Wildlife

Southwest Florida Wildlife

Introduction

At Ave Maria University, there are abundant native species of wildlife which coexist with the student population.  With many of these species, students are simply asked to respect these creatures in their natural habitat.  These include alligators, feral hogs, black bears, snakes, and spiders.  It is important to be aware that a few of these can pose a real threat if certain boundaries are not respected. 

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Black Bears

Native to the region can be found throughout Florida. The black bear can be found in the forested areas of Florida, it has been threatened due to deforestation. The black bear is mainly solitary, except when in groups or during mating season. In general, most are not territorial. Florida Blackbear Information

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The American Alligator 

Once, endangered, this species now thrives throughout most parts of Florida and many parts of the Southeastern United States.  Alligators can be found in ANY body of fresh water.  For this reason, it is important to stress that care must be taken when walking along fresh water in Florida. 

alligator map

A few tips that will help to maintain a safe environment:

  • Never feed alligators. It is illegal because it leads to an association between people and food.
  • Never approach an alligator. Alligators are not a threat until you and the alligator are too close.
  • Inform security of any alligator sightings on land
  • Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.  Therefore, be especially careful if you are around water at night.
  • Most alligators you will encounter will be bbetween 3 to 6 feet in length. 
  • Depending on the availability of food, alligators can grow up to a foot a year until they reach approximately six feet in length.  Once reaching six feet, the alligator begins to grow more in girth and will continue to grow in length very slowly, approximately two inches a year.

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Feral Hogs

Feral hogs, also known as wild boar, are now numerous throughout Florida.  They were introduced by Spanish settlers and are therefore not a native species. Boar pose more of a threat to landscaping (since they will till the earth with their tusks) than to people.

feral hog

photo courtesy of: pennlive.com

The following suggestions are offered for a possible encounter with a boar:

  • Never Chase wild boar. Wild boar will run from humans unless threatened or cornered. 
  • Leave the boar alone. If you see wild boar, you can watch from a distance.  Once they notice that you are there, they'll soon be gone. 

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Snakes

Another source of concern are snakes.  Most species of snakes living in south Florida are NOT poisonous.  However, caution should be used around any snake. 

florida snake

photo courtesy of: naplesnews.com

Tips to prevent a potentially dangerous encounter with a venomous snake:

  • Do not handle or provoke snakes - leave them alone.
  • Do not feel the need to take action against a snake - just back away.
  • Beware of heavy brush and bare legs. Don't stick your hands into dark holes. Etc.
  • If you positively ID venomous snakes in your area, maintain extra caution, and try to take preventive measures.

 If someone is bitten by a snake, it is important to know the following:

  • Stay calm, and don't jump to conclusions - perhaps it was a non-venomous snake.
  • Try to stay still - exercise increases blood flow and venom spread.
  • Apply a light elastic dressing such as an ACE bandage above the bite area.
  • Some people suggest keeping the bite area below heart level to slow venom spread.
  • Some people suggest the use of cold packs or ice to keep swelling down and slow venom spread.
  • Most important: Contact your nearest medical facility. Anti-venom is often the only effective treatment
  • It will help medical personnel if you can identify the snake. 

 source: http://www.247wildlife.com/venomousnakes.htm

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Spiders

photo courtesy: http://sites.google.com/site/killbrownreclusespiders/

There are many species of spiders in Florida.  Most do not pose a threat to humans.  Three in particular are potentially extremely dangerous.  These are the black widow, the brown widow, and the brown recluse. For more information click here.

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