State News






 

Support conservation while having fun this National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrating #WhoTaughtYou

Photos (Flickr): https://flic.kr/s/aHsmns5ZDs External Website

Florida has abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. The state boasts public access to a wide array of hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing activities. It is the Fishing Capital of the World and has one of the largest wildlife management area systems in the country. You can celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day External Website Sept. 22 by enjoying all the state has to offer, and make a difference, as well.

“I hope many Florida residents and visitors will participate in one of the many outdoor activities that Florida has to offer in recognition of National Hunting and Fishing Day. Participating in these outdoor activities is not only fun, it also results in supporting conservation efforts,” said Eric Sutton, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “For many of us, someone important in our lives took the time to introduce us to fishing, hunting, boating, hiking or wildlife viewing. This is a great time of year for us to make a difference in conservation by taking the time to introduce someone to the outdoors.”

The FWC encourages fellow conservationists to show appreciation for how they got involved in hunting, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, birding, hiking, or other outdoor recreational activities. To share a memory from the outdoors, post a picture to social media with #WhoTaughtYou.

In 1972, Congress established the fourth Saturday in September as a special day to honor hunters and anglers for their leadership in conserving America’s fish, wildlife and wild places by continually participating in these outdoor sports and by ensuring that their licenses remain valid. This group is a valuable part of natural resource conservation – and you can be, too.

Thanks to the vision of notable Americans, such as President Theodore Roosevelt, fish and wildlife management in North America is largely entrusted to states and other government entities, with all citizens owning an equal share. Several federal efforts, including the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration External Website and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration External Website acts, laid the foundation for what is referred to as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. External Website

“What this means for Florida’s residents and visitors is that we can all make a difference. We can all enjoy the natural resources of our state and we are all responsible for conserving them,” Sutton said.

The hunting, fishing, boating and shooting sports industries pay into the federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration program, External Website resulting annually in millions of dollars for each state agency to fund science-based fish and wildlife conservation and boating opportunity improvements. When people purchase firearms, ammunition, fishing gear, archery equipment or motorboat fuel, their dollars ultimately support research, education, access to public lands and water, and conserving a range of fish and wildlife.

“Additionally, when you purchase a Florida hunting or fishing license, you play a major role in this program because the WSFR funding Florida receives depends, in part, on the number of licenses issued,” Sutton said.

Visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com External Website to purchase or renew your Florida hunting or fishing license.

Over the years, Florida has had many conservation success stories – turkeys, spotted sea trout, white-tailed deer, alligators, manatees, bald eagles, green sea turtles, panther, bass – and while some of these species are protected in Florida, the support of hunters and anglers has been essential to these conservation accomplishments through recreational hunting and fishing license sales, and WSFR funding.

Floridians also support wildlife conservation by purchasing license plates through tax collector’s offices that contribute to the FWC’s research and management efforts with manatees, External Website sea turtles External Website and panthers. External Website There is also a Conserve Wildlife External Website tag. More on the license plates is at BuyaPlate.com. External Website Colorful manatee and sea turtle decals, redesigned annually and available through tax collectors’ offices, also give people a way to help these species. Explore other ways to enhance conservation of the state’s wildlife and habitats at the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. External Website 

Visit MyFWC.com for recreational safety tips and other resources.


Hey, kids! Let’s go fishing!

It’s time for the annual Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp. The derby, for children ages 6-12, will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.

Advance registration is required, and space is limited to the first 100 children. To sign up, call the FWC’s Northeast Regional Office in Ocala at 352-732-1225 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Ocala Conservation Center is 8.5 miles north of State Road 40 off County Road 314 in the Ocala National Forest.

Everything needed to participate, including cane poles, bait and instruction, will be provided by the FWC. The kids will fish from a pier. For safety reasons and to avoid tangled lines, do not bring your own rod and reel to this event.

In addition to fishing, there will be a casting contest, an arts and crafts activity and an all-time favorite called “Bugs and Critters.” In this activity, the participants get to wade into the lake with dip nets and scoop up fish, bugs and other aquatic critters. An FWC biologist uses the experience to teach about the aquatic ecosystem. The kids will get wet, so they should bring a change of clothes and proper footwear.


FWC awards 10 communities BearWise funding to reduce conflicts

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is awarding a total of $500,000 to 10 communities to help them reduce human-bear conflicts.

BearWise funding will be used to share the cost of bear-resistant trash cans, dumpsters and other equipment that will keep bears out of trash in neighborhoods and parks. The FWC is distributing BearWise funding to each of the 10 communities that applied for it.

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott provided $500,000 this year 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 had to go to communities with BearWise ordinances that require trash be kept secure from bears in all or parts of their jurisdictions.

The FWC awarded 69 percent of this year’s funding to four communities with BearWise ordinances:

  • City of Apopka (Orange County) - $85,000 to buy bear-resistant trash cans to sell to residents at a discounted price in the western portion of the county.
  • Lake County - $25,000 to buy bear-resistant trash cans to sell at a discounted price to county residents.
  • Santa Rosa County – $58,000 to modify dumpsters to make them bear-resistant at restaurants and other businesses in the southern portion of the county.
  • Seminole County - $177,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans to sell to residents at a discounted price in the western portion of the county.

The remaining funding was divided among six communities:

  • City of Mount Dora (Lake County) - $18,000 to buy bear-resistant trash cans for city residents.
  • Collier County - $45,000 to buy bear-resistant trash cans for county residents.
  • Marion County - $5,000 to buy bear-resistant trash cans to sell at a discounted price to county residents.
  • Okaloosa County - $18,000 to purchase hardware to modify trash cans to make them bear-resistant in the southern portion of the county.
  • Volusia County - $50,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans to sell to residents at a discounted rate in the western portion of the county.
  • Walton County - $19,000 to purchase bear-resistant trash cans for parks and to modify dumpsters to make them bear-resistant in the southern portion of the county.

FWC staff evaluated this year’s BearWise funding applications based on several factors, including:

  • Does the local government have an ordinance requiring trash is kept secure from bears?
  • How many households are in an area with high human-bear conflicts?
  • How much support (match) above the minimum of 10 percent will the local government provide for the project?
  • What is the likelihood the project will result in a community-wide reduction of human-bear conflicts?
  • How many households and businesses are expected to benefit from the project?
  • Has the local government previously received BearWise funding from the FWC, and if so, how did the process work?
  • Can the local government demonstrate demand for bear-resistant equipment in their jurisdiction?

Since 2007, a total of $2.1 million of BearWise funding has been provided to local governments. Over $1.4 million of this was provided with support from the Legislature and Gov. Scott and $680,000 from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida External Website using proceeds of the Conserve Wildlife license plateExternal Website

Support the FWC’s efforts to help bears and other wildlife by purchasing the Conserve Wildlife license plate. External Website Learn more at BuyaPlate.com.

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   video and read the A guide to living in bear country brochure.


Help plan the future of Herky Huffman/Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area

A 10-year plan for the Herky Huffman/Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area will be presented at a public hearing in Osceola County on Thursday, Sept. 20. People are invited to the 7 p.m. public hearing at the Osceola Board of County Commissioners Chambers, 1 Courthouse Square #4700, Kissimmee.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff will present the draft land management plan for the FWC-managed Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA, and people will be encouraged to comment and ask questions. For more information on the upcoming local public hearing, go to MyFWC.com/Conservation and select “Terrestrial,” “Management Plans” and “Upcoming Local Public Hearings.”

The Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA is in southern Osceola County, adjacent to the Triple N Ranch WMA and Three Forks Marsh Conservation Area. This WMA provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling and camping.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers, eastern indigo snakes, gopher tortoises and American alligators are among the native wildlife living in its flatwoods and swamps.

This WMA‘s floodplain encompasses the Crabgrass, Jane Green and Bull Creek systems, and conserves water resources that help prevent floods and enhance ecological functions. The area also contains an entire spectrum of relatively undisturbed plant communities occurring within the upper basin of the St. Johns River.

“Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA was purchased to ensure the conservation of fish and wildlife resources and other natural and cultural resources, and to offer public opportunities for outdoor recreation,” said Dylan Imlah, FWC land conservation planner. “This draft plan will specify how we intend to do that.”

All lands purchased with public funds must have a management plan that ensures the property will be managed in a manner that is consistent with the intended purposes of the purchase. Hunting and fishing regulations are not included in this plan or meeting; those are addressed through a separate public process.

To obtain a copy of the land management prospectus for Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA, call Dylan Imlah at 850-487-9102 or email Dylan.Imlah@MyFWC.com.

For more information and background on management plans and their goals, visit MyFWC.com/Conservation and select “Terrestrial” then “Management Plans.”

For more on the Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA, go to MyFWC.com and select “Wildlife Viewing” then “Wildlife Management Areas.”


Contracted nuisance alligator trappers sought for St. Johns County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program is accepting applications for contracted nuisance alligator trappers in western St Johns County (west of U.S. 1, north of County Road 214).

Applicants must pass a criminal history check, have no fish or wildlife law violations, and possess a valid, working email address.

To learn more about becoming a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and to apply online, visit MyFWC.com/Alligator and click on “Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.” Applications must be received by Thursday, Sept. 27. For more information, email FWCGator@MyFWC.com.

The FWC places the highest priority on public safety. Its Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program addresses complaints concerning specific alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property. People with concerns about an alligator should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). When someone concerned about an alligator calls the Nuisance Alligator Hotline, the FWC will dispatch one of its contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation. The FWC also works diligently to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.


Contracted nuisance alligator trappers sought for southwest Glades County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program is accepting applications for contracted nuisance alligator trappers in Glades County (southwest of Highway 27).

Applicants must pass a criminal history check, have no fish or wildlife law violations, and possess a valid, working email address.

To learn more about becoming a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and to apply online, visit MyFWC.com/Alligator and click on “Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.” Applications must be received by Wednesday, Sept. 26. For more information, email FWCGator@MyFWC.com.

The FWC places the highest priority on public safety. Its Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program addresses complaints concerning specific alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property. People with concerns about an alligator should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). When someone concerned about an alligator calls the Nuisance Alligator Hotline, the FWC will dispatch one of its contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation. The FWC also works diligently to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.


CCA FLORIDA AND DUKE ENERGY PARTNER TO SUPPORT REDFISH POPULATION RECOVERY IN RED TIDE AFFECTED SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Nonprofit-corporate partnership expands to stock the redfish population on Florida’s southwest coast following Florida red tide.

Orlando, FL – September 6, 2018 – Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida)Duke Energy and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have historically partnered on initiatives to enhance Florida’s fisheries, and the organizations are again joining forces to address the loss to the redfish population on the southwest coast as a result of red tide.  The nonprofit CCA Florida, Duke Energy and FWC will be releasing over 10,000 Duke Energy hatchery-reared redfish following the Florida red tide bloom and when waters are determined to be safe, thanks to a donation from the Duke Energy Mariculture Center.

“We’re all aware of the devastation the red tide has caused our fisheries and we’re thrilled to partner with Duke Energy for this amazing redfish stock enhancement initiative,” said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida Executive Director. “We’ve asked our members and anglers throughout the state to catch-and-release, but there’s more that needs to be done, and this partnership - as with our ongoing relationship with Duke - will help to repopulate a fishery that’s iconic to our state.”

The initiative will take place when the waters are determined to be clear of red tide and will include the release of 200 tagged adult (25”-30”) redfish and 10,000 juvenile (4”-6”) redfish into the waters of Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier Counties.

“Duke Energy is committed to environmental stewardship,” said Eric Latimer, Duke Energy Florida Mariculture Center Manager.  “Fish mortalities associated with the current red tide bloom in southwest Florida have broad impacts, both to our state’s interconnected biological systems and to the people that make a living from and enjoy our natural resources.  We are proud to play a small part in the solution by restocking fish that will contribute to the overall restoration of the affected areas.”

"We appreciate the valuable support from CCA Florida and Duke Energy in helping enhance our world class redfish fishery," said Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director.  "This team effort will benefit conservation, outdoor recreation and the state's economy in many ways.

In addition to the stocking enhancement initiative, CCA Florida and FWC are encouraging anglers to help all inshore populations by releasing their catch.  This summer, CCA Florida launched the “Release Them For Tomorrow” campaign as a way to support several species’ growth through catch and release. “It’s going to take everyone doing their part to get our fisheries back to health,” stated Gorski. Anglers are encouraged to share the message by tagging their social media photos, comments and messages with the hashtag #ReleaseThemForTomorrow to show their support.  Anglers can become engaged by joining CCA Florida at JoinCCA.org.  For more information, visit the Facebook page or ccaflorida.org.


FLORIDA CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS PARTNER TO SUPPORT THE RECOVERY OF WEST COAST SNOOK POPULATIONS FOLLOWING RED TIDE EVENT

Coastal Conservation Association Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory launch initiative to enhance the snook fishery on Florida’s southwest coast by stocking 10,000 juvenile snook during a two-year project.

Orlando, FL – September 10, 2018 – Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) is partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote) to address the loss to the snook population on the southwest coast as a result of the red tide event.  

The two-year initiative includes raising and releasing 10,000 hatchery-reared juvenile snook along Florida’s southwest coast and will launch in April 2019 following the Florida red tide bloom and when waters are determined to be safe.  Fundraising for the program, a cost of over $440,000, will include outreach to the community through an Adopt-A-Snook program and the formation of additional private-nonprofit partnerships.

“Anyone who lives or fishes the southwest coast understands the devastation our fisheries are seeing from this red tide, and it’s our duty to address the issue,” said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida Executive Director.  “Snook are an iconic fish to our state, and we are extremely excited and honored to partner with FWC and Mote to help recover this fishery and enhance it for future generations.”

Snook are one of the most sought after catches by anglers in southwest Florida, and they return to the same beaches to spawn annually during summer.  Unfortunately, summer was also a peak time for red tide toxins along the beaches of Gasparilla and Little Gasparilla Islands. 

“The continuing impacts of red tide in southwest Florida are evident to all of us who call these communities our home,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory.  “One of the potentially most devastating and highly visible impacts around Charlotte Harbor was to the spawning snook population.  Many of the dead snook were laden with eggs to produce the next generation.  Governor Scott and our partners at FWC quickly called on Mote and provided our fisheries scientist with the resources to conduct a rapid snook population impacts assessment, but much more needs to be done to ensure the recovery of this iconic species.  That is why we are proud to partner with our colleagues at CCA Florida and FWC to launch the Adopt-A-Snook partnership for red tide recovery.”

With support and partnership from CCA Florida and FWC, Mote will locate and restock juvenile snook to specific, tidal-creek “nurseries” that would usually be supplied by spawning aggregations hit hard by the bloom.  Each of the hatchery-reared snook will be tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to allow Mote scientists to monitor and track the progress of the juveniles throughout the study, which includes monthly stocking efforts designed to elevate the system towards its carrying capacity.  Decades of intensive snook aquaculture and sustainable stock enhancement research provides the ability for the State of Florida to rapidly respond through this partnership effort to a significant impact from red tide.

Mote’s experimental work has shown that the abundance of juvenile snook can nearly double in underutilized nursery habitats through stocking 10-month-old juveniles.  In addition, ongoing Mote studies in Sarasota County suggest that tagged, juvenile snook find some degree of refuge from red tide in tidal creek and riverine environments with fresher water less conducive to the red tide alga, Karenia brevis. 

Governor Scott said, “As our communities continue to be impacted by this year’s red tide, we have provided all available resources for response and recovery.  I’ve directed $9 million in grant funding for local communities as well as funding for Mote Marine Laboratory to assist in animal rescue efforts and funding for VISIT FLORIDA to help businesses recover.  We will continue to do everything we can to support our coastal communities that are being impacted.”

“We appreciate the leadership and support of Governor Scott to increase our efforts to help the communities affected by naturally occurring red tide,” stated FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton.  “FWC and Mote have a decades-long partnership with snook research and recovery, and we are pleased to be a partner with CCA Florida, Mote and the community to enhance this effort.”

In addition to the stocking enhancement initiative, the organizations are encouraging anglers to help the snook and other inshore populations by releasing their catch.  This summer, CCA Florida launched the “Release Them For Tomorrow” campaign as a way to support several species’ growth through catch and release, including snook. “It is going to take everyone doing their part to get our fisheries back to health,” stated Gorski.  Anglers are encouraged to share the message by tagging their social media photos, comments and messages with #ReleaseThemForTomorrow to show their support.  Anglers can become engaged by joining CCA Florida at JoinCCA.org. For more information visit the Facebook page or ccaflorida.org.

 

Contact:

CCA Florida: Teresa Donaldson | 407.923.3530 | tdonaldson@ccaflorida.org

Mote Marine Laboratory: Stephanie Kettle | 941.302.4997 | skettle@mote.org

 

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The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) was founded in 1977 after drastic commercial overfishing along the Texas coast decimated redfish and speckled trout populations.  One of 19 state chapters, CCA Florida became the fifth state chapter in 1985.  A 501(c)3 non-profit, the purpose of CCA is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources.  Through habitat restoration projects, water quality initiatives and fisheries advocacy, CCA Florida works with its over 18,000 members including recreational anglers and outdoor enthusiasts to conserve and enhance marine resources and coastal environments.  Join the conversation on Facebook or learn more at ccaflorida.org.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)3 research institution founded in 1955. Mote began and flourished through the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family.
Today, Mote is based in Sarasota, Florida, with five campuses stretching from Sarasota to the Florida Keys. Mote has more than 20 world-class research programs studying oceans locally to internationally, with an emphasis on conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing the Lab's research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at mote.org.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s mission is to conserve fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. Florida’s fish and wildlife belong to the people of Florida, and the FWC is entrusted to take care of these precious resources. The FWC protects and manages more than 575 species of wildlife, over 200 native species of freshwater fish and more than 500 native species of saltwater fish while balancing these species' needs with the needs of approximately 19 million residents and the millions of visitors who share the land and water with Florida's wildlife. Learn more at myfwc.com.


FWC aiming to remove Northern African pythons in south Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking for the public’s help with continuing efforts to locate and remove nonnative Northern African pythons in south Florida.

The Northern African python (also called an African rock or rock python) has been documented living in the Bird Drive Recharge Area, which covers approximately 6 square miles in western Miami-Dade County. Unlike Burmese pythons, the Northern African python population is thought to be confined to a small area in a single county.

“Recently, the FWC received a report of a large Northern African python found and killed in a vacant lot on the corner of SW 144th Ave. and 26th St./Coral Way near Kendall West in early July,” said Sarah Funck, nonnative fish and wildlife program coordinator for the FWC. “We are asking residents and visitors in this area to report sightings of these large constrictors as soon as they see them. The more reports we receive, the more likely we will be successful in removing these nonnative snakes from the wild.”

In Florida, the average size of a Northern African python is 10 feet in length, posing a threat to human safety and native wildlife. They can grow up to 20 feet in length in their native range.

How to help

  • Immediately report any sightings of live Northern African pythons to the the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681). Include a picture if possible.
  • Report past sightings, roadkill[, shed skins and other remains of Northern African pythons to Ivegot1.org. External Website
  • If you own land in the identified area where this species lives, allow wildlife managers to search for pythons on your property.
  • Deter pythons from your property by cutting back vegetation, clearing debris and securing small pets.

The FWC listed the Northern and Southern African pythons as conditional species in 2010, with the result that an individual may no longer legally acquire these species in the state for personal pets.

While Northern African pythons are very similar in appearance to Burmese pythons, the skin pattern on their backs is less defined. Additionally, the belly scales of a Northern African python are a pattern of black and white markings, while those of the Burmese python are white.

To learn more about the Northern African python, go to MyFWC.com/Nonnatives then select “Reptiles” and look under “Snakes.”

Learn more about the FWC’s efforts to manage and minimize the impacts of nonnative species on Florida’s fish, wildlife and marine life at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.


Hunter safety internet-completion courses offered in four counties in September

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in four counties in September (list follows).

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The locations and times are:

Franklin County
Sept. 15 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT)
Franklin County School
1250 U.S. Highway 98 in Eastpoint 

Jefferson County
Sept. 22 (8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT)
Jefferson Correctional Institution
1050 Big Joe Road in Monticello 

Walton County
Sept. 9 (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT)
Walton County Sportsman Association Inc.
955 Smith Road in DeFuniak Springs 

Washington County
Sept. 22 (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT)
Hard Labor Creek Shooting Sports
2131 Clayton Road in Chipley

Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Panama City at 850-265-3676.


Hunter safety internet-completion courses offered in October

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in nine counties during October (list follows).

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The dates and times are:

Alachua
Oct. 6 (8 a.m. until complete) Gainesville 

Baker
Oct. 6
(8 a.m. until noon) Macclenny and (1 p.m. until complete) Lake City 

Oct. 27
(8 a.m. until noon) Macclenny and (1 p.m. until complete) Lake City 

Citrus
Oct. 6 (9 a.m. until complete) Lecanto 

Clay
Oct. 4 (6 to 9 p.m.) Green Cove Springs and Oct. 6 (8 a.m. until complete) Graham

Oct. 11 (6 to 9 p.m.) Orange Park and Oct. 13 (8 a.m. until complete) Graham

Oct. 18 (6 to 9 p.m.) Keystone Heights and Oct. 20 (8 a.m. until complete) Graham 

  Columbia
Oct. 13 (8 a.m. until complete) Lake City 

 Oct. 27 (8 a.m. until complete) Lake City 

Duval
Oct. 11 (6 to 9 p.m.) and Oct. 13 (8:30 a.m. until noon) Jacksonville 

Hamilton
Oct. 26 (6 to 9 p.m.) White Springs and Oct. 27 (10 a.m. until noon) Lake City 

Madison
Oct. 20 (noon until complete) Madison 

Nassau
Oct. 6
(8 a.m. until noon) Callahan and (1 to 4 p.m.) Bryceville 

The specific locations for these classes will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.


Hunter safety course offered in October for Lafayette County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering a free traditional hunter safety course for Lafayette County in Mayo Oct. 6-7 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.  

All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times. Students must attend all sessions to receive their certificate.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The specific location for this class will be given to those who register in advance. Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.


Bay scallop season closes Sept. 11 in Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County

Photo gallery: http://bit.ly/2BM92Mz External Website

The 2018 recreational bay scallop season for Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County closes Sept. 11 with the last day open to harvest being Sept. 10. This includes Steinhatchee and all state waters from the Suwannee River to the Fenholloway River.

Share your input

These season dates are for 2018 only. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be working toward creating a more permanent season structure in the near future.

Share your comments on what you would like to see for a future season structure at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. The FWC is very interested in understanding whether the public prefers regional differences in the season dates or a consistent season across the harvest area, as well as what season dates work best for various regions. Public feedback will be an important factor for determining whether further changes are needed when making a decision about the long-term season dates.

Citizen Science

Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallops. External Website Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants may email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.

Learn more about long-term abundance trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,”  “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”

Other 2018 Season Dates

Additional bay scallop season dates for 2018 are as follows:

  • St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County: Aug. 17 through Sept. 30. This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
  • Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
  • Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters south of Alligator Pass Daybeacon #4 near the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County to the Hernando/Pasco county line.
  • Pasco County: A trial 10-day season was held July 20-29.

2018ScallopZoneMap.jpg

Map of 2018 seasons.


Tips to improve your bow season


By Tony Young 

The 2018-19 hunting season is already underway in south Florida’s Zone A, and will soon be opening in the other three hunting zones. To make the most of your time afield, Becky Shuman, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) assistant deer program coordinator and biologist, offers the following tips about deer and hunting on Florida’s wildlife management areas.

“Before I ever set foot on a potential hunting area, I like to look at aerial imagery to find transitional zones between different habitat types,” Shuman said. “Deer like to bed during the day in areas with dense vegetation and move out into more open areas at night to feed. The edge between these habitats is a good place to catch deer heading to and from feeding areas at dusk and dawn.”

After Becky pinpoints a couple of spots she wants to scout, she checks it out on foot.

“I look for all types of deer sign – well-used game trails, tracks, scat, buck rubs External Website and scrapes,” Shuman said. “You can tell a lot about the deer in the area without even using a game camera. Rubs not only indicate that bucks are in the area, but a line of them all on one side of the tree show the direction the buck was walking. Scrape lines also can indicate direction of movement, and the size of the scrape often correlates with the number of bucks using the area.”

Once she finds a spot that has a lot of deer sign, she then looks for the right tree to hang her stand.

“I look for a straight mature tree with some vegetation in front and behind it to break up my silhouette,” Shuman said. “I then can do a quick internet search to learn what the predominant wind direction is for that area in the fall and winter and position my stand so that it is downwind from where I think the deer are coming from. I also make tree stand safety External Website a priority and inspect my tree stand, all safety devices and my fall-arrest system/full-body harness before each use.”

Florida has one of the largest WMA systems in the country at nearly 6 million acres. There’s a lot of opportunity and you can make hunting Florida’s public land even more rewarding by following this advice.

“Take the time to scout an area before the season opens, and try getting off the beaten path,” Shuman said. “With some of our WMAs, areas near roads and trails can get crowded, especially on weekends. Spending the extra time and effort to find the more remote locations can really pay off and add to your overall hunting experience.”

WMAs that don’t require a quota permit

Florida’s WMAs offer a wide range of hunting opportunities from quota/limited entry hunts, special-opportunity hunts, and public hunting areas where hunters can walk on to hunt. There are 59 public hunting areas statewide where hunters don’t need a quota permit to hunt some or all of the archery season. So, if you didn’t apply or get drawn for an archery quota hunt, don’t worry, ’cause there’s still plenty of hunting opportunity spread throughout the state. You can find those WMAs not requiring a quota permit during archery season at the bottom of this webpage: MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures.

To help you get ready, the FWC manages archery and shooting ranges across the state. Information on these public ranges is at MyFWC.com/Ranges. Also, the FWC offers a bowhunter education course and some classes are still available this fall. You can register and get more information about this course at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.

For those new to hunting, you can get information about how to get started at MyFWC.com/NewHunter. Another great resource for teens and young adults is Bowhunting360.com. External Website This website features articles and videos on stuff like how to shoot, hunting basics, scouting, shot placement and field dressing. It even has a bowhunting 101 checklist. External Website

Bow season and the rut – best times to hunt

Besides hunting the rut, early bow seasons provide a great opportunity to take a mature whitetail and are among the best times to do so. In northwest Florida, bow seasons offer a different experience because bucks are still hangin’ out in their bachelor groups. Historically, during September the rut is in full swing southeast and west of Lake Okeechobee, and in the counties of Dixie, Levy, Nassau, Duval and St. Johns, so you really have an advantage when hunting there. Find out when the deer rut where you hunt by checking out the FWC’s updated rut map at MyFWC.com/Deer.

If you’ve followed some of Becky’s advice by doing your preseason homework External Website and hunt a favorable wind, you have a good chance of success. Early in the season, before deer are subjected to significant hunting pressure, they are more active during daylight hours.

Season dates by zone

The boundary line between zones A and C begins at the Gulf of Mexico and runs northeast through Charlotte Harbor and up the Peace River until it intersects with State Road 70. The line then follows S.R. 70, running east until it meets U.S. 441 north of Lake Okeechobee. It then follows U.S. 441 south, where it proceeds around the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. The line then turns off U.S. 441 and onto S.R. 80 and runs just a few miles before turning east and following County Road 880, running just a few miles before joining back up with U.S. 98/441/S.R. 80/Southern Boulevard until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. Archery and crossbow seasons south of that line started July 28 in Zone A.

This year, archery and crossbow seasons in Zone B start Oct. 13. Zone B’s northern boundary line is S.R. 50, the eastern border is U.S. 441 and the Kissimmee Waterway, the southern boundary is S.R. 60 and the western boundary is Interstate 75.

The line that divides zones C and D begins at U.S. 27 at the Florida-Georgia state line (in Gadsden County) and runs south on U.S. 27 until it meets S.R. 61 in Tallahassee. From there, it follows S.R. 61, running south until it hits U.S. 319. There, the line follows U.S. 319, continuing south to U.S. 98; it then runs east along U.S. 98 until it gets to the Wakulla River, where the river becomes the line, heading south until it meets the St. Marks River and continues going downriver until it meets the Gulf.

If you hunt west of that line, you’re in Zone D, where archery and crossbow seasons begin on Oct. 20 this year. In Zone C (east of that line), archery and crossbow seasons open Sept. 15.

License and permit requirements

Before you go, you need to make sure your license and required permits are up to date. To hunt during archery season, you may hunt only with a bow and you must have a Florida hunting license and an archery permit. During crossbow season, you may use either a crossbow or bow, but you must have a crossbow permit along with your hunting license. On WMAs, only hunters with a persons with disabilities crossbow permit are allowed to use crossbows during archery season. If you’re a Florida resident, an annual hunting license costs $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for 12 months. Archery and crossbow permits are $5 each, and all deer hunters must have the $5 deer permit.

Anyone planning on hunting one of Florida’s many WMAs must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. And don’t forget to study up on the rules and regulations for the area you wish to hunt. You can download these brochures at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures.

You can obtain all the licenses and permits you’ll need at a county tax collector’s office, any retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. External Website

But if you’re 15 years old or younger, 65 or older or have a resident persons with disabilities hunting and fishing certificate, you’re exempt from needing any of these licenses and permits.

Legal to take

During archery season and that part of crossbow season that runs concurrent with archery, you may take legal-to-take bucks (as defined by the regulations within the Deer Management Unit you’re hunting in) and antlerless deer, which are does and bucks with less than 5-inch antlers. You may never take spotted fawns. After archery ends, during the remaining portion of the crossbow season, you may only take legal-to-take bucks according to the specific DMU antler rules. The daily bag limit on deer is two. Bag limits for deer on WMAs can differ, so check the specifics of the area before you hunt.

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

In addition to hunting big game, it’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys during archery and crossbow seasons, assuming you have a turkey permit ($10 for residents, $125 for nonresidents) or are exempt from the permit requirement. You may take two turkeys in a single day on private lands, but the two-bird combined fall-season limit still applies. The daily bag is one on WMAs, however, on many of them, you may take hen turkeys during the archery season. It’s against the law to hunt turkeys in Holmes County in the fall, and it’s illegal to shoot them while they’re on the roost, when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when bait is present or with the aid of recorded turkey calls.

Additional regulations you need to know

All bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds, and hand-held releases are permitted. For hunting deer, hogs and turkeys, broadheads must have at least two sharpened edges with a minimum width of 7/8 inch.

As far as legal shooting hours go, you’re allowed to let your arrow fly between a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset. Except for turkeys, you’re permitted to take resident game over feeding stations on private property. It’s against the law to use bait on WMAs.

You may not use dogs to hunt deer or turkeys, but you may use bird dogs if you’re quail hunting. To help you trail any wounded game, you may use a dog on a leash.

Happy hunting!

Here’s hoping your preparation and persistence pay off and wishing you a great hunting season. To keep informed of hunting opportunities and regulation changes, follow our “HuntFlorida” social media pages at Facebook.com/HGM.FWC External Website and YouTube.com/HuntFloridaTV, External Website and sign up to receive the monthly Hunting Hot Sheet. As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see you in the woods!


FWC hosts iguana technical assistance workshop in Miramar

Photos available at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmbY6FaP

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a public technical assistance workshop regarding iguanas in Miramar. 

The workshop will be held on Sept. 13 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Miramar City Hall at 2300 Civic Center Place, Miramar, FL 33025. 

Workshop participants will learn how to discourage iguanas from their property and about legal removal options and regulations pertaining to the species. FWC biologists will also provide hands-on instruction with live traps. 

Green iguanas and black spiny-tailed iguanas are large, nonnative lizards that have reproducing populations in south Florida. These reptiles can be a nuisance to homeowners by damaging landscape plants and gardens, leaving droppings in yards and pools, and causing property damage by digging burrows. 

“Homeowners that live in this area interact with iguanas every day and have reached out to the FWC for advice on what to do,” said Sarah Funck, who leads the FWC’s Nonnative Fish and Wildlife Program. “These workshops will help empower homeowners to manage this nonnative species on their own property.” 

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


Gag grouper fall season opens in Gulf 4-county region

The Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will be open for harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

The season for all other Gulf state and federal waters is June 1 through Dec. 31.

The minimum size limit for gag grouper is 24 inches total length, and the daily bag limit is two fish per harvester within the four-fish grouper aggregate bag limit. Charter captains and crew have a zero bag limit.

Learn more at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Groupers.”