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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Sandscript


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Owls and foxes and bears, oh my!

In light of the approaching April 1 nonsense, perhaps a few of these classic photos of Island life may be of interest.

The bear was photographed at Grassy Point in Holmes Beach, although he occasionally will stop by the nearby Anchor Inn for a bear-bottled beer late at night.

The bald eagle is usually found near the micro-skate park, also in Holmes Beach, where he has unsuccessfully been trying to pick off a small child. His home was in the live oak forest at the Anna Maria Elementary School until it was demolished; he now is staying at the Pines Trailer Park in Bradenton Beach until he can get approved to stay at the posh Oaks development in Osprey.

Yes, there is indeed a gray fox on the Island. This little lady was spotted leaving the Turtle Watch Environmental Education Center, having been misinformed that she could pick up a dozen eggs there.

The alligator was taking a "spring" break on a dock in Anna Maria City before returning to class in Gainesville.

And the screech owl is the newest reporter covering Island politics, hard at it during a Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting.

Happy April Fool's Day.

Trip tales
The Tallahassee Museum is one of those places that you hate to love. As a good environmentalist, you're supposed to hate having wild creatures kept in an urban-type setting, but where else can you go to spot up close a black bear or a Florida panther without getting eaten? And at the museum, at least, they're pretty much in a natural - although smaller than found in nature - setting.

Winding paths go through an aviary with all kinds of birds of prey, past a huge pen with gray and red foxes and supposedly skunks, although the only hint of the skunks was the scent, since the skunks were skulking in the underbrush and didn't want to be seen.

There are a pair of panthers, bears, gators, and some very frisky otters. The otter guy explained that the river otter is the only critter that is prescribed by Florida rules to have a notice warning humans that they can and will bite, probably because they look so cute that you just want to pet them, and then - ouch!

The walk is relatively short to tour the museum, crowds were thin on a weekday, and it's a great place to spend a couple hours if you're in the Holy City and want to get away from the fun that is the Legislature or any of the Florida State University sporting events.

We'll miss you, Gus
Memorial services for Dr. Gustavo Arturo Gaetano Antonini were March 28 in Gainesville, where he had lived and taught geography and cartography since 1970 until he and his stepson were killed by an "impaired" motorist while bicycling Feb. 7. It was Gus's 66th birthday.

About 125 people attended the services for the Florida Sea Grant professor emeritus. Many told funny stories of Gus's funny laugh, his practice of taking the occasional "power nap," his love of the New York Times, and his passions of sailing and bicycling.

Gus was nationally recognized for his interpersonal skills in bringing together liveaboard boaters, waterfront homeowners and marina interests and establishing mooring fields that accommodated everyone's needs and wants. He spent about a decade working with the folks in and around the anchorage just south of Marina Jack in Sarasota, a process that should see completion later this year with an established, city-maintained mooring field that will surely be an asset over the former eyesore.

He had also been involved in helping Bradenton Beach officials work toward the creation of a similar boat locale south of the city pier.

I met Gus about 15 years ago when he first moved his 35-foot sailboat "La Vida" into the Longboat Key Moorings marina complex. We sipped wine and munched on cheese and crackers while talking about anchorages and the impacts of dredging in Southwest Florida. After a roundabout passage, that that cocktail conversation eventually coalesced into a pair of books I was privileged to help Gus and others create, "A Historical Geography of Southwest Florida Waterways, Volume One and Two."

Volume Three was in process when Gus was killed. Without Gus, it probably won't be completed. As David Fann, another principal author, told me, "Volume Three just wasn't meant to be," and it's a shame, because we were all excited about finishing the final link in the series that would have chronicled the sweeping changes that have occurred in the waterfronts from Tarpon Springs to Marco Island before, during and after the creation of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

But as Sea Grant Marine Extension Agent John Stevely put it, Gus isn't dead. He can't be. We still see his wide, white grin, his Santa Claus-like cheeks, his infectious laugh, and his brilliance that went beyond just water and land but dealt with the sweep of all things.

As one person put it at the memorial, Gus is probably talking to the Big Guy right now, saying something like, "You know, I've been talking to a few people about how we can do this better, and if you'll just let me work with a little team I think we can ..."

I'll miss you, Gus. A lot.

Sandscript factoid
Like the snowbirds heading home from their winter visit, manatees are starting to move from their cold-weather homes near warm-water springs and power plant discharge sites to other parts of the state's coastal waters. The migration can create deadly boat-sea cow interactions, and state officials warn boaters to be watchful. Polarized sunglasses are a good piece of apparel to use to spot manatees, as is a lookout when traveling through manatee-popular waters - which is most of Anna Maria Sound and the nearshore waters off the Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

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