American Alligators, the Florida State Reptile, are common in South Florida — and can even be spotted in some PBC Parks. In this episode of Animal Encounters, Daggerwing Nature Center Manager, Sean Mallee, shares some interesting facts about the American Alligator, including a number of useful adaptations the reptiles have! This episode features Nibbles, an Animal Ambassador at Daggerwing Nature Center.
Dyer Park is a 560-acre regional park located in West Palm Beach. A former landfill, the park features “The Hill” allowing visitors to walk up and around it, and even bike along it! The park allows visitors to experience a unique green space that is not typically found in the flat South Florida landscape. Watch this video to learn more about opportunities for play at Dyer Park!
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Palm Beach County Parks & Recreation Department scored two local spots on a recent list of the nation’s best fishing and boating locales. Lake Osborne in John Prince Park and Okeeheelee Fish Management Area in Okeeheelee Park made the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and its Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns’ 2016 Top 100 Family-Friendly Places to Boat and Fish in the U.S. list. The Top 100 list was released leading up to National Fishing and Boating Week.
Cooperatively managed by the FWC and Palm Beach County, both sites provide great access and good recreational fishing for casual family outings and serious anglers alike. Fishing piers, boat ramps, fish attractors and fish feeders are combined with fish stocking and habitat enhancement to create productive angling that is easy to access. This collaboration allows both agencies to offer better recreational opportunities for their mutual constituents.
“These areas are readily available for residents and visitors alike and are known for producing some great angling opportunities,” said FWC regional Freshwater Fisheries administrator Barron Moody.
Lake Osborne is a 356-acre lake in suburban Lake Worth, with much of the shoreline incorporated in John Prince Park. It is easily accessed via John Prince Park, which offers ample shoreline access, fishing access from piers, and a two-lane paved boat ramp in excellent condition with an additional boat ramp located within the John Prince Lake
Osborne in John Prince ParkPark Campground. The lake provides above-average fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, channel catfish and exotic Mayan cichlid. Other species include black
crappie (specks), sunshine bass stocked by the FWC plus peacock bass. Some outstanding largemouth bass fishing can be found there, with fish exceeding 8 pounds. A brochure with map are at MyFWC.com/fishing, click “Freshwater,” “Sites & Forecasts,” “South Region” and “Lake Osborne.”
Okeeheelee FMA is a 157-acre lake conveniently situated in West Palm Beach. This site offers fishing from the shoreline as well as piers. Okeeheelee FMA contains an abundance of native sunfish and hatchery-raised catfish. The catfish are stocked each year to maintain a steady supply of fish for anglers. FWC fisheries biologist John Cimbaro has been co-managing the lake with Palm Beach County for over 15 years.
“While Okeeheelee bass average less than 14 inches, their abundance here offers plenty of action and fun on light fishing tackle or fly fishing gear,” said Cimbaro. “This is also a perfect spot for someone who is learning to fish for bass to get lots of practice.”
Gasoline motors may not be used on boats at Okeeheelee, making it a peaceful site to fish from kayak or canoe. A brochure with map are at MyFWC.com/fishing, then click on “Freshwater,” “Sites & Forecasts,” “Fish Management Areas” then “Lake Okeeheelee.”
Along with fishing enhancements, both sites offer abundant parking, lakeside trails, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, restrooms and other amenities for a great family trip. Both Okeeheelee and John Prince Park are owned by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department, and ensuring access to beaches and water bodies are a core service of their department.
The RBFF’s Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns held a nationwide vote to provide families with a recommended list of locations to visit. Criteria for these top locales included not only the quality of fishing and boating, but proximity to urban areas for easy access and the presence of amenities that contribute to a fun family outing.
In September, three Gray Fox kits were released into the wild at Palm Beach County’s Okeeheelee Nature Center in Okeeheelee Park, as part of a joint effort between Palm Beach County and the South Florida Wildlife Center.
The Gray Fox Kits
Before arriving at Okeeheelee Nature Center (ONC), the three fox kits were taken in as orphans by the South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC).
Two of the foxes were sisters, arriving at SFWC in May 2015 from Hollywood Hills High School at just a month old and weighing about 300 grams each. They were bright, alert and responsive. The other fox was picked up – also at a month old – from Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in June, having been found at an unknown location in Miami-Dade County. He had a degloving wound on his tail, whereby the skin and fur are essentially torn off the bone. The wound was treated for about a month. All of the foxes were treated for parasites, vaccinated and hydrated.
During their 6-month stay in the rehabilitation facility at SFWC, the foxes learned essential survival skills in their enclosure and were regularly vaccinated. Human contact was very limited to avoid imprinting, which is a serious problem when wild animals become accustomed to humans and lose their fear of people. Imprinted animals cannot be released into the wild and must spend the rest of their lives in captivity.
The Soft Release
The fox kits were 7 months old when they arrived at ONC in September 2015. They were released that same month in an area on the nature center’s 90-acre preserve. The release was coordinated by SFWC’s Release Specialist, Shelby Proie, as well as ONC’s Manager, Callie Sharkey.
The “soft release” process involved putting a temporary enclosure in the area where the fox kits were located, and feeding them for two to three days. During this time, the kits became accustomed to their new surroundings, allowing them to easily establish a territory soon after the doors open.
Wildlife trap cameras were put up inside the enclosure, as well as on a nearby tree in order to track the fox kits’ activities. When the doors opened, the foxes left after about 15 minutes. One fox returned three days later to observe the space, but didn’t stay. Volunteers and staff have seen tracks in the area, but not the actual foxes – which is a very good sign of their successful transition into the wild.
A release of this kind was a first for Okeeheelee Nature Center. Okeeheelee’s pine flatwoods habitat made it an ideal location for the fox release, since it’s reasonably protected and there’s plenty of food for the foxes to hunt and forage to survive on their own.
Okeeheelee Nature Center is owned and operated by the Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation Department and features 2.5 miles of trails winding through 90 acres of pine flatwoods and wetlands. Highlights of the center include hands-on exhibits, animal encounters, and more. Guests can marvel at birds of prey, touch a live snake or prowl for owls during one of the many programs scheduled throughout the year for families, youth and adults.
This was a pre-approved and joint effort by the South Florida Wildlife Care Center, which is affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States. Palm Beach County’s three nature centers DO NOT serve as rehabilitation centers, nor can they accept injured or stray animals on site. Please contact the South Florida Wildlife Care Center directly [954-524-4302] if you find an injured or stray animal.