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Florida Wildlife Viewing

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schessl | Green Wave Forum News
Published Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wildlife Viewing

Have you ever seen an American Kestrel (the bird) from your Current Designs Kestrel (the boat)? How about watching a bobcat slip along the banks of your favorite river or perhaps a Florida Black Bear eating a midday snack of berries from palmetto, tupelo and gallberry?

Wildlife viewing is fun and being on the water in a canoe or kayak provides access to thousands of Florida locations just perfect for watching our fine feathered and furry friends. Some people enjoy watching through binoculars others through the lens of a camera or just with the unaided eye. But you can't see what you scare away so we're here to help with some tips on watching Florida wildlife.

Are you ready to spot more manatee, eagles, cranes, deer, turkey and bear?

  • Wildlife viewing begins with an appreciation and respect for nature and this means that you should view animals on their terms, not yours. Do not attempt to chase, corral, harass or catch any animal to get a better look. This causes the animal to use its energy for flight instead of foraging for food. How would you feel if every time you sat down for a meal, some huge, lumbering alien chased after you? Besides stressing the animal, it's against the law.
  • Dawn and dusk are the best times to view wildlife, as animals are most active at this time of day. Arrive early and stay late and you'll be rewarded.
  • Learn animal feeding habits. Knowing what and how animals eat will help you find them. Many shorebirds follow the tides while others such whitetail deer are browsers - they feed on a variety of leaves, shoots, flowers and occasional fruit. Manatee like to eat turtle grass, hydrilla, water lettuce and of course, manatee grass!
  • Do not feed wildlife. Usually there is plenty of food available and human food can cause problems for the animal, as they may not be able to digest it properly.
  • Move slowly and quietly. Splashing through a spring or racing along a shoreline will spook the animal. If you are in your boat, slow down and drift with the current on occasion. When an animal disappears into the reeds or other shoreline vegetation, be quiet and don't move around - it may reappear. Don't try to cover so much ground in one day that you can't take time to stop, look around and observe animals as they go about their daily search for food and shelter.
  • Along with moving slowly, keep your distance. Maintain a distance that is comfortable for the animal and safe for you. If you want to get closer, how about using a pair of binoculars or zoom lens on your camera?
  • Leave the fancy jewelry and pungent perfumes at home. Unless you're attempting to attract a mate for yourself, these items will spook most animals.
  • Seasons matter. Many species of birds are seasonal and migrate during the spring and fall. Usually the spring season is more pronounced and February to early April is a good time for bird watching in south Florida.
  • Some locations are off limits, such as Parker and Banana Islands and the Manatee Sanctuary Areas in Kings Bay / Crystal River. Look for the US National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) or Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) signs and stay out if they indicate the area is closed. Trespassing is a hefty fine.  
  • Finally, use a field guide. There are many good books on the market and the full color National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida is one of the best. This pocket-sized guide can be had for less than $15 bucks and its sturdy construction makes it ideal for kayakers and canoeists.

Do you have wildlife viewing tips you'd like to share? Add them in the comments area below.

Last update Tuesday, August 11, 2009

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