Exploring Myakka River State Park

Located nine miles east of Sarasota FL, Myakka River State Park is one of the oldest and largest Florida state parks and protects one of the state´s most diverse natural areas.  On April 19, my Dad and I headed out for a day of hiking and picnicking with the hope of seeing a few cool Florida herp species.

We were in luck!  Wildlife was everywhere at this beautiful park.  At the picnic grounds, however, it was obvious that a few people had broken the rules against feeding wildlife because we were mobbed by cunning gray squirrels and even vultures as we enjoyed our delicious chips and sammies.

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Black Vulture at the Picnic!

Squirrels and vultures were not the only non-herps we saw that day however.  A Florida invader made his presence known as Dad and I hiked through the jungle.

Next, we found an animal that is native to both Florida and Virginia.

Florida’s most famous herp was abundant in the lakes and ponds in the park.

We also saw tons of anoles – mostly Cuban anoles which are an introduced species that has been displacing the naive Carolina anole from Florida.

After spending time hiking around the forest floor, it was time to head up, up, up into the canopy. We took a walk through the treetops and then climbed a 74-foot tower for an eagle’s-eye view of natural Floridian hammocks and wetlands.

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Dad and Caroline at the top of Florida

Whew, after all the hiking and climbing, we were both pretty tired. So we headed back to the house for some relaxing. And I found one more animal.

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Caroline and Catfish

For more information on visiting Myakka Lake State Park, visithttp://www.floridastateparks.org/myakkariver/default.cfm

Wandering about in the Winter Woods

The staff and friends at Reptiles Alive have a great time hiking in the winter.  While many of the warm weather loving reptiles are hidden away, other wonders of the natural world reveal themselves. Last week, while my brother Will Seitz was visiting from his home in Volcano, HI, we went for a hike down Difficult Run to the Potomac River in Great Falls, VA.

You might not think about it, but poison ivy is still around in winter. Poison ivy is deciduous, so it loses all its leaves in winter – but BEWARE – the bare stems and vines still contain the poisonous oil that can cause itchy rashes in many people. This fuzzy looking vine might look fun to touch, but trust me, don’t do it!

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Lichen is a combination of plants and fungi living together. You can find lichens growing on rocks and branches throughout the forest. The gray tree frog is a native frog that has camouflage to look like a lichen. The tree frogs are hibernating now, but lichens are out for you to enjoy.

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There are many native plants that produce berries, but there are also certain landscape plants that have escaped and begun to grow in the wild. Some of these exotic plants can out-compete native plants, which can create problems for native wild animals.

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We had a GREAT time at GREAT Falls! The winter is an awesome time to get outside and take a hike in the woods.

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