at the estimated 400-plus bridges in the state that are home to bats, determine which species like which bridges, and come up with some ideas on how bat populations can be maintained, protected or enhanced through new bridge construction, among other elements.
Bat bridge spotting might even become a niche tourism industry. In Austin, Texas, an estimated 1.5-million colony of Mexican free-tailed bats inhabit the Congress Avenue bridge. More than 100,000 tourists flock to the bridge at dusk and dawn to watch the little critters fly out and back, and the city reaps about $8 million annually in tourist revenue from their flights.
Holy tourist trade, Batman!
It's crazy time for squirrels.
In early fall every year in Florida, some squirrels, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, "go nuts": jumping in the air, rolling on the ground and generally acting more twitchy than the little rodents usually do.
The reason is a bot fly infestation, according to Kurt Hodges with the FWC's small game management program. Squirrel nests are a popular spot for female bot flies to lay their eggs. As the larvae hatch, they crawl onto the squirrel's nose, mouth or other "body opening and use the animal's body as a host for continued development," Hodges said, and "the development process can take anywhere from three to seven weeks.
"The larvae are a real annoyance to the squirrel" no doubt! "which is why we see the erratic behavior," Hodges said. They also cause a lumpy, tumor-like but harmelss appearance on the squirrels.
There's no health risk, the bot flies eventually leave the animal, and all is again right in the bushy-tailed rodent world for another year.
Ain't Mother Nature grand?
Looking ahead to Florida wildlife
The FWC is looking to "shape the future of Florida's fish and wildlife conservation programs" through development of a "long-range strategy for managing all of the state's wildlife, including fish and invertebrates, with the aim of averting future declines and keeping common species common," according to the agency.
In yet another study, the FWC is looking to develop non-regulatory ways to "prevent species' declines" and "evaluate the status of the state's wildlife and prioritize conservation efforts. The process will update and solidify 30 years of existing conservation plans and integrate these efforts into a single state strategy."
Barring the bureau-speak, the management plan development is really a big deal.
"This is probably the most ambitious and innovative effort we have ever undertaken to address conservation for all of our state's fish and wildlife," according to Thomas Eason, leader of FWC's Species Conservation Planning Section. "This strategy will create a holistic approach to wildlife conservation for Florida."
And we can all help. Gail Straight of Wildlife Rescue in Bradenton Beach and others have been asked to participate in the process. and public hearings to allow citizens to comment are scheduled throughout the state in the next few weeks. The closest hearing to the Island is in Tampa starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Florida Department of Transportation offices, 11201 N. Malcolm McKinley Drive.
National Wildlife Refuge week ongoing
We're in the middle of National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 10-16, where more than 260 threatened or endangered species are found.
The system, established in 1903, has 544 national wildlife refuges nationwide. The refuges provide home for more than 3,000 waterfowl areas and span approximately 100 million acres, providing habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, more than 1,000 fish, and countless species of invertebrates and plants.
It's "Old Farmer's Almanac" time again.
The publication, in print since 1792, offers this prediction for Florida for 2005:
"Winter will be cold and wet, although a killing freeze in Central Florida is unlikely. November will be wet across South Florida, while March will be the wettest month elsewhere. November through January will be cooler than normal, on average, and February and March will be much colder than normal, especially across the north. The coldest temperatures will occur near Thanksgiving, mid-January, in early to mid-February, and from late February into early March.
"Watch for a hurricane in early September. Otherwise, both temperatures and rainfall in September will be above normal."
Hindsight being 20-20, I took a look at the 2004 weather predictions offered in the Almanac.
No mention of hurricanes for Florida, although the book did accurately predict heavy rainfall caused by a tropical storm in the Appalachians in early September - I think that would have been from Frances - and the Carolinas were due to get a hurricane in early September too - would that have been Ivan or Frances?