Park ranger leads group of visitors on a canoe trip in Nine Mile Pond (4:35 minutes).
- Credit / Author:
- NPS video by Jennifer Brown
- Date created:
Ranger: The best way to see the Everglades...?
In case you have not noticed, it is one big wetland.
And, not a lot of hiking trails.
The best way to see the Everglades is all via canoe, all by floating, some form of boat transportation.
So, how many of you have paddled before?
Anybody have paddling experience?
No paddling experience?
We have American crocodiles and American alligators.
This guy is a crocodile.
So, yeah, one intidmidatingly large crocodile is here, right.
And, it always seems that people love to take pictures of him because he is massive and he is impressively large.
And, if we run into him, people love to stand up in the canoe to get that nice angle.
Why would you want to stand up at this inparticular point in time?
Like you are drifting closer to him and you decide to make yourself as unstable as you possibly can.
That just seems genius!
So, my heart really starts racing.
So, rule #1 is just no standing up in the canoe.
Rule #2 is we are going to encounter tons of wildlife.
With the crocodiles and the alligators, keep a good distance from them.
Keep a good 30 yards from here to that white truck, don't get any closer than that.
Although there is going to be a few instances, I am imagining where we are going to be forced to get closer.
And, whenever that is the case, just stay as far away from them as possible.
They are not going to bother you if you do not bother them.
Anybody know where we are on this map?
No, this is West Lake right at the end of my finger nail.
That is West Lake and then you can vaguely make out the Main Park Road, it is this little line that kind of cuts up.
We are actually right on the edge of the Red mangrove forested area and the freshwater marl prairie.
So, what we will be paddling today, hopefully, will be an ecotone: Two habitats colliding.
So we will get to see the edge inbetween the Red mangrove forested area and the freshwater marl prairie.
Now, there is something that I want to warn all of you about:
And that is, we are now in the dry season of the Everglades.
And, because of that, water levels have been progressively getting shallower and shallower and shallower as the season has gone on and on.
Alright, you two ready?
The general flow of the water comes from Lake Okeechobee, right?
Or, at least historically that is where it came from.
Now, it is blocked off, dammed, channeled, and redirected quite a bit to make way for this big ol' orange spot that is right south of Lake Okeechobee.
And, that is all the agricultural land, sugar cane patches and things like that.
But, historically the water flowed down from Lake Okeechobee all the way down and out into Florida Bay.
You know, that are making a big deal about the inches is because in the Everglades, it is the small little inches that completely...
You know, that is the difference between dry and wetland.
It is those small little miniscule inches.
Because, it is roughly around 116 miles from Lake Okeechobee all the way down to Florida Bay.
But, the elevation drop from here down to here is only 16 feet.
So, the elevation change is so gradual that we have these morbidly fast streams of water.
They are booking at about 100 feet a day.
I mean just blasting down here.
Laurie Humphrey gives a ranger program to Shark Valley visitors about the Florida Panther (17:11 minutes).
- Credit / Author:
- NPS video by Jennifer Brown
- Date created:
Well, I would like to welcome all of you to Everglades National Park today.
This is our little Shark Byte that we do.
It is a little short talk.
I am Ranger Laurie and today I am going to talk about The Florida Panther.
And, our Florida Panther is the largest cat east of the Mississippi, now.
It used to roam in Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and also all the rest of the State of Florida.
But, now it is mainly found in South Florida below Lake Okeechobee.
There is about 120 panthers now.
And, that is good because last year there was only about 100.
So, our population grew over the year.
So, we are like real excited because of the fact that they are on the endangered species list.
And, they have been there since 1967.
So, they have been on the endangered list for a long, long time.
Their numbers were down to about 30 at one time.
So, this is actually when they went on the endangered species list.
So, here in the Everglades, we are at the north part of the park, we are way up here.
And, our panther population is here, down to the south in the pinelands.
It is a little bit better habitat for them.
It is a little bit higher ground, not quite as wet.
So, they like it a little bit better.
We’ve got about 12 or 13 down in this area.
Then, to the west of us is Big Cypress National Preserve and they have about 30 or so panthers.
The rest of the 120 are scattered throughout South Florida.
And the reason they found males up there and no females is the fact that the males like to roam further than the females do.
OK, so I am going to talk.
I am going to tell you what the panthers look like when they are little all the way up to adults, talk about their hunting habits, what they like to eat and then the threats…the things that threaten them.
So, lets start with when they are kittens.
A panther will have kittens every other year and she will have about 2-4 and not always will they all survive.
But, they are very cute when they are little.
They actually are a grayish color and I will pass these pictures around so you can see them closer.
They are a grayish color when they are first born, they have black spots on their body and rings on their tail.
They are totally helpless for the first couple months of their life, actually.
I mean they are really dependent on mom the first couple weeks, even their eyes are closed so you know, when their eyes are not open, they are not looking around them, they are just surviving.
But, when they do open their eyes, they are blue.
Isn’t that cute!?
But those blue eyes will change rather quickly as they start to grow.
They don’t stay blue very long.
And they will turn to golden brown color.
As they grow, their spots and the rings on their tails will also disappear.
Now, as they grow, they are going to learn how to hunt and they are going to learn how to hunt through their play.
If you were able to sit there and watch, you might see them as they kinda sneak up behind each other and they’ll pounce on each other and they’ll roll around in the dirt and play around.
But, all the while, they are learning how to hunt because this is actually how they hunt, they are stalkers.
Once they get to be about six months old, they will go out with mom and they are going to watch mom at this time how she hunts exactly.
So, they are going to kinda sit off in the sidelines and they are gonna go ‘Go mom, go!’ because you know, they are hungry of course.
You know how kids are if you’ve had kids.
They are always asking what is to eat or can I have a snack and all that good stuff.
Well, you know, baby animals are always the same way, always crying for food.
So, they are out here with mom and they are actually watching her, how she does this.
Now, babies will stay with their mom up to a year and a half old.
At this time, when mom is ready to wean them, she will then go out, make one last kill, she will bring it back to their home and then she is gone.
And when they look up from eating, it is going to be like, ‘Hey, where is mom at?’
Well, they are now on their own and they have to go out and find a place to call their home.
While they are doing this of course, they are growing into a nice spectacular muscular-looking cat.
OK, we got this picture right here and you can see those muscles, how beautiful that cat looks.
You will notice something else that they have lost their spots, the rings on their tail and they have turned this nice tawny color.
That is this golden brown.
And, they have become wonderful hunters at the same time.
Now, their home, the males need 250 square miles to live and hunt within.
The female is 150 square miles.
The males do not mind if the females enter into their territory but if another male enters into it, forget it.
They will fight.
And, this is one source of mortality for the big cat is that just the males fighting each other.
Now, a male cat, when it is fully grown is from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail is seven feet long and can weigh 150 pounds.
A female is about a foot shorter at six feet and she is really not going to get much over 100 pounds.
So, she is much smaller.
So, the males you know, they have no problem with the females coming in if they want to share a little bit of their square mileage there, then they will let them.
But, as I said, if another male comes in, forget it, and they will fight.
So, this is what happens after they have grown up.
Mother has gone out and made that last kill and she has weaned them and she is like ‘Bye bye, you are now on your own’.
And that is exactly what they do, they go out to find their territory to roam about in and to hunt in.
So, what do they eat?
Anybody have any guesses?
What else might a panther eat?
Rodents…any other guesses?
You are getting it all, you are doing good.
The deer and the wild boar or wild hogs are the top two things on their menu.
And they will supplement with rabbits, raccoons, armadillos, sometimes birds you know.
So, they have a good variety in their diet.
Now, besides those spectacular muscles that I showed you in that one picture, we have some additional features.
I always say that I sound like I am talking about a car, you know.
You know when I talk about this, oh we got some additional features that the panther has that helps them become a very good hunter.
So, lets take a look at those.
We have their ears, their eyes and their nose are the things that help them also besides those wonderful muscles to be good hunters.
Their ears are actually cupped so if you were to take and put your hands behind your ears just like this, everything would sound louder all of a sudden.
And then the other really cool thing about their ears is that they rotate front to back so that they could be looking at their prey and they don’t even have to move their head because their ears are going like this and they can hear around them and they know exactly what is going on.
Their eyes, their pupils are such that they can see in dim light or darkness and this is good because that is when they are most active.
They are a nocturnal animal.
They will hunt from dusk to dawn.
And, also they have good depth perception.
Now, wouldn’t it be embarrassing to be a panther and you are out there and you are creeping up on your prey and you pounce and you fall short because your depth perception was not right, you didn’t judge it right…wouldn’t that be embarrassing!?
You know, here you are supposed to be this good hunter and you did a splat on the ground and you totally missed your prey.
So, they have great depth perception.
They also of course…
Does anyone own a housecat?
Is there nose wet or dry?
Wait, you said dry.
He said wet, wet, wet.
Uh-oh something is going on, maybe you better check your cat, no.
Panthers noses are wet and what that does is it bring smells in so much stronger.
If you go home, cut an orange in half, take a whiff of it.
…help them swallow their food and probably taste it just like us.
And then when they are done though, they have to clean up.
So, that rough tongue of theirs and you know, they just start licking on their fur and everything and that is how they take a bath.
The other thing that makes them good hunters, of course, are their choppers.
Look at those fangs, eh.
How would you like that thing to be sneaking up behind you and grab you by the back of the neck, huh!?
Because that is how they do it when they sneak up on their prey, they’ll grab it by the neck in the back and then snap the head, snap the neck.
And, that is how they catch their prey.
So, that is pretty scary, don’t you think?!
So, these are the wonderful features of the cat, the big cat that helps them become wonderful, wonderful hunters.
Now, if you were out walking around, how would you know if you ended up in panther territory?
Well, we’ve got paw prints, we could have scat, their droppings.
There could be, if you look up, if you are one to look up, you could see six to ten feet up, these scratch marks.
And, we’ve got scientists that say, ‘Oh, they are just sharpening their claws’.
And then we have other ones that say, ‘No, but they are marking their territory’.
And then, yet, we have other scientists that say it is a little bit of both.
So, there is some controversy there.
I don’t know, if I saw scratches six to ten feet up a tree, I’d probably turn around and go the other way because I wouldn’t want to meet up with whatever could reach that high and scratch the bark off the tree.
And then there is one other thing that you might see.
And these are called scratches.
Now, these are just piles of leaves and twigs.
It looks like maybe I went out there with my rake and I was you know raking up these little piles of leaves, why I would do that out here, I don’t know, but that is what they look like.
Well, what the cat does, what the panther does, is they take their hind legs and they will stand there and just kind of go like this and they are scratching up these piles and then they will urinate or defecate on them.
And that actually is marking that square mileage that they roam around in that is their territory.
So, you might come across some of these as well.
So, this is the four things if you were just out walking having a good day that you might see that you might also know that you are in panther territory.
Now our scientists keep track of our panthers by radio collars.
And, each of the radio collars has a number to it and sometimes we will see the airplane up here going back and forth real slow and they are tracking the panthers.
Sometimes they are up there just trying to see if they can find them all.
And then other times what they are doing is they are going to tranquilize them, take blood samples, check their teeth, check their weight, just check their general overall health to make sure that our panthers that we do have are healthy still.
And panthers can catch the same diseases that your housecat can like feline aids, feline leukemia, and any other thing that a cat can catch.
So, this is the other thing that they are checking for as well.
Now, in the past, the panther of course when their numbers went down to 30, there was a reason for that.
And, you had your ranchers that had their cattle.
And, they thought it was the panthers that were killing their cattle and they would just go out indiscriminately and just shoot the panthers dead.
Also, there was a time when you needed to go out and hunt animals or grow a garden because you couldn’t just go into a Publix or a supermarket, you know, and pick out all your food ready made and packaged for you.
You actually had to go out and do it yourself.
So, at one time when they were out there shooting the deer to put meat on the table, there was no limit at one time, back in the past.
You know, now they have, you can only shoot two deer per license or whatever it is.
But, back in the past, that is not the way it was.
So, these were two of the major threats back in the past for the panther.
Today, it is something a little different.
It is development and the roads that we have out here, traffic.
Development of course, you know we want to develop every little green spot that we have, pave it over, throw concrete on it, put buildings up on it.
That is there habitat!
That is where they live.
And this isn’t just the panther either.
This is all wild animals.
People that choose to live out in the woods, you know they are calling up the wildlife people, ‘Help, I’ve got a panther running through my backyard, I can’t let Fido out’.
Well, they built their home there right.
So, there is going to be a good chance they are going to have wildlife coming through their backyard.
The other thing of course is traffic right here along Tamiami Trail.
If you head west, there is 29 that goes north and south.
A lot of panthers cross in this area.
As you head west, you are going to see two speed limits: Daytime 60, Nighttime 45.
They are hoping that folks will slow down during the evening when the panthers are most active.
Whether 45 or not will help keep from killing them if you hit them, but at least you are going a little slower so there is a better chance that you could stop and miss them.
So, these are the threats today: Habitat loss and then just us in our cars having to get everywhere real fast, you know.
So, in order to keep our panther population growing, there is just education, education, education, basically.
And, that is with any wild animal that might be on the threatened or endangered list.
OK, any questions?
I did that kinda quick because I know you are going on the tram.
So any questions about the panther?
Well, thank you for listening and enjoy your tram.
Different shots of visitors arriving at the Shark Valley entrance station, renting bicycles, and observing wildlife in a canal (4:42 minutes).
- Credit / Author:
- NPS video by Jennifer Brown
- Date created:
Look at that alligator!
What kind of bird is that?
I think it is an Anhinga.
Oh, look at the big fish.
Oh yeah, there are some big ones.
There is an alligator.
I don’t see an alligator anywhere!
Look right there.
I know, I am kidding with you.
That is a cool bird too, though.
You mean the white one?
Oh, there is another one.
My husband and I actually rode our bikes through here one year when it was closed down.
Oh my gosh, it was so amazing.
There is something scary about here.
See that guy, he could crawl right through there.
They let us come in after it was closed to just ride through.
And there was nobody here.
Why don’t you guys get on top of it and we will take a picture.
Ahhhhhh, you noodlehead.
You want me to get a picture with you and the gator, John?
No, just like this.
I like the black and brown one.
Well, there is two up there in that tree…
That is a big gator.
So, what we got here is a 15-mile loop or 24 kilometers.
And, we ask you to start to the right.
The reason you start to the right is that all the vehicles will start to the left so you can come face to face with them.
Whenever you see a vehicle, we ask you to please stop on the same side on the grass for the driver to go through.
Stay 15 feet or 5 meters away from any wildlife.
No throwing food, no throwing rocks, just be nice to them, simple safety rules.
It is going to be $7 per hour per bike.
Bikes have to be returned by 4, alright.
It is 12:14, so it should not take more than 2-3 hours, it shouldn’t be a problem.
These bikes are coaster bikes alright, so you put them backwards to stop and they are only one gear.
Apart from that, I just need a photo ID please.
I can also give you a basket if you need it for your water or any bags that you have.
And if you need any help, just let me know, ok!
OK, thank you.
OK, have a great ride.
I would like to rent a bike.
Sure thing maam.
Ever been here before?