Sunday, June 28, 2009
This amazing video shows a young black bear nearly stepping on a very large timber rattlesnake, oblivious to the danger at its feet. Only when retracing its steps does it finally see the snake, and its reaction is much the same as mine would be! It makes me wonder how often I've come close to snakes like this one without ever knowing it. The thought might be unsettling, but on the other hand, the snakes' behavior is somewhat comforting.
The people who made this video had been watching the snake for several days. From the context of other videos, it appears to be near a corn feeder that has attracted a variety of wildlife, including rodents. Go to their website for further webcam documentation of this impressive but unlucky snake striking at and missing an adult bear (self defense) plus a gray squirrel and a chipmunk (feeding attempts).
Note: If you're ever around such a grain feeder that's in use during the warm season, watch your step--they really are snake magnets, and don't count on every rattlesnake being so magnanimous!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
In a follow-up to yesterday's Florida turtle news item, here's a screen shot from the website of Fox News' Hannity's America:
This is quote mining, and it's as far as you can get from fair and balanced. There is a wealth of information out there on the ecopassage, as well as documentation of accidents related to turtles (including one that flipped through a windshield), but Hannity seizes on the "flying turtle" thing and milks it for all he can.
"But our personal favorite is the "eco-passage" being created in Florida that will allow turtles to pass under the highway safely. It will only cost you $3.4 million.
The Florida Department of Transportation defend this project on the grounds that, "A lot of turtles are quite large. They get hit by a car and they turn into flying objects."
I'm not so sure. If you live in the world of Mario Kart, maybe that's a scenario worth planning for. But I think those of us in the real world can save our money for more realistic dangers."
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
For a decade, Matt and other volunteers have maintained a temporary fence along Lake Jackson that keeps thousands of turtles and other wildlife from crossing US Highway 27 near Tallahassee, directing them to large culverts that already exist beneath the road, but a permanent solution has been greatly needed, not only for the turtles but for public safety. Last November, through Matt's tireless efforts, the local regional transportation planning agency unanimously voted to prioritize the proposed Lake Jackson Ecopassage, making it eligible for Transportation Enhancement funds. Later, funds from the stimulus package were directed toward the project.
This looked like a win-win, for turtles, conservationists, motorists, and people needing work. But because it's been re-branded by its detractors as just a "13-foot turtle tunnel," it's a perfect target for politicians who care more about votes than facts. It's all over the news today. My Google search of "Aresco" and "Coburn" just turned up 162 news items, mostly neutral or unfavorable. But Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post gets it right:
So true. The column goes on describe the real problems of large turtles on a heavily traveled roadway, and then says:
"Why did the turtle cross the road?" read the pithy report Coburn issued today. "To get to the other side of the stimulus money."
The Lake Jackson wildlife "ecopassage" got the notoriety being Item No. 5 in Coburn's list of 100 foolish uses for stimulus money.
But it's too bad nobody from his office bothered to talk to Matthew Aresco first.
"It's an easy target," Aresco said. "But when you understand the project and what's at stake, you would support it."
Hang in there, Matt.
There's a simple and relatively cheap solution: a low wall on the side of the road that funnels the lake creatures to three culverts under the roadway for safe crossing.
Aresco's crusade for this has resulted in a not-for-profit group with a Web site (www.lakejacksonturtles.org), a grant of land from a donor and widespread support from the local community and the state Department of Transportation, which has endorsed the $3.4 million project.
Yet, Coburn's report has painted the project as a fly-by-night government boondoggle, claiming that a temporary fabric fence Aresco put there adequately "saves a lot of our four-legged friends."
Aresco doesn't think so.
"They don't understand the project," he said. "They just put it down without knowing anything about it."