Thursday, February 16, 2012

Threat to the Florida Keys

I was interested to read this article about the extirpation of a native butterfly from one of my favorite state parks, Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys.

One of my family's best vacations was taken in the Keys in 2007. We had an absolutely flawless and wonderful time when we were there. As always, we enjoyed the native flora and fauna of the state. I had noticed while on Bahia Honda that iguanas had invaded the place. I kept trying to get a photo of one of them but they were pretty skittish and would always flee when I paused to take a photo of one of them.

Now it seems--like other invasive species--they are having quite a nasty impact on the island. To the tune of one native butterfly perhaps going extinct because of them. I know that humans are the worst of all invasive species and I have admitted this on this blog at least a couple of times. However, the best thing that Floridians can do when they encounter any invasive reptile, fish, bird, or insect is to kill it. At the very least trap it so that the authorities can dispose of it. This includes the snakes and lizards that are wreaking havoc on the native plants and animals of the state.

On the beach on Bahia Honda. That's the famous A1A running down the Keys off the coast there.

I took this one in the fort in the Dry Torugas National Park. The place is packed with birdlife because of the small freshwater fountain inside the fort that runs for the benefit of the migrating birds.

On the beach in front of the fort. Just on the other side of the water is an island that, unlike the fort, is free of rats. Because of this fact the place is a hell of a rookery and is a haven to nesting native birds. Because of the distance of water, the rats have been unable to colonize it. For much of the year (nesting seasons), the other island is off limits even to humans.

Andy and I hiked a trail on one of the other Keys just north of Key West. This one had a small pond formed by past use of a limestone quarry.

The old man and his son enjoying the beach at the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Key Deer are tiny. A fully grown buck like the one here is smaller than most medium-sized dogs. The doe here was even smaller, and the fawn was like a toy. They're endangered of course, suffering high mortality due to being run down by speeding tourists on the roads of the Keys.


MarkGelbart said...

I'd like to see the Dry Tortugas, but that's kind of a long trip for us.

Next year, I'm planning a trip to Bull Island, South Carolina which can only be reached by ferry. That's only a 2-3 hour drive from my house.

HemlockMan said...

I've never been to Bull Island, but I know some folk who have and raved about the place. You'll have plenty to keep you occupied. It's supposed to be gorgeous and packed with wildlife.

It took us almost three days to drive from here to the Keys. We have a travel trailer, so that made it easier for us. First day after leaving work we hooked up the loaded trailer to the loaded truck and took off. I drove as far as I could until I got sleepy and we pulled into a rest area near Jacksonville FL and we slept for six hours parked with the big rigs. Got up and drove eight hours and that got us down to Fort Lauderdale where we got a site at a commercial campground. Third day we finally pulled into Bahia Honda State Park which was our hq for the trip.

To get to the Dry Tortugas you either have to take a high speed boat to the park or a float plane. We opted for the cheaper boat ride which included a buffet lunch. I highly recommend the trip. Next time we go we're going to spend the evening camping there at the fort and ride back the following day. I want to see the skies so far from light pollution.

Kent Tankersley said...

I've always wanted to visit the Dry Tortugas. I somehow have the idea it's a good place for snorkeling. Anyway, looks like a beautiful spot.

HemlockMan said...

You'd probably love the Dry Tortugas. The snorkeling was fantastic. Lots of coral and jillions of tropical fish. I was on my way to swimming out to some buoys about 1/2 mile offshore from the fort when I looked down and noticed a nurse shark on the bottom that was bigger than me. He was so scared of me that he was trying to jam his head under a rock to hide. Even knowing that he was frightened, and even knowing that they're relatively harmless, I got so freaked out over having such a huge fish that close to me that I immediately turned around and swam back to shore. I'd been heading out to what was supposed to be the best coral in the park, but no one else was going out there so I was alone. If I'd had company I don't think I'd have gotten so frightened.