It’s the most wonderful time of the year here in Florida — spring has sprung. This month, we will focus on rounding up some of the most common animals that you will see and what to expect from them. Here are some tips to live harmoniously and fear-free with wildlife in Florida.
Alligators are officially on the move looking for mates, making them more commonly nomadic as they look to breed. No cause for panic. Remember to assume that all bodies of fresh and brackish water in the state can have an alligator in it. Please keep pets indoors, on a leash and out of the waters. It is illegal to feed, harass or harm alligators. The ancient creatures play a critical role in our environment and should remain undisturbed. It is also worth noting that if you call a trapper and an alligator is over 3 feet in length, they will most likely be killed, not relocated.
Additionally, snakes, turtles and frogs will also be abundant and on the move. These animals want nothing to do with us, in fact, they benefit all of us by helping to keep our natural landscape green as well as acting as natural pest control. Turtles are commonly found crossing roadways this time of year, and they can be moved out of danger to safety, always in the direction that they’re heading. Please never place any turtle in water; instead, aquatic turtles can be placed on the bank near water a few feet back, and they will enter on their own when they are ready. Also, never relocate any turtle away from the vicinity in which you’ve found them. Needless and unauthorized relocation of animals can lead to starvation and death. (Relocation of the protected gopher tortoise is illegal.)
Sandhill crane babies are hatching — the cutest little balls of orange floof you’ll ever see! Sandhills usually hatch as solo babies or in pairs. Please remember that sandhills are slow moving birds, so be aware, slow down and let them cross. Also, please remember that stilt-legged birds commonly sustain leg and foot injuries. Leg injuries cannot be treated, and if they can eat and move, they’ll survive.
Fledglings (baby birds learning to fly) will be everywhere. Their parents are near and in one to three days, it will be up and flying. If the baby needs help, you can nail a shoebox with some leaves and ground cover inside it a few feet up the tree and place the fledgling in it.
Concurrently, kitten season is about to burst wide open. In Tampa Bay alone, there are an estimated 100,000-plus feral cats outside at any given time who reproduce year-round. Feral and community cats live outside and are just as wild as the rest of these animals. They have a home and colonies, and there will be kittens. Kittens are always best with mom unless it’s urgent. Our county also has a “Wait Until 8” program for just such occasions. Utilize the resources available.
As always, love and respect wildlife, but from a distance; they make this state amazing, and so do each of you for learning more and caring about our wildlife. Spay and neuter your pets, and adopt, don’t shop. We are in this together, so let’s keep Florida wild!