State News






 

FWC awards BearWise funding to 10 communities to reduce human-bear conflicts

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/2vnjVhi External Website

Unsecured trash is the No. 1 reason that Florida black bears enter neighborhoods and come into conflict with people, so the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is awarding 10 communities with a total of $515,283 to address this critical issue.

BearWise funding will help communities purchase and provide bear-resistant trash cans, dumpsters and other equipment to their residents at a discounted cost. Funds are being distributed to each of the 10 communities that applied:

  • Seminole County - $189,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for residents in the western portion of Seminole County, which has an ordinance requiring trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Lake County - $85,508 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for residents in Lake County, which has an ordinance requiring trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Volusia County - $75,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for residents in the western portion of Volusia County.
  • Holley by the Sea Improvement Association - $65,000 to purchase hardware to modify all 3,700 trash cans to make them bear-resistant in the Holley by the Sea Improvement Association, located in the southern portion of Santa Rosa County, which has an ordinance requiring trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Highlands County - $48,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for residents in the central portion of the Highlands County.
  • Orange County - $20,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for residents in the northwestern portion of Orange County, which has an ordinance requiring trash be kept secure from bears.
  • Walton County - $18,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for Walton County parks and to modify dumpsters to make them bear-resistant.
  • Air Force Enlisted Village - $7,700 to modify dumpsters to make them bear-resistant in this community in Okaloosa County.
  • Collier County Parks and Recreation - $3,675 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for three Collier County parks.
  • Franklin County - $3,400 to purchase hardware to modify regular trash cans to make them bear-resistant for residents in the southern portion of Franklin County.

This year the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott provided $415,283 to the FWC to cost-share with local governments in areas with high levels of human-bear conflicts. At least 60 percent of the funding must go to communities with ordinances requiring trash be kept secure from bears until the morning of pickup. The FWC also received funding from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, which provided an additional $100,000 in proceeds from the Conserve Wildlife license plate.

FWC staff evaluated BearWise funding applications based on several factors, including:

  • Does the community have an ordinance requiring residents and businesses to keep trash and other attractants secure from bears?
  • How many households within the community are in an area with significant human-bear conflicts and how many residences and businesses are expected to benefit?
  • How much in matching funds or in-kind services can the community provide?
  • What is the likelihood the project will result in a community-wide reduction of human-bear conflicts?

For more information on Florida black bears, including how to reduce conflicts with them, visit MyFWC.com/Bear and click on “Live BearWise,” watch the BearWise Communities External Website  video and read the A guide to living in bear country brochure.


FWC holds public meetings on proposed conservation measures, permitting guidelines for burrowing owls

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: https://flic.kr/s/aHskZUQWTU External Website 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will hold public meetings this month to provide information and gather input on newly developed draft conservation measures and permitting guidelines for the Florida burrowing owl.

In January 2017, the listing status of the Florida burrowing owl changed from Species of Special Concern to State Threatened, as part of rule changes implementing the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Plan approved in November 2016. 

The meetings will focus primarily on reviewing the agency’s draft Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines for Florida burrowing owls. The burrowing owl’s habitat was once native dry prairies, but today this owl is as likely to be found in open areas of urban and suburban landscapes. They dig their own burrows, but also may move into the burrows of other species, such as the gopher tortoise, or occasionally inhabit man-made structures such as pipes and drains.

“The FWC is inviting the public to meet with us, ask questions and offer input about proposed Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines for Florida’s burrowing owls,” said Craig Faulhaber, the FWC’s avian conservation coordinator.

The meetings will be held in Broward and Lee counties:

  • Nov.14, 5 to 7:30 p.m., Broward County West Regional Library, Room 103, 8601 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation, 33324. 
  • Nov. 28, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Estero Recreation Center, Room 103A, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., Estero, 33928.

FWC staff will briefly present the protections that apply to burrowing owls, the draft Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines, and anticipated next steps for this species. Members of the public who attend will be welcome to share their suggestions or concerns. From June to August 2017, the FWC held six public meetings and stakeholder workshops in south Florida to solicit input on the development of the guidelines.

The Florida burrowing owl lives primarily in peninsular Florida and is the only burrowing owl east of the Mississippi River. As one of 57 species in the Imperiled Species Management Plan, the burrowing owl has a Species Action Plan that describes its biology, habitats and the FWC’s goals and actions for conserving this threatened species.

Learn more about the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Plan at MyFWC.com/Imperiled.


FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski to move into a new arena of conservation service in 2018

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) congratulates Chairman Brian Yablonski on his new position as Executive Director of the Property and Environment Research Center, a national conservation research institute in Bozeman, Montana, focused on environmental entrepreneurship and market-based conservation. He will begin his new role in January 2018.

“On behalf of the state of Florida, we truly appreciate Brian’s service. His focus has helped make this a great place for families to live, work and enjoy the outdoors,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “I am confident Brian will continue to work to conserve our nation’s natural treasures. I wish him and his family all the best in this next endeavor.”

Yablonski began his service to the FWC in January 2004 and has held positions as vice chairman and chairman. He will continue to serve in his current role through the end of this year.

“I can think of no one better-suited for this important role with PERC,” said Nick Wiley, FWC Executive Director. “We know more great things are on the horizon for America’s fish and wildlife resources and habitats, and we cannot thank Chairman Yablonski enough for his leadership and conservation legacy with the FWC.”

Yablonski’s leadership on the Commission has been grounded in his attention to Florida’s diverse wildlife and unique habitats. In a state with over 20 million residents and 100 million visitors, he understood the importance of engaging landowners, anglers, hunters, sportsmen, wildlife and bird watchers, hikers, paddlers and recreational boaters while focusing on common ground.

During his 14 years at FWC, Yablonski worked to create new critical wildlife areas, provide landowners and citizens with more conservation incentives – including a constitutional amendment providing tax relief for conservation – and support freedoms and opportunities for current and future generations to enjoy Florida’s natural resources. In 2009, Yablonski was named Florida’s Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation, and in 2016 he was the recipient of Audubon Florida’s Theodore Roosevelt Award. 

“It has been a true lifetime honor and privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners and FWC staff, the best in the nation, as we’ve engaged with stakeholders, partners and residents on the important issues impacting wild Florida,” Yablonski said. “Florida has been my home for more than 25 years. Its great beauty, bountiful fish and wildlife resources, and good friends working in the stewardship arena, will always have a special place in my heart. To serve on behalf of our fish and wildlife in a state that served as an inspiration for Theodore Roosevelt has made all the difference. I will reflect fondly on our efforts and successes here in Florida as I engage in new and exciting ways to advance the cause of conservation.”

You can view the announcement from PERC at PERC.org. External Website

yablonski


Free Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Sarasota promises day of learning, fun

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjzBWzfa External Website

Video available on the FWC’s YouTube site: http://youtu.be/KzOua12jMX8 External Website

Teaching children a lifelong hobby, instilling appreciation for our marine environment and providing fun, family outings are the objectives for the Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Sarasota on Nov. 18.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will offer a free Kids’ Fishing Clinic for children between the ages of 5 and 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at Ken Thompson Park, 1700 Ken Thompson Parkway.

 These free clinics enable young people to learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills and safety. Kids’ Fishing Clinics strive to achieve several goals, but the main objective is to create responsible marine-resource stewards by teaching children about the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems. In addition, organizers hope to teach fundamental saltwater fishing skills and provide participants a positive fishing experience.

Fishing equipment and bait are provided for kids to use during the clinic, but organizers encourage children who own fishing tackle to bring it. A limited number of rods and reels will be given away to participants upon completion of the clinic.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their new skills and fish from the pier. This event is a photo catch-and-release activity. An adult must accompany all participants.

Individuals or companies interested in helping sponsor this event or volunteering at the clinic should contact Armando Ubeda at 941-861-9900 or FWC’s Elizabeth Winchester at 850-617-9644.

To find out more about fishing clinics for kids, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing, select the “Youth & Student” option under “Education,” and click on “Kids’ Fishing Clinics.”

 


Anglers on Florida’s east coast can help FWC gather red snapper data

Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are looking for anglers’ help to capture information about the Atlantic red snapper fishery.

The recreational season runs Nov. 3-5 and Nov. 10-12 in south Atlantic federal waters. Anglers are limited to one fish per person, per day, with no minimum size limit.

FWC researchers, law enforcement personnel and volunteers will be out along Florida’s east coast during each day of the season asking recreational fishers about their red snapper trips and their catch.

Researchers will also collect biological samples of harvested fish, which will not affect the fillet, to help determine the age of each red snapper.

Anglers are also encouraged to submit their catch information to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council External Website online at MyFishCount.com, even if information has already been submitted to FWC staff in person.

The survey responses and biological samples submitted by anglers will provide researchers valuable data about the red snapper fishery. The FWC will provide information collected to the Southeast Data, Assessment and Review (SEDAR) External Website for the next red snapper stock assessment.

When anglers catch a tagged red snapper, FWC researchers ask that they report it to the Angler Tag Return Hotline: 800-367-4461. When calling the hotline, anglers should indicate the species, tag number, date and time of capture, catch location, fish length, type of bait used, and whether the fish was kept or released. If the fish is released, the angler is asked to leave the tag in place to help with future data collection.

Anglers are encouraged to use best handling practices on fish that are being released including descending devices or venting tools on fish that are experiencing barotrauma. Learn more about fish handling and gear at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”

For more information about red snapper sampling efforts, visit MyFWC.com/Research, click on “Saltwater” and select “Recreational Fisheries.” For information on snapper rules and regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing, and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and select “Snappers.”

 


Pledge to take someone hunting this fall

By Tony Young

The cooler weather and Thanksgiving holiday has many of us wanting to take to the woods and enjoy the opening of several hunting seasons. We often take for granted our ability to hike to our favorite hunting spot and enjoy a beautiful autumn day afield. But there are many men and women who served our country that don’t have that opportunity. That’s where Operation Outdoor Freedom External Website comes in.

The Florida Forest Service has been administering this wonderful program, which provides Florida’s wounded veterans, who are 30 percent or more disabled or have been awarded a Purple Heart, with opportunities to hunt, fish and participate in other outdoor activities. Since 2011, the FFS has hosted over 400 such events and provided outdoor opportunities to more than 3,000 vets.

“Our veterans have sacrificed their safety for our liberty, and Operation Outdoor Freedom is one small way we can demonstrate our gratitude,” said Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Providing our wounded veterans opportunities for recreation and rehabilitation in Florida's great outdoors is the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.” 

According to Randy Gregory, OOF coordinator for the Tallahassee and six-county surrounding area, most vets feel they can’t do much of what they once could do before their injuries, so these hunts can provide a sense of normalcy and healing for them.

“It feels really good to be able to help these heroes who gave so much of themselves to our country,” said Gregory. “These hunts let them see that they are able to get outdoors and once again participate in the activities they love. And for some, the program gives them their first hunting experience.”

Each year, OOF runs an average of 65 hunts throughout Florida on state forest land, providing opportunities for about 250 hunters annually. All a qualified vet must do to participate is register at OperationOutdoorFreedom.com, External Website and they may get drawn for a fully outfitted and guided hunt with meals and lodging provided.

Programs like this remind me of the hunting community’s giving spirit. We’re there to take someone hunting who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, while contributing to conservation with pride. Carry on that tradition this fall during the general gun season which runs Nov. 4 – Jan. 21 in Zone C, and Dec. 2 – Feb. 18 in Zone B. In Zone A, the second phase of general gun season is Nov. 18 – Jan. 7. In Zone D, the first phase always starts Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) and lasts four days (until Nov. 26).

General gun season

During general gun season, only legal-to-take bucks as they are defined in each deer management unit may be harvested, but don’t forget that you need to purchase a $5 deer permit first. On private land, the daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits and other regulations for deer on wildlife management areas can differ, so before you hunt, download the specific WMA brochure by going to MyFWC.com/Hunting.    

You may hunt wild hogs on private lands year-round with no bag or size limits. Similarly, on most public lands there are no bag or size limits, and hogs are legal to take during most hunting seasons except spring turkey. On a few public hunting areas, specific bag and size limits do apply, so check the WMA brochure to be certain.

Hunters are allowed to take deer and wild hogs over feeding stations on private land, but that’s not the case on WMAs, no matter the season or the game.

It’s illegal to take deer using rimfire cartridges or non-expanding, full-metal case ammunition. Shooting a swimming deer also is against the law.

Private land doe days

Within the general gun season are antlerless deer days, better known to us hunters as “doe days.” These dates differ for each of the state’s 12 DMUs. To learn when these antlerless deer opportunities occur in your DMU, refer to the “2017-2018 Florida Hunting Regulations” handbook, which you can pick up at your tax collector’s office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regional office or by downloading it online at MyFWC.com/Hunting.

During these doe days, the daily bag limit is one legal antlered deer and one antlerless deer, or two legal antlered deer. Unlike archery season, you may not take two antlerless deer in one day, unless you have antlerless deer tags issued for the private land you hunt. Also, regardless of the season, deer gender or the number of permits, hunters are never allowed to harvest more than two deer per day under any circumstances. And except for a few, most WMAs do not have antlerless deer days.

Fall turkey and quail

Fall turkey season starts on the same date as general gun season in zones B, C and D but ends a little earlier. It runs from Dec. 2 – Jan. 28 in Zone B; Nov. 4 – Dec. 31 in Zone C; and Nov. 23-26 and Dec. 9 – Jan. 14 in Zone D. In Zone A, the second phase of fall turkey season is the same as the zone’s second phase of general gun: Nov. 18 – Jan. 7. Hunters may only take bearded turkeys and gobblers, and they must have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents) to hunt them.

You may harvest up to two turkeys per day, if you’d like, but that would tag you out for the entire fall season – because you’re only allowed to harvest a total of two turkeys during the archery, crossbow, muzzleloading gun and fall turkey seasons combined. In Holmes County, the harvest of fall turkeys is not allowed at all. And there’s not a fall turkey season on WMAs, however, on a half-dozen areas, you are allowed to take turkeys during general gun season.

You’re not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs or with recorded turkey calls, and you’re not permitted to shoot them while they’re on the roost or when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.

The uproar a covey of bobwhite quail cause when suddenly taking to the air in front of a pointing bird dog is enough to thrill even the most seasoned veteran hunter. Quail season this year runs Nov. 11 – March 4, and the daily bag limit is 12. Bobwhites prefer a patchwork of brushy fence rows, weedy fields and open upland forests that are frequently burned. A good bird dog is essential in quail hunting and, for many hunters, watching the dog work and seeing its enjoyment is the most rewarding part.

Miscellaneous regulations

Shooting hours for deer, fall turkeys and quail are a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset. All legal rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, bows, crossbows and handguns may be used to take each of these resident game animals during the general gun, fall turkey and quail seasons.

Illegal firearms and ammunition are defined as centerfire, semiautomatic rifles having magazine capacities of more than five rounds, and fully automatic firearms. Other prohibited methods for taking game include shooting from a moving vehicle and herding or driving game with a vehicle.

License and permit requirements

The first thing you’ll need to participate in one or more of these hunting opportunities is a Florida hunting license. Residents pay just $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months.

If you want to hunt on a WMA, you also must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. And don’t forget to obtain the brochure on the WMA you’re going to hunt because dates, bag limits and rules differ greatly for each area. These are available online at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures.

All necessary licenses and permits are available at your tax collector’s office, retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing gear, by calling toll-free 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. External Website

Happy hunting!

Whether you prefer small-game hunting with friends and family or hunting solo and going after that monster buck, boar hog or big tom, November brings loads of great hunting opportunities.

Here’s wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and a successful hunting season. Take someone hunting when you can. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see you in the woods!


Florida manatees on the move, public stewardship on the water makes a difference

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/2eaNYTc External Website

People who remember in November to watch out for manatees as they begin migrating to warmer waters are making a difference in the species’ survival.

Florida is home to more than 6,600 manatees. With the arrival of Manatee Awareness Month, people again are slowing down and looking out for these large aquatic mammals in waterways throughout the state.

Many seasonal manatee protection zones go into effect Nov. 15. Though some signs identifying manatee zones may have been damaged by Hurricane Irma, information on manatee zone locations is also available online. If you see damaged waterway signs, report them at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Waterway Management,” “Waterway Markers” and then “Damaged/Missing Waterway Markers.”

Earlier this year, the Florida manatee was reclassified from endangered to a threatened status, under the federal Endangered Species Act, in a decision announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While this is a notable step, there is still work to be done to ensure continued progress toward recovery of our official state marine mammal.

“People’s efforts to help Florida manatees are working. Let’s celebrate the fact that conservation actions are making a difference and manatees are no longer endangered by thanking all the individuals and organizations that contributed to this milestone,” said Carol Knox, who leads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Imperiled Species Management Section.

“It’s important though to remain vigilant,” Knox said. “Let’s keep up the efforts that are helping with manatee recovery.”

How can people keep making a difference for manatees?

  • Watch for these large aquatic mammals as they search for warmer waters to help them survive winter’s cold, which they generally find in freshwater springs and the outflow of power plants.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to spot them moving, grazing and resting in the water. Keep a lookout for the circular “footprints” they leave on the surface of the water.
  • Slow down when boating and follow posted manatee zones.
  • Observe manatees from a distance to limit disturbance.
  • Report injured, entangled, orphaned or dead manatees to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on your cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
  • Continue to support the manatee decal and license plate, and tell everyone how the decal and license plate External Website support the FWC’s manatee conservation efforts.

Want to see a manatee? Go to MyFWC.com/Manatee and click on the link in the “Where Can I See Manatees?” box.


UPDATE 7: Crews continue to mitigate pollution threats from vessels displaced by Hurricane Irma

MIAMI – Cleanup efforts and removal operations of displaced vessels are progressing throughout Florida waterways seven weeks after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys.

The Unified Command for the response—officially titled Emergency Support Function 10 (ESF 10) Florida—consists of leaders from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Currently, 1,492 displaced vessels have been removed from Florida waterways by both private owners and Unified Command response teams. Nearly 230 personnel from state and federal agencies are involved in the disaster response.

Responders are prioritizing the removal of vessels based on environmental impact.

“Responders are actively removing displaced vessels that pose a potential environmental threat,” said Cmdr. JoAnne Hanson, Coast Guard Incident Commander for ESF 10 Florida. “Vessels that are actively leaking are our top priority and we are working with the vessel and property owners, using Florida state laws, to determine the best method to mitigate the impacts of Irma on a vessel-by-vessel basis.”

Vessel owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessels in order to provide the safest removal method possible for the public and environment. Owners wishing to remove their own vessels are encouraged to visit MyFWC.com/Boating, click on “Displaced Vessel Hotline” and then “Information for Boat Owners Removing Their Boats,” for guidelines and best practices.

Owners of displaced vessels, sunken upon public waters, who lack the resources to have their boat repaired, or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, may release ownership of their vessel through a waiver provided by the FWC. The waiver process can be initiated by contacting the FWC through the Vessel Removal Hotline at 305-985-3744 and requesting to turn over a displaced vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership.

The dynamic nature of post-storm marine response activities has resulted in the need for clarification regarding procedures for dealing with storm-displaced vessels in marinas and private docks.

Vessel Removal Guidance

If a vessel is legally located within a public marina and the marina has insurance:

USCG/EPA response team will be allowed to recover pollution from vessels posing a potential environmental threat, but will not remove vessels. Vessel removal will be the responsibility of the marina owner.

If a vessel is legally located within a public marina and the marina does not have insurance:

Response teams will be authorized to remove vessels if the marina owner is not taking responsibility for the vessel.

If a vessel has been blown into a public marina:

Since these vessel owners are not bound by an agreement with the marina, the pollution and vessel can be moved by the Unified Command response teams.

If a vessel is tied to a private marina or HOA marina or community dock:

Vessel removal is the responsibility of each private vessel owner. This includes vessels wrecked within a private marina or homeowner association's community dock facility. The USCG/EPA response team will still recover pollution from any vessel posing a risk to the environment.

If a vessel has blown into a private marina or HOA marina or community dock:

Since these vessel owners are not bound by an agreement with the marina, the pollution and vessel can be moved by the Unified Command response teams.

If a vessel is moored or tied to a private dock:

Vessel removal is the responsibility of the private property owner. These vessels may still have the pollution recovered from them by Unified Command response teams to prevent any damage to the environment caused by leaking fuel or other hazardous materials.

Vessel owners whose vessels are attached to someone else's private property:

These vessel owners need to work with the property owners, vessel insurance companies and property insurance companies to arrange for a timely resolution to the issue.

 

These updated figures represent a combination of displaced vessels removed from the water by ESF 10 Florida and private owners. These numbers are subject to change as more vessels are identified and removed from the water.

 Miami

Miami Branch: 34 personnel

Vessel Removal Status

  • Vessels removed: 69

Operational Highlights

  • Response operations commenced in Miami-Dade County.

Stpete

St. Petersburg Branch: 58 personnel

Vessel Removal Status

  • Vessels removed: 265

Operational Highlights

  • Completed removal of 34-foot sailboat partially blocking residential canal in Cape Coral.

Jax

Jacksonville Branch: 34 personnel

Vessel Removal Status

  • Vessels removed: 57

Operational Highlights

  • Expected to complete removal of 68-foot vessel on Trout River.
  • Removal operations commenced in central Florida.

Keys

Florida Keys Branch: 95 personnel

Vessel Removal Status

  • Vessels removed: 1,101

Operational Highlights

  • Additional removal barge scheduled to arrive midweek to support operations.

The ESF 10 is the framework by which federal support is coordinated with state agencies in response to actual or potential oil spills or hazardous material releases. Partner agencies, including Florida Department of Environmental Protection, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, are contributing expertise and experience to the assessment and removal efforts.

The public is encouraged to call the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 to report any pollution incidents.

Operators with the Vessel Removal Hotline can be reached at 305-985-3744.

Members of the media interested in additional information are asked to contact the Joint Information Center at 305-985-2867.

Four Logos ESF10


FWC hosts public python workshops in south Florida

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site External Website

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your feedback on Burmese python management issues in south Florida.

The Burmese python, a large nonvenomous constrictor, is an invasive species in Florida. These snakes are currently found primarily in and around the Everglades, where they represent a serious threat to native wildlife.

“Over the past 20 years, Burmese pythons have spread from being a localized problem to a larger landscape problem across state, federal and private lands in south Florida,” said Sarah Funck, who leads the FWC’s Nonnative Fish and Wildlife Program. “We want to work with our partners, land managers and members of the public to identify options to control and remove this invasive species.”

In partnership with Everglades National Park, the FWC is developing an Interagency Python Management Plan to identify goals and strategies for land managers to help control invasive Burmese pythons.

“Coordination and cooperation across agencies and boundaries are critical to successful invasive species management,” said Tylan Dean, Biological Resources Branch Chief for Everglades National Park. “This plan will help improve management of this invasive species throughout south Florida.” 

Several public workshops will be held in November in conjunction with the development of this new management plan. These workshops will allow the public to share their input on policy and management, and learn what steps are currently being taken to control Burmese pythons in Florida.

In-person workshops will be open to the public and held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. local time at the following locations:

  • Nov. 6: Key Largo, Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Highway.
  • Nov. 7: Homestead, UF/IFAS Extension Office, 18710 SW 288th St.
  • Nov. 8: Davie, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Room 103, 3205 College Ave.
  • Nov. 13: Tampa area (Apollo Beach), Suncoast Youth Conservation Center, 6650 Dickman Road.
  • Nov. 14: Ft. Myers, Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, 3450 Ortiz Ave.
  • Nov. 15: West Palm Beach, Okeeheelee Nature Center, 7715 Forest Hill Blvd.
  • Nov. 16: Clewiston, John Boy Auditorium, 1200 S W C Owen Ave. 

Not able to attend a workshop? Visit our webpage to view the presentation and submit comments online.

For updates and to learn more about nonnative species workshops, visit MyFWC.com/Nonnatives and click on “Public Workshops.”

 


FWC plans hydrilla treatment in Lake Hatchineha

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will treat Lake Hatchineha in Osceola County for invasive hydrilla during the week of Oct. 30- Nov. 3, weather permitting. 

The FWC will treat a 150-acre trail to enable navigation on the lake, using herbicides approved for use in lakes by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. There are no restrictions on fishing and swimming in the treated area.

Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant spread easily by boats throughout the state’s lakes and rivers. While recreational anglers and waterfowl hunters may see some benefits from hydrilla, there are other potential impacts to consider including negative impacts to beneficial native habitat, navigation, flood control, potable and irrigation water supplies, recreation, and the aesthetic qualities of lakes. The FWC strives to balance these needs while managing hydrilla.

For information about this treatment, contact Danielle Kirkland, FWC invasive plant management regional biologist, at 863-534-7074.

Go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on “Invasive Plants” to find out more about management of invasive plant species, including Frequently Asked Questions.


Zone C deer season opener provides a connection to the outdoors

Suggested photo from the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/2zJQVBx

New hunters invited to learn about hunting and conservation through FWC programs  

On Saturday, Nov. 4, Florida’s Zone C general gun deer season begins, providing hunters the opportunity to slow down and immerse themselves in the splendor of the outdoors. For many, the predawn melody of songbirds while the first rays of sunlight filter through the trees is a chance to escape the daily stressors of life. And when knowledge, skill and luck come together for a successful hunt, there’s also a delicious and organic wild game feast to enjoy.

Zone C is Florida’s largest hunting zone, encompassing the central and northern part of the state. The general gun deer season runs Nov. 4 – Jan. 21, giving private land hunters the chance to carve out time from their busy schedules to go afield. It’s also a good opportunity to introduce someone to deer hunting. Sharing the hunt with a friend or family member new to hunting makes the experience even more special. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has developed online resources to make it easier for mentors and new hunters to get started deer hunting, including a list of wildlife management areas that allow public land hunting without a quota permit.

Those new to hunting can learn how to be safe, responsible hunters by taking a free FWC hunter safety course. Hunting is a safe activity, and hunter safety courses help make it even safer by teaching students about firearms safety, hunting laws and regulations, outdoor skills, knowledge about wildlife and habitats, and the importance of being a conservationist. Details about Florida’s hunter safety requirement are available online.

Another resource for youth who want to experience hunting is the FWC’s Youth Hunting Program, which offers safe, educational, mentored youth hunts. Youth accompanied by a parent or guardian can learn about conservation and gain new outdoor skills during these organized hunts. Program volunteers provide places to hunt, meals and mentors at these family-oriented events.  Those interested can check out the Youth Hunting Program event calendar External Website and sign up for a hunt.

Youth throughout the state also are learning a variety of outdoors skills through the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network. External Website Through this program, staff work with more than 350 partners to introduce kids throughout Florida to archery, hunting, boating, fishing, wildlife discovery and more. The FYCCN’s partners engage youth in outdoor adventure while igniting their interest in conservation.

All of the FWC’s programs are designed to inspire people to become good stewards of our natural resources. Florida’s healthy game populations, along with a wide variety of other wildlife species, are proof of this commitment to conservation by Florida hunters and the FWC. The agency’s wildlife professionals use scientific data to conserve game populations and provide sustainable hunting opportunities. Hunters and target shooters are important partners in this conservation effort. They provide wildlife management funding through the purchase of hunting licenses that bring more dollars back to Florida through the Wildlife Restoration External Website program. This program provides grant funds to state wildlife management agencies, such as the FWC, from the sporting arms and archery industries and the people of Florida who participate in these outdoor activities. This funding supports research, education, access to public lands, and habitat management and conservation to benefit many wildlife species.

To take part in the Zone C general gun season for deer, hunters need a Florida hunting license and a deer permit. In addition, those planning to hunt one of Florida’s many wildlife management areas will need a management area permit. Get more information about Florida hunting licenses and permits, External Website hunting season dates and information about deer management units.


FWC invites public comments for Division of Law Enforcement reaccreditation assessment

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement is seeking reaccreditation from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA).

“A team of CFA-certified assessors will arrive Dec. 12 to examine the division’s policies, procedures, equipment and facilities, and conduct interviews with employees,” said Col. Curtis Brown, division director. “This important process assures that the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement maintains the highest standards.”

The division must comply with approximately 240 standards to receive reaccreditation status. If the CFA determines the Division of Law Enforcement has complied with the appropriate standards, the reaccreditation will be awarded for three years.

“Accreditation is a voluntary pursuit and a valuable means of external accountability. This will be our fourth accreditation assessment, with the initial assessment taking place in 2008.  Our commitment to excellence in conservation law enforcement is apparent by our continued commitment to the accreditation process through the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation,” said Juli Brown, the Division of Law Enforcement’s accreditation manager.

The general public, including members of the FWC, are invited to offer comments related to the agency’s ability to comply with CFA standards. Comments must be submitted in writing to CFA, Attention: Public Comment, P.O. Box 1489, Tallahassee, FL 32302, or may be submitted by email at info@flaccreditation.org.

A copy of the accreditation standards is available by visiting the CFA website External Website or by contacting Robert Klepper, public information coordinator for the Division of Law Enforcement, at 850-617-9666 or by email at Robert.Klepper@MyFWC.com.


10 communities apply for BearWise funding

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/2vnjVhi External Website

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received applications from 10 communities for $515,283 in BearWise funding to help reduce human-bear conflicts.

Eight counties applied for BearWise funds: Collier County Parks and Recreation, Franklin County, Highlands County, Lake County, Orange County, Seminole County, Volusia County and Walton County. Two homeowner’s associations also submitted applications: Air Force Enlisted Village in Okaloosa County and Holley by the Sea Improvement Association in Santa Rosa County. Their requests total $998,425.

The FWC will evaluate the applications, prioritizing the communities with BearWise ordinances requiring residents and businesses to keep garbage secure from bears. BearWise ordinances can be passed by a county, city or homeowner’s association. The funding helps offset the costs for residents and businesses to acquire bear-resistant trash cans and dumpsters. The FWC plans to announce the funding awards in mid-November.

“Feeding on garbage is the main reason why Florida black bears appear in neighborhoods,” said David Telesco, who leads the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “This funding will make it easier for people to secure their trash, keeping both people and bears safe.”

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature approved $415,283 of the funds, with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida providing an additional $100,000 from sales of the Conserve Wildlife license plate. Sixty percent of the $415,283 must go to communities that passed BearWise ordinances requiring residents and businesses to keep their trash secure until the morning of garbage pickup. Lake, Orange and Seminole counties and Holley by the Sea Improvement Association in Santa Rosa County all applied for funding and have BearWise ordinances in effect.

Last year, the FWC distributed over $800,000 in BearWise funding to 11 counties, three cities and one homeowner’s association to purchase 5,100 bear-resistant trash cans and 3,800 sets of hardware to secure regular trash cans. Over 75 percent of last year’s funding was provided to communities with BearWise ordinances.

The FWC will evaluate the applications based on the following criteria:

  • Is there a local ordinance in place requiring residents and businesses to keep trash and other attractants secure from bears?
  • How many households in the area are experiencing significant human-bear conflicts?
  • Will the community match the funding, either with money, in-kind services or both?
  • What is the likelihood the project will result in a community-wide reduction of human-bear conflicts?
  • How many residences and businesses may benefit from the project?

In addition to providing BearWise funding, the FWC will continue to meet with counties, cities and homeowner’s associations to encourage efforts to enact BearWise trash ordinances. The FWC anticipates implementation of such ordinances coupled with this year’s BearWise funding will result in a reduction in human-bear conflicts across the state.

For more information on Florida black bears, including how to reduce conflicts with them, visit MyFWC.com/Bear and click on Live BearWise, watch the BearWise Communities External Website video and read the A guide to living in bear country brochure.


Hogfish recreational season closes Nov. 1 in Keys/east Florida state waters

Hogfish recreational harvest will close in state waters off Florida’s Atlantic and southern Gulf coasts Nov. 1. This closure includes all state waters south of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida, and up the Atlantic coast. The management boundary line is 25 degrees 9 minutes north latitude (a line due west of Cape Sable). The Keys/east Florida hogfish season runs from May 1 through Oct. 31.

Recreational harvest closed Aug. 24 in federal waters off the Keys and east Florida. Both state and federal waters off these coasts reopen to harvest May 1, 2018. 

Recreational harvest remains open in state and federal waters north of Cape Sable in the Gulf. 

Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.

Hogfish -map


November weekend added to Gulf gray triggerfish state season

The gray triggerfish recreational season in Gulf state waters will be open an additional weekend this November to provide anglers with fishing opportunities that were missed due to bad weather from Hurricane Nate earlier in the season. Gray triggerfish will open in Gulf of Mexico state waters for recreational harvest Nov. 4 and 5. The season was previously open Oct. 7, 8, 14 and 15. The season was also open Oct. 21 and 22 as an extension due to the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

During this state season opening, the Gulf state waters minimum size limit is 14 inches fork length and the daily bag limit is two per person, per day.

The season is closed in Gulf federal waters for 2017.

Several changes to gray triggerfish management are pending for Gulf state and federal waters, and could affect harvest starting in 2018. These pending management changes include:

  • Creating a January through February annual recreational closure in addition to the current June through July annual spawning closure.
  • Decreasing the recreational daily bag limit from two to one fish per person.
  • Increasing the recreational size limit from 14 to 15 inches fork length.

These changes will not be in effect during the 2017 state season opening, but should help maintain fishing opportunities for gray triggerfish in state and federal waters for 2018 and beyond.

More information about Gulf gray triggerfish regulations may be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish.”