Staff with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provided some hands-on assistance to the FWC's Fish & Wildlife Research Institute in the rescue of an adult female manatee near Caxambas Pass on July 3. The manatee is believed to have been hit by a boat and suffering from a life-threatening condition called "pneumothorax," which occurs when a rib broken during vessel impact punctures the lung resulting in air leaking into the body cavity, which then prevents the animal from submerging to feed or rest. She was taken to Lowry Park Zoo for rehabilitation and is said to be in stable condition. Boaters or waterfront residents who see a manatee in distress are encouraged to call the FWC hotline: 888-404-FWCC.
Learn about how Rookery Bay Reserve is a part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Rookery Bay staff and interns assisted FWC in a manatee rescue attempt yesterday in the Marco Island canals near Caxambas Pass. The manatee was suffering from a punctured lung which resulted in air inside its body cavity (called "pneumothorax") but was in good enough health to elude the rescuers' net several times. The rescue had to be called off due to lightning associated with the incoming afternoon storm. While it is possible for the animal to recover on its own, the team is ready in case it is spotted again. Marine mammals and sea turtles in distress should be reported to FWC at 888-404-FWCC.
Last week staff joined visiting investigator Paul Andreadis (Denison University) on an outing to track invasive Burmese pythons in the Reserve. Five pythons caught earlier this year were implanted with radio transmitters and then released at their capture site; an area of the Reserve with very limited access.
Walking along the grassy berm where the snakes are known to congregate in the winter, Andreadis raised his hand-held antenna overhead and dialed in the frequency of an adult female python on a portable radio receiver. He was able to find her signal, and the quiet beeping sound grew louder as he got closer to his target. Entering the snake's proximity, some back-and-forth wandering was needed to fine-tune the exact location. Then he set the device down on the ground near the entrance to an abandoned armadillo burrow. "She's here!" he announced, and jotted down the GPS coordinates. He went on to explain that the isolated location, with high ground and pre-existing burrows surrounded by brackish waters, seems to be the perfect combination for this species.
The late afternoon breeze slackened around 5 pm as the team of five volunteers and Reserve staff, led by fisheries biologist Pat O'Donnell, anchored the research vessels in Pumpkin Bay. After preparing the bait and setting the gillnets and long-lines, which require a special permit and are used for research purposes only, the team waited and watched carefully. Signs of a catch large enough to be a shark include sizable splashes and the swift disappearance of a buoy or marker for at least 3 seconds. About 30 minutes before sunset, the team went back out to re-bait the lines and discovered that a female blacktip shark, a "neonate" or newborn measuring only 18 inches, had latched onto one of the chunks of bait! After netting it and placing it into the baby pool onboard the boat where it swam freely, the team measured the shark, weighed it, tagged it, and took a tiny fin sample. Then, it was gently released back into the bay. Later in the evening, another juvenile black tip shark and a bonnethead shark around the same size were caught and released. Bonnetheads tend to be less hardy than other sharks, so a hose with water flowing from the bay was inserted into the shark's mouth to keep the water running over its gills and enabling easier breathing. O'Donnell has been conducting this research for 12 years.
June 10, 2013
In 2012, Tropical Storm Debby completely overwashed the entire area of Second Chance, taking the least tern nests with it. This year, Tropical Storm Andrea was much more gracious, with minimal overwashing taking place. 77 least tern chicks have been confirmed by Team OCEAN volunteers and staff to have survived the storm and continued growing at a normal rate. The chicks should be able to fly in the near future and thus, be able to escape any coming storms. Good news for these beach-nesters!
The dry season is fading into the distance as we are swiftly ushered into the wet season with our first tropical storm. This is the time of year when the salinity level in the creek near the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is at its highest because we have not had much rain in our watershed until now. The high salinity level invites more marine species upstream than usual. Bull sharks, moon jellies, and Atlantic needlefish were all spotted today from our observation bridge, which connects the Environmental Learning Center with nature trails.
Longtime avian ecologist Ted Below conducted his monthly coastal waterbird survey in Rookery Bay Reserve. He found that there are two pelican nests on the #1 island in Rookery Bay. This is the third time they have nested in the bay and they always nest on island #1.
May 24, 2013
While working with DBi Services to remove invasive exotic plants along Griffin Road near the northern boundary of the Reserve, resource management specialist Greg Curry noticed a Burmese python fleeing from the activity and quickly called for back-up. The 12-foot python was extremely active due to the warm summer temperatures and required extra manpower to subdue. The back-up team of Resource Management Coordinator Jeff Carter armed with snake hook, box and other tools and Team OCEAN coordinator Kyle Yurewich arrived to help Curry and DBI exotics technician Luis Granados safely remove the intruder in order to prevent further predation on local wildlife in that location. This unfriendly visitor is a reminder of how easily small mammals and coastal birds can disappear from our landscape without a trace...