Education staff member
Two preserves are great places to observe native wildlife at 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden.
Flooded areas from this summer’s rains and nearby clearing for residential development have increased wildlife in the Collier Enterprises South Wetlands Preserve and Vicky C. and David Byron Smith Florida Uplands Preserve.
Animals moving north from the wildlands of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve east of Keewaydin Island also may pass through the garden area, especially, especially overnight.
Garden staff, interns and volunteers have nstalled nine new field cameras that are automatically triggered by heat in motion, so if a warm-blooded animal walks through the camera’s detection range it will snap a photo.
With shy or skittish species in mind, the cameras were designed with an invisible infrared flash to take pictures of nocturnal species under the security of darkness. Funding for these wildlife cameras was generously donated by patrons at the last Swing into Spring Golf Tournament as part of the Fund-a-Garden fundraiser.
So far, wildlife species regularly documented by the new cameras include armadillo, bobcat, coyote, opossum, raccoon and white-tailed deer. While some of these animals are common neighborhood visitors, other species are rarely seen by people. For example, the Florida bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a small (15-25 pounds), secretive felid not commonly observed, yet native to most of the United States. Florida’s bobcats may be misidentified by newcomers because the animals do not grow the fluffy coat seen on bobcats further north. These wild cats may sport various coat colors, from light grey to rufous brown, and speckled or blotchy patterns.
Besides size, the main feature to distinguish a bobcat from a Florida panther is the bobcat’s bobbed tail of five to six inches long. Bobcats are most active at dawn and dusk. One of our staff was lucky to have an early-morning sighting of an adult female bobcat traveling with its young kitten. The feline pair was documented soon after by one of the automatic cameras.
Even with advanced wildlife-sensing technology, plenty of species are able to sneak past cameras undetected. Cold-blooded amphibians, insects and reptiles are less likely to trigger automatic photographs. To learn about these animals, we rely on good, old-fashioned human senses. Back in June, our summer campers sighted hatchling Florida softshell turtles (Apalone ferox) crawling from their nest towards West Lake for their first swim. Once in a while, hikers in the scrub habitat may glimpse a burrowing gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) or a sprightly six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus
Even without visual sightings, we can easily learn about amphibians with our ears. Thanks to frog call surveys by summer intern Ethan Royal, we know wet areas support plenty of grunting pig frogs (Rana grylio), honking green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea), and bleating Eastern narrow-mouthed toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis).
Interested in detecting wildlife at Naples Botanical Garden?
Here are four quick tips to increase your odds:
1) Take advantage of early-bird hours and hike the preserve trails.
2) Bring binoculars.
3) Keep voices soft and movements slow.
4) Be observant and look for animal tracks or other signs.
If you encounter wildlife unexpectedly, slowly back away and allow the animal a clear route to dart into the brush.
Make sure to report your diverse sightings to our staff. With all the land changes taking place in Southwest Florida, your wildlife sighting may be the first of its kind at Naples Botanical Garden.
Address: 4820 Bayshore Dr., Naples, 34112
Phone: 239-643-7275 / 877-433-1874
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Tuesdays 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Admission: Members free, Adults $12.95, Children 4-14 $7.95, 3 and under free