The responsible stewardship of our beautiful islands includes a continuing dedication to protecting the critters amongst us. Bobcats and butterflies, shorebirds, tortoises, birds of prey, armadillos. Each time we cut or remove plant life, we are at risk of diminishing their food source and their shelter.
One of the most beneficial things we can do is to retain or create buffer zones (corridors) for these critters to move about in, feed in, breed in, find shelter or protection. Landscaping for wildlife involves preserving existing vegetation as well as choosing additional plantings that will meet the habitat needs for food, cover and water. Remember … all wildlife species decline in numbers due to habitat loss
Did you know that gopher tortoises’ burrows, breeding places and feeding territory can be as large as two acres? And that 70 other species also find shelter in their burrows? It takes so little of your yard—just the perimeter—and the benefit can be grand, beautiful and private. Speaking of tortoises, if you’re putting in fencing, keeping it a foot above the ground can help our tortoises find their way in and out. And when you’re driving, watch for slow moving tortoises crossing the road. Read more in "A Guide to Living with Gopher Tortoises".
Butterflies thrive when you plant butterfly gardens with native and Florida friendly plants. Read more at "Florida Wildflowers & Butterflies" online. The 9-banded armadillo is the only Florida mammal with an “exo-skeleton:” its body, top of head and tail are covered with silver- brown bony plates. It shares its burrow with other mammals as well as reptiles. The armadillo mates in the summer and bears quadruplets in March. Catching those four little ones not far from mom…what a sight!
Oh yes, there are bobcats here too! They’re not seen too often, in part because they’re primarily nocturnal. But if you keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready, you just may get an opportunity to photograph one of these feline beauties roaming through thick foliage of mangroves and tall grasses and then crossing your yard. Their primary den is constructed with vegetation and leaves, and is usually concealed.
As we run out of space, let us remind you that there are over 200 species of wonderful critters that make part or full-time home on our islands. A joy to behold!