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THE ENVIRONMENT – Natural Habitats and its Wildlife Deer Crossing -
Take Note

Maintaining a healthy relationship with South Florida's local inhabitants
Few places are as rich in nature as the south Florida ecosystem. Nearly 45 species of mammals frequent the Everglades and over 50 kinds of reptiles, including the signature alligator live in these wetlands. As close neighbors to the Everglades and bordering on thousands of acres of wetland preserves, your backyard has an abundance of wildlife and natural beauty just waiting to be discovered. But nature is unaware of community boundary lines. Living in close proximity to the Everglades, residents need to be mindful of nature's neighbors while enjoying the opportunities of seeing it first hand.
Wildlife observation reporting is a part of the monitoring requirements for Weston's wetland preserves. A glimpse at one month's report: 5 amphibians/reptiles; 28 species of birds; 4 fish species; 3 invertebrates and 5 mammals. Included in this list are: The American alligator, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow Throated Warbler, Tri Colored Heron, Osprey, Great Egret, Eastern Meadowlark, Largemouth Bass and Mosquito Fish, Florida Apple Snail, White-Tailed deer, Bobcat and Marsh Rabbit.

Great Blue Heron
Herons - The Florida Everglades and surrounding areas are home to many species of Heron. There are 16 species of wading birds remaining in the Everglades and they have similar features. They are all swift, silent hunters living mostly on aquatic prey. The most well known of the heron species is the largest wading bird in the Everglades, the Great Blue Heron, however the most common bird sighted in South Florida is the White Ibis.

White Ibis
Weston residents need to be familiar with necessary precautions

Alligators - It is likely that at one time or another, you may see an alligator in or near the water bodies. Grates are in place on all four of the city's main canals to prevent the movement of large alligators from the main canals to the interior lake system, but this does not eliminate the possibility of movement over land. May and June are their mating season and they tend to become more visible as they traverse between water bodies, seeking a mate. As a result of urbanization around traditional alligator habitats there has been increased contact between alligators and people. Their adaptability has resulted in alligators being found in what would seem to be unlikely places: underneath cars in driveways, in drainage ditches, swimming pools and on golf courses.

Alligator
If you see an alligator, stay calm. They generally have no intentions of bothering you. Feeding, harassing, or killing alligators violate State law, so just leave them alone. If an alligator appears threatening, comes close to your home, or becomes a risk for humans or pets, contact the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 866-392-4286 between 8AM-5PM or 561-357-4200 after hours. Only nuisance alligators can be removed and the FWC will make that determination and contact a licensed trapper. The City of Weston is not permitted to handle an alligator for any reason.

Benefits: Alligators depend on the wetlands, and in many ways the wetlands depend on them as they help control the population of rodents and other animals that might overtax the marshland vegetation.
Snakes - Snakes occur in every natural habitat in Florida. With 45 species of snakes in Florida, only six are venomous and a danger to humans. The snakes that most frequently turn up in backyard swimming pools are the ringneck and crowned snakes and they are totally harmless. If one turns up in your pool, they can be removed with a skimmer and released into your garden or shrubs.
Florida snakes are not aggressive unless cornered; actually most snakes will flee rather than confront a human. You may fear snakes, but snakes fear you as well. If you see one, leave it alone and it will wander away on its own. Sometimes when basking in the sun, it may want to stay there until it gets warm.
When snakes bite: Biting is not a sign the snake is venomous or that it is vicious. It happens to be the only way they have to defend themselves. The only acceptable treatment for a venomous snakebite, involves the use of antivenin. If you or someone else is bitten by a venomous snake, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital or medical facility. Stay calm, remove any rings that could restrict circulation if hands swell, keep the bitten limb below the level of the heart, and call 9-1-1.

The photo shown here was taken along 26th Street just outside of the city by a Weston contract employee, and happens to be a venomous water moccasin (also known as a cottonmouth).
Benefits: Snakes play a beneficial role in natural ecosystems eating insects, rodents, and other small prey.
Raccoons - This nocturnal animal has adapted extremely well to the suburban environment as South Florida's population increase has squeezed out their habitat, where it often dens in backyards, beneath decks, or in accessible outbuildings or attics. Raccoons eat both plants and animals. In addition to feeding on backyard fruits, nuts, and vegetables, they scavenge from garbage cans. Pet food left outside overnight ranks high as a food resource, and should be removed before nightfall. Pick up fallen fruits and nuts frequently. Raccoons may have that cute, cuddly look but they are wild animals that bite and scratch. Never intentionally provide food for raccoons as it only attracts more raccoons.
Rabies concern: The majority of rabies cases in the U.S. are in wildlife, with raccoon cases predominating. Rabies is a serious public health concern to South Florida humans and pets. Since July 2000, there have been 26 confirmed rabies cases in Broward County alone. In March of 2009, Broward County completed a 5-year effort to vaccinate raccoons against rabies with a county-wide distribution of baits filled with an oral vaccine. It is important to be aware that cats, dogs, and horses are all susceptible to contracting this disease. Broward County requires all domestic animals be vaccinated. In fact, cats have accounted for the greatest proportion of rabies cases reported to the Center for Disease Control since 1988.
A benefit of the raccoon is that they will eat small rodents, insects and other small pests.
Bears - A Florida bear was spotted in the lake adjacent to Windmill Reserve on April 18, 2009 caught here on a cell phone camera by one of the responding deputies. The incident was turned over to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) officers for capture and release in more appropriate location. It is assumed the bear managed to cross US 27 and wandered a bit further east than normal, finding his way to Weston. After being well photographed for several weeks at various locations, the bear was found by FWC officers in vegetation at Royal Palm and Bonaventure Boulevard. The 310 lb. bear was tranquilized, tagged and relocated. Living in close proximity to the Everglades, residents need to be mindful of nature's neighbors.
The Florida Black Bear: The Florida black bear is the largest native land mammal in Florida. It is shy and secretive, hiding in dense vegetation and rarely seen in the wild. A unique subspecies of the American black bear, the Florida black bear once ranged throughout Florida and over the border into southern Georgia and Alabama. Once numbering over 12,000, biologists aren't sure how many black bears live in Florida today, but they estimate that only about 1,500 black bears remain. Florida's black bears are omnivores and eat a wide variety of foods, with eighty percent of their diet made up of plant material. Loss of habitat and road kills are its main threats to survival. Conflicts between humans and bears are most often created by people. Intentional and unintentional feeding of bears is the number one source of the problem and if you even thought about doing it, it's illegal to feed bears in the state of Florida.

For more information on local wildlife inhabitants of the Everglades, visit http://www.nps.gov/ever/