The red snapper season for private recreational anglers and state for-hire operations in the Gulf of Mexico will be open on the following Saturdays and Sundays: Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27.
Private recreational anglers may harvest red snapper in Gulf state and federal waters. However, state for-hire operations are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only.
These additional days would not be possible without the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. The Gulf Reef Fish Survey was developed specifically to provide more robust data for the management of red snapper and other important reef fish and has allowed FWC the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in state and federal waters.
Planning to participate in the fall season? Don’t forget to continue the success of the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. All anglers fishing from private recreational vessels must sign up as Gulf Reef Fish Angler to target red snapper and several other reef fish in Gulf state and federal waters (excluding Monroe County), even if they are exempt from fishing license requirements. Sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler at no cost at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or by visiting any location you can purchase a license.
Gulf Reef Fish Anglers may receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey. If you receive a survey, please respond whether you fished this season or not or whether you’ve submitted data via other methods such as the iAngler app mention below.
Anglers can also share catch information with FWC electronically using the Angler Action Foundation’s iAngler smartphone app. This app is available on your phone’s app store by searching for iAngler Gulf Red Snapper for private anglers or iAngler Gulf Red Snapper Charter if you are a charter operation. By using iAngler to log catches during the red snapper season and beyond, anglers can provide FWC researchers with valuable insights about their trips.
State for-hire operations must have State Gulf Reef Fish Charter on their license to target red snapper and other reef fish in Gulf state waters (excluding Monroe County). This can be done at no cost at a local tax collector’s office.
To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab.
The federal season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits was June 1 through Aug. 1.
New Florida youth deer hunt weekend and muzzleloader season
By Tony Young
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission established a new youth deer hunting weekend, which occurs during the muzzleloading gun season in each of the four hunting zones. FWC staff initiated the proposal to promote youth hunting and stakeholders were overwhelmingly supportive of this new opportunity.
“Wildlife management areas have had youth and family deer hunts for years, so this newly established season is a way to encourage youth deer hunting on private lands,” said Cory Morea, FWC biologist and deer management program coordinator. “This new opportunity, which occurs early in the season when hunting pressure is lower, supports the FWC’s commitment to igniting interest in hunting and creating the next generation of conservation stewards.”
Youth 15 years old and younger who are supervised by an adult may participate in this new Saturday-Sunday youth hunt, which ran Sept. 14-15 in Zone A, and runs Oct. 26-27 in Zone C, Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 in Zone B, and Dec. 7-8 in Zone D.
Youth are allowed to harvest one antlered or antlerless deer during the weekend and it counts toward youth hunters’ statewide annual bag limit. Youth are allowed to use any legal method of take for deer. This includes the use of dogs to pursue deer on deer-dog registered properties.
Since this youth deer hunt coincides with muzzleloading gun seasons, supervising adults and other non-youth may hunt but must use either a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow, and may only take antlered deer that meet the antler point regulations for the DMU hunted. If deer dogs are used, however, only youth may shoot at deer.
No license or permit is required of accompanying adults who only supervise. If adult supervisors or any non-youth participate in the hunt (even if only rattling antlers or blowing a grunt call), they are required to have a hunting license, deer permit and muzzleloading gun permit, unless exempt.
“Hunting with my kids has provided many fond memories – some of the best times of my life. From our early morning breakfast conversations, spending time at camp, our whispered conversations when hunting, to teaching them about safe and responsible hunting, reading the woods and wildlife conservation,” Morea said.
Muzzleloading gun season
Annually, the beginning of muzzleloading gun season immediately follows the close of the crossbow season in each zone. Season dates run Oct. 19 – Nov. 1 in Zone C, Nov. 23 – Dec. 6 in Zone B, and Dec. 7-13 in Zone D.
During muzzleloader season, bows and crossbows are legal methods of taking game on private lands. On WMAs though, only muzzleloaders may be used, and not every muzzleloader is legal to use during muzzleloading gun season.
Only muzzleloaders fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer (including 209 primers) are legal during muzzleloading gun season. Firearms that can be loaded from the breech are not legal during muzzleloading gun season.
Deer and wild hogs are the most common species to take during muzzleloading gun season. New this year, the minimum caliber for muzzleloaders firing single bullets when hunting deer has been reduced to .30-caliber. Guns firing two or more balls still need to be 20-gauge or larger. Only legal bucks, according to the deer management unit in which you’re hunting, may be taken, and the daily bag limit for deer is two.
On private land with landowner permission, you may hunt wild hogs year-round with no bag or size limits. On WMAs, bag limits for hogs and deer may differ, so check the area’s regulations brochure before you hunt there.
In addition to big game, it’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys on private property and on a handful of WMAs during muzzleloading gun season. You may take up to two per day on private lands (one per day on WMAs), but there’s still the two-bird combined fall-season limit. You may not shoot turkeys while they’re on the roost when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present, or with the aid of recorded electronic turkey calls. It’s also against the law to hunt turkeys in Holmes County during the fall.
WMAs that don’t require a quota permit
Florida’s WMAs offer a wide range of hunting opportunities including quota/limited entry hunts, special-opportunity hunts and public hunting areas where hunters can walk on to hunt. There are nearly 40 WMAs where hunters don’t need a quota permit to hunt some or all of the muzzleloading gun season. You can find those WMAs not requiring a quota permit at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures by clicking on “No Quota Permit Hunting.”
Gray squirrel season
Small game hunting provides opportunities for youth and adults to experience hunting. It has broad appeal, usually requires little planning and allows hunters to take spur-of-the-moment hunting excursions.
In Florida, gray squirrel season runs statewide Oct. 12 – March 1. Good squirrel hunting areas can be found throughout most of Florida, and many are convenient to major urban areas. Squirrel hunters can find success on small tracts of private and public lands. There are numerous opportunities to hunt gray squirrels on WMAs during small game season when a quota permit is never required. But season dates on WMAs vary greatly, so check the individual WMA brochure to know when the season is in.
The use of dogs is allowed for treeing and retrieving squirrels. The daily bag limit for gray squirrels is 12, but be mindful of proper species identification because shooting the larger fox squirrel is against the law.
The first phase of the mourning and white-winged dove season started on Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 20, statewide. Shooting hours during all three phases on private lands is a half-hour before sunrise to sunset, and the daily bag limit is 15 birds.
Good dove hunting opportunities can be found near agricultural lands where birds feed on crops and seed. You may hunt doves over an agricultural field, so long as the crop has been planted as part of regular agricultural practices. However, it’s against the law to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Dove and click “Dove Hunting and Baiting in Florida.”
The only firearm with which you’re allowed to hunt doves is a shotgun, though hunters may not use one larger than a 10 gauge. When hunting migratory birds, shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined). Retrievers or bird dogs are allowed, and they can be an asset when trying to locate hard-to-find birds.
If you happen to shoot a dove with a metal band around its leg, report it at ReportBand.gov. This band-recovery data is important for understanding migration patterns and managing doves. By reporting this information, you’ll be able to find out when and where your bird was banded.
License and permit requirements
Whether you participate in one or more of these hunting opportunities, you’ll need a Florida hunting license. If you’re a resident, this will cost $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for an annual license.
If you plan to hunt during muzzleloading gun season, you’ll need a $5 muzzleloading gun season permit, even if you use a bow or crossbow on private lands. If you hunt on one of Florida’s many WMAs, you must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. To hunt deer, you need a $5 deer permit, and if you’d like to take a fall turkey, you’ll need a $10 ($125 for nonresidents) turkey permit. Also, a no-cost migratory bird permit is required if you plan on hunting doves or any other migratory game birds.
Season dates, bag limits and restrictions differ greatly on each WMA, so before heading afield this season, we suggest you print the WMA regulations brochures and maps for the specific WMAs you plan to hunt. Or you can download them to a mobile device so that they can be accessed without an internet connection. WMA regulations brochures are available only at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and through the Fish|Hunt FL app.
All of the hunting licenses and permits you’ll need are available at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going to your local county tax collector’s office or retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies.
Be safe and have fun!
Remember, there’s a new annual bag limit of five deer, of which two may be antlerless – and the new deer harvest reporting requirement. Learn more about these new rules at MyFWC.com/Deer. As always, have fun, hunt safely and responsibly, and we’ll see you in the woods!
Michele Elmore of USFWS about to release an eastern indigo snake to a gopher tortoise burrow at the Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Photo Tim Donovan FWC
Good news for America’s longest snake! 15 eastern indigo snakes just released in year three of the north Florida recovery effort
Multiple partners collaborate to bring apex predator back to The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve
Fifteen eastern indigo snakes, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, have just been released in northern Florida as part of a continuing collaborative plan to return the important, native, non-venomous apex predator to the region. This effort marks the third year in a row that snakes raised specifically for recovery of the species have been released at The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in Bristol.
The eastern indigo snake(Drymarchon couperi) is the longest snake native to North America and an iconic and essential component of the now rare southern longleaf pine forest. It serves a critical function to balance the wildlife community — it consumes a variety of small animals including both venomous and non-venomous snakes. At over 8 feet long, the impressive indigo often relies upon gopher tortoise burrows for shelter. The snakes were historically found throughout southern Georgia, Alabama, eastern Mississippi and throughout Florida, though their range is now far more restricted.
Following recent investigation, a scientific study by Folt et al published in PLOS ONE firmly concluded that the eastern indigo snake is indeed one distinct species, and there is no current evidence to support splitting D. couperi isolated by location. Gene sequence data does not provide evidence to support two distinct species.
Largely eliminated from northern Florida due to habitat loss and fragmentation, the indigo was last observed at ABRP in 1982, until 2017 and 2018 when several dozen snakes were introduced to the preserve. This year’s annual release is part of a 10-year commitment to the species’ recovery and continues a focus on establishment of healthy ecosystems through collaborative land, water and wildlife conservation efforts.
“We continue our work throughout the state and at our preserves to create healthy habitats and properly functioning natural systems that support iconic and important wildlife and plants,” said Temperince Morgan, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “With the third annual snake release and the teamwork of our dedicated partners, we’re moving the indigos in the direction of species recovery.”
ABRP is the only site in Florida currently designated for indigo reintroduction. The 6,295-acre nature preserve in northern Florida’s Liberty County protects a large longleaf pine landscape carved by numerous seepage streams and is home to the gopher tortoise and the full suite of longleaf pine specialists. Located in the Apalachicola Bay region along the Apalachicola River, the preserve lies in the center of one of five biological hotspots in North America and is home to a disproportionate number of imperiled species. The preserve is a living laboratory for the development of restoration techniques and land management excellence, dedicated to natural community restoration, preservation of biodiversity, and education and training.
Only 5% of the longleaf pine ecosystem remains globally. Over the past 30-plus years, The Nature Conservancy has employed science and technical expertise to develop the state-of-the-art groundcover restoration process that is now used by state, federal and private partners across the southeast to restore longleaf pine habitat. This restoration, combined with the Conservancy’s robust prescribed fire program, has resulted in improved longleaf habitat on over 100,000 public and private north Florida acres in recent years.
Longleaf pine restoration is also a top priority at places like the Apalachicola National Forest and Torreya State Park — both neighbors to ABRP and supported by the U.S. Forest Service and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The 15 snakes released at ABRP were bred and hatched by the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation, the world’s foremost comprehensive-based conservation organization dedicated to the captive propagation and reintroduction of the eastern indigo snake. All hatched in 2017, the 10 females and five males were raised for one year at the OCIC before transferring to the Welaka National Fish Hatchery for an additional year in preparation for their release. The snakes have been implanted with passive integrated transponders by the Central Florida Zoo’s veterinary staff to allow for identification when encountered after release.
“The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens and OCIC are proud to contribute to the conservation efforts of this spectacular species,” said Michelle Hoffman, Director, Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation. “By focusing on the captive propagation and reintroduction of eastern indigo snakes, we are able to progress toward our goal of reestablishing this species in the Florida Panhandle.”
The Welaka National Fish Hatchery, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is located along the St Johns River in Putnam County. Known primarily for striped bass, channel catfish and bluegill, the hatchery will soon begin raising at-risk Florida grasshopper sparrows and gopher tortoises, in addition to indigo snakes. Over the past 18 months, the snakes were fed a steady diet of dead mice, quail chicks and rainbow trout, and grew to about 4.5 feet in length before release.
“Raising snakes is not what you’d expect from one of our hatcheries, but it shows how the aquatics team can reproduce and grow critters — regardless if they swim or crawl,” said Leo Miranda, regional director for the Service in the Southeast. “We are also working tirelessly with partners to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem that nurtures indigo snakes and myriad of other threatened and endangered species.”
Auburn University’s Alabama Natural Heritage Program brings knowledge to planning reintroduction efforts and expertise in onsite monitoring of the reintroduced snakes. Data collected from the snakes that were released in 2017 and 2018 continues to inform species recovery efforts. The initial 32 snakes released were implanted with radio transmitters by veterinary staff at the Central Florida Zoo, which allow researchers to track the animals’ movements, habitat selection and behavior. One of the eastern indigo snakes that was released in 2017 traveled over a mile from where it was initially released, and two previously released snakes were observed together in the same burrow earlier this year.
The monitoring program is supported in part by The Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, whose mission is to understand, demonstrate and promote excellence in natural resource management and landscape conservation in the southeastern coastal plains.
The indigo reintroduction efforts are supported by grants and other funding, including a Conserve Wildlife Tag Grant from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, funded through purchase of Conserve Wildlife Florida license plates and designated for conservation of nongame species and the habitats that support them.
“We are happy to be continuing this project with so many of our valued conservation partners this year,” said Kipp Frohlich, the FWC’s Director of Habitat and Species Conservation. “This release is another important step toward reestablishing a thriving population of this unique imperiled species in the longleaf pine forests of the Florida Panhandle.”
The Orianne Society was integral in the creation of the OCIC and the indigo snake reintroduction team and continues to play a role in reintroducing eastern indigo snakes into places they no longer occur. The Society works to conserve critical ecosystems for imperiled reptiles and amphibians, using science, applied conservation and education.
“With three years of releases under our belt, we are now looking forward to seeing evidence of reproduction on the Preserve. I can hardly wait!” said David Printiss, North Florida Program Manager, The Nature Conservancy in Florida.
Throughout the state, the Conservancy continues to pursue conservation projects and support policy that protects natural systems for people and wildlife. Next year’s snake release will be scheduled for summer 2020 — stay tuned.
The Nature Conservancy: The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org/florida. In Florida since 1961, with support from our members, we have helped protect more than 1.2 million acres of vulnerable lands and waters across the state. We own and manage more than 52,000 acres in 25 Conservancy preserves in Florida. nature.org/florida, facebook.com/NatureConservancyFL,twitter.com/nature_florida,instagram.com/natureflorida/
New Video Urges Families to “Have the Talk” About Gun Safety
Own it. Respect it. Secure it.
Talk with your Kids. Do it TODAY.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) unveiled a new public service announcement (PSA), “Protect the People You Love,” to encourage families to talk about gun safety — regardless of whether they have a gun in the home.
The PSA, which is viewable and downloadable on the Project ChildSafe® website in time for National Safety Month this June, focuses on the false assumptions that children are unaware of firearms in the home or know not to touch them without permission. The 30-second spot emphasizes how families can help prevent firearms accidents by talking about gun safety with children. Further, storing firearms responsibly addresses the issue that many children are often familiar with where and how firearms are stored — much more than parents might think.
“Parents and caregivers talk to kids about big issues like drugs, sex and alcohol; we need to talk to our kids about gun safety as well. Even if you don’t own a gun yourself, having this conversation is vital,” said BJA Director Jon Adler. “If you don’t have this talk with your kids, they’re going to learn about guns from someone else, whether on TV or from friends, and chances are they aren’t going to learn what you’d want to teach them.”
As more Americans continue to purchase firearms for personal protection and safety, the importance of storing them responsibly is critical. Although the number of fatal firearms accidents is at historic lows, the fact remains that these accidents are almost always preventable. Proper firearms storage helps prevent thefts, accidents and misuse, such as suicide.
“Protecting your family doesn’t stop with bringing a gun into your home, it also means doing what you need to do so a loaded gun isn’t picked up by a child or someone who may be at risk of harming themselves – or others,” said NSSF CEO Steve Sanetti. “If you have a gun, be sure your family understands the safety rules, and always store it responsibly when not in use. That’s the best way to protect the people you love.”
To further help parents in having the important conversation about firearms safety, Project ChildSafe also has an instructional video, “Talking to Kids about Gun Safety,” on its website.
Funding for the PSA comes from a $2.4 million grant that BJA awarded NSSF’s Project ChildSafe initiative in 2015. Project ChildSafe provides firearms safety education messaging and free gun locks to communities throughout the country in an effort to help reduce firearms accidents, theft and misuse.
About Project ChildSafe:NSSF, the trade association of the firearms industry, launched Project ChildSafe in 1999 (originally as Project HomeSafe). Since 1999, the program has provided more than 38 million free firearm safety kits and gun locks to firearm owners in all 50 states through partnerships with thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. That’s in addition to the more than 70 million free locking devices manufacturers have included, and continue to include, with new firearms sold since 1998. While helping to prevent accidents among children is a focus, Project ChildSafe is intended to help adults practice greater firearm safety in the home. More information is available at projectchildsafe.org. About NSSF:The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org. This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-FG-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Click the picture for more recipes from Fresh Florida
2 cups fresh Florida wild turkey meat, diced or shredded
1 ½ cups Florida green beans, cooked until tender crisp
1 ½ cups Florida sweet corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1 cups carrots, cooked 1 cup brown gravy (homemade or store bought)
2 cups mashed potatoes (homemade or store bought)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking dish with quick release spray. Beginning with the turkey and in a layering fashion, spoon each ingredient over the next, finishing with the mashed potatoes (the order of ingredients is discretionary except for the turkey and mashed potatoes). Bake 30 minutes until the mashed potatoes are golden brown. Serve warm.
Fresh From Florida FOOD FACT: Sheppard’s Pie traditionally uses lamb meat as the protein. When any other meat is used, it is referred to as Cottage Pie.
Your backyard can be a gathering place for birds, butterflies, frogs, flying squirrels and more. Attract native species by offering food, water, cover and space for them to raise their young, and your yard will be transformed into a welcoming habitat for wildlife.
Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is introducing Backyards and Beyond, a campaign challenging Floridians to make a difference and have fun by creating a refuge for wildlife in their own backyard.
“Imagine your backyard as a place where butterflies are attracted by flowers, songbirds are gobbling up seeds and berries, and frogs, bats and lizards are eating mosquitoes and other insects,” said Jerrie Lindsey, FWC’s director of Public Access Services. “Your efforts to create wildlife habitat at home will have a positive impact because animals need places to live beyond our wildlife management areas. Backyards and Beyond is also a great opportunity for you and your family to enjoy watching wildlife.”
Five easy ways to become involved in Backyards and Beyond:
Turn your yard into a diverse wildlife habitat by adding native plants. A variety of native trees, shrubs and plants will provide natural food and cover for wildlife. A flowering native plant or shrub, for example, can provide nectar and pollen for butterflies and other beneficial insects, which in turn may be a meal for birds, lizards and frogs.
Attract native wildlife to your yard by providing the four basics: food, water, cover and enough space for raising young. By doing so, we increase the number and variety of species that visit our yards, improving our chances to observe them more closely.
Create a butterfly garden, build a nest box for birds or add a brush pile for small animals like earthworms, birds, toads and lizards in your backyard. Planting a Refuge for Wildlife is an easy-to-understand guide to these projects and other ways that your backyard can support native wildlife. This illustrated publication created by the FWC and Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida can be ordered online at WildlifeFlorida.org.
Go beyond your backyard. Invite family and friends to explore Florida’s outdoors at wildlife management areas, local and state parks, state and national forests, and national wildlife refuges. Use Florida Nature Trackersto document what you see.
People who create a wildlife refuge in their backyards will contribute to conserving Florida’s wildlife and habitats. By documenting animals observed in their backyards, they also generate valuable information. FWC biologists will be able to see the wildlife photos submitted to Florida Nature Trackers and use the data to help direct their efforts to research and manage native species throughout the state.
Remember, wild animals do not need supplemental feeding from people. Naturally-occurring insects and native plants with nectar flowers, edible fruits, nuts and seeds provide nourishment for most butterflies, birds and small animals. Pet food, corn and other supplemental feed can encourage unwanted visitors.
Need help getting started? Explore the Backyards and Beyond website for more information on how you can get involved.
While Backyards and Beyond is a statewide campaign, there is also a local initiative in Leon County and the city of Tallahassee, involving the FWC and partners. You can participate by joining the Backyards of Leon County project.
What if you live in an apartment, townhouse or condominium — and don’t have a backyard? You can still participate. Plant native flowers in containers on your front steps, on a balcony or in a window box. Work with neighbors to add native plant life to shared spaces like playgrounds, parks and other open areas in your development or community. Get children involved by bringing Backyards and Beyond to groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or a school, church or community youth group or homeowners association. No matter where you live, you can make a difference.
Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for all who cherish its traditions involving friends, family and food. Some love preparing dishes from recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Others enjoy experimenting with new flavors. An interesting culinary trend is using organic ingredients and serving wild turkey for Thanksgiving is a delicious, clean-eating option.
“Florida’s abundant wild turkey populations can provide the ultimate locally-sourced, organic Thanksgiving feast when knowledge, skill and good fortune come together for a successful hunt,” said Chef Justin Timineri, executive chef and culinary ambassador for Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We’ve developed several mouthwatering wild turkey recipes for the big day and ways to serve leftovers using a variety of Fresh from Florida products.”
Wild turkey is a tasty and versatile protein. Fresh from Florida chefs adapted several recipes to use wild turkey ranging from Tikka Masala, an Indian dish traditionally served with chicken, to wild turkey quesadillas and wild turkey cottage pie (a take on shepherd’s pie). Because wild turkey meat is low in fat, techniques for cooking them differ from domestic birds, and the Fresh from Florida chefs provide recipes and tips on how to prepare tender, juicy meals.
The Sunshine State is home to robust populations of two wild turkey subspecies: the eastern and the Osceola wild turkey. Florida is unique because the Osceola subspecies lives nowhere else in the world but on the state’s peninsula.
“Turkey hunting in Florida is a chance to experience the outdoors in a very special way,” said Roger Shields, wild turkey program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “However, wild turkeys are extremely wary and possess sharp eyesight and excellent hearing so hunting them is a challenge.”
In fall, Florida black bear activity increases as bears begin a natural process of putting on fat for the winter. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds people to be BearWise to help prevent conflicts with Florida’s largest land mammal.
To be prepared for winter, bears require around 20,000 calories a day and will eat anything that’s convenient. Getting food from a garbage can often provide bears with more calories in a shorter amount of time than foraging in the woods. This easy source of calories draws more bears into areas where people live and work, which can be potentially dangerous for both people and bears. Keeping garbage secure not only helps keep people safe but also helps bears.
“We are assisting local governments with advice and funding to help them be more BearWise,” said Dave Telesco, head of the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “But everyone has a role. The best way people can help is by keeping trash secure from bears.”
Since 2007, a total of $2.1 million of BearWise funding has been provided to local governments. Over $1.4 million of this was provided with support from the Legislature and Gov. Scott, and $680,000 from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida using proceeds of the Conserve Wildlife license plate.
To keep bears wild and away from your home, follow these simple tips:
Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
It is illegal in Florida to intentionally feed bears or leave out food or garbage that will attract bears and cause human-bear conflicts. If you see or suspect that someone is feeding or attracting bears, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).
You can also help people and bears stay safe by remembering to watch for bears while driving. This time of year, bears are traveling across more roads in search of food, which results in more bear-vehicle collisions. Every year over 230 bears are killed on Florida roadways. The FWC advises drivers to be aware of their surroundings as they drive in bear country, especially around dusk and dawn, and when there is forest on both sides of the road. The FWC works with Florida Department of Transportation to post bear crossing signs in areas that receive particularly high levels of vehicle-bear collisions.
For more information on Florida black bears, including how to reduce conflicts with them, visit MyFWC.com/Bear and click on “Live BearWise.” There you can click on “brochures and other materials” to view “Vehicle Collisions with Bears” one in a series of FWC’s Living with Florida Black Bears videos.
Florida alligators are numerous these days. Forrest Fisher Photo
Recreational hunting is one part of managing the state’s healthy alligator population.
Florida’s statewide alligator harvest, nationally and internationally recognized as a model program for the sustainable use of a renewable natural resource, begins Aug. 15. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued more than 7,500 permits, including an additional 1,313 county-wide permits, as a method to help manage the alligator population.
Alligators are a conservation success story in Florida. They were included on the original federal endangered species list in 1967. Conservation efforts allowed the population to rebound, and they were removed from the list in 1987. Today, the state’s alligator population is estimated at 1.3 million alligators and has been stable for many years.
For over 30 years, the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program has been providing sustainable hunting opportunities throughout the state. The FWC establishes management units with appropriate harvest quotas based on research and proven science to ensure the long-term well-being of the alligator resource.
Recreational alligator hunting is just one part of the FWC’s overall approach to managing the species. The FWC’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) is another. People who believe a specific alligator poses a threat to people, pets or property should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). When someone concerned about an alligator calls the Nuisance Alligator Hotline, we will dispatch an FWC-contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.
In addition, as part of a comprehensive effort to achieve alligator management goals, the FWC has issued an additional 21 Targeted Harvest Area permits that encompass 79 new areas. THA permits allow a managing authority to work directly with a designated FWC-contracted nuisance alligator trapper, making the process for removing nuisance alligators more proactive and streamlined.
THA permits, which have been in use for almost two decades, define the area’s boundaries, the duration of the permit and how many alligators can be removed. Currently, there are 260 THA permits issued that cover 1,460 sites throughout the state with more THAs expected to be added.
Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida. The FWC works diligently to keep Floridians and visitors informed about safely coexisting with alligators, including providing informational tools such as a video, infographic, and brochure.
Report nuisance alligators by calling 866-FWC-Gator (392-4286).
Alligators become more active during warm weather months, and it’s not uncommon to see them throughout the state. Most interactions consist of seeing alligators at a distance. However, if you have a concern about a specific alligator, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) urges you to call their toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286).
“The FWC places the highest priority on public safety,” said Eric Sutton, FWC’s executive director. “When someone calls our Nuisance Alligator Hotline to report an alligator they believe poses a threat, we dispatch one of our contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation.”
Although alligator bite incidents resulting in serious injury are rare in Florida, the FWC recommends taking precautions when having fun in and around the water. Alligators inhabit all 67 counties in Florida and can be found anywhere there is standing water. Reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators by swimming only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Also keep pets on a leash and away from the water.
Because alligators control their body temperature by basking in the sun, they may be easily observed. However, the FWC urges people to keep their distance if they see one. And never feed alligators because it is dangerous and illegal.
The FWC also works to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.
Wild turkeys are a Conservation Success Story in Florida & Across North America
By Tammy Sapp, Florida FWC
Florida’s spring turkey season opened on Saturday, March 3, on private lands south of State Road 70, making it one of the first spring turkey hunting opportunities in the country. Florida is also the only place in the world where the Osceola subspecies of wild turkey is found. Also known as the Florida wild turkey, abundant populations of this subspecies live only on the Florida peninsula. It’s similar to the eastern wild turkey subspecies, which is found in north Florida and throughout the eastern United States, but tends to be smaller and darker with less white barring on the wings.
Hunting wild turkeys is popular in Florida and throughout North America. One reason people enjoy it is the range of calls wild turkeys make. The most recognized call is gobbling, which is most often associated with male birds, or gobblers, during spring when they breed. The gobbler will fan out its tail, puff out its feathers, strut and gobble to attract hens. Hunters pursue this wary bird by imitating various turkey calls to bring gobblers in close.
Getting to see a male wild turkey’s courtship ritual is exciting for new hunters as well as those with years of experience.
Another benefit of turkey hunting, for those lucky enough to harvest a gobbler, is that the meat is a good source of healthy, organic protein.
“Spring turkey season gives hunters the chance to share a delicious wild game meal with friends and family. It’s also a great time to share the turkey hunting experience with someone who has never tried it,” said Roger Shields, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Wild Turkey Management Program coordinator. “The weather is mild, the spring woods are beautiful, and the thrill of hearing a gobbler respond to your calls is a wonderful memory you can share with a new hunter.”
Wild turkeys are a conservation success story in Florida and across North America. They had almost disappeared by the turn of the 20th century, with populations remaining only in remote pockets of habitat. However, thanks to science-based wildlife restoration efforts, today Osceola and eastern wild turkeys are flourishing throughout the state.
North of State Road 70, Florida’s spring turkey season on private lands opened on Saturday, March 17. Florida’s wildlife management area system also offers opportunities for turkey hunters, and because dates and regulations can vary, hunters are encouraged to review the regulations brochure for the WMA they plan to hunt.
FWC wildlife professionals use scientific data to conserve wild turkey populations and provide regulated and sustainable hunting opportunities. Hunters also play an important role in wild turkey management by purchasing licenses and permits, and along with other shooting sports enthusiasts, contributing to the successful Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Get a snapshot of Florida’s wild turkey season dates and bag limits by visiting MyFWC.com/Hunting and clicking “Season Dates.” Learn more about wild turkeys by choosing “Species Profiles” at MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats.