We are fortunate to reside in an area where Mother Nature and her species can be observed by visitors. The South Florida wildlife guide below is designed to introduce you to Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers’ local inhabitants and provide tips on their preservation, as well as your protection!
Seashells – With one of the world’s most famous shelling destinations in our backyard shelling is encouraged! The mollusks, clams, sand dollars and starfish that inhabit our shores are living and should be left untouched by penalty of law. Be sure to only take those seashells that are empty of their previous tenants. The best way to clean these treasures is by soaking the shells in a diluted bleach solution, please do not clean seashells in the kitchen/bathroom sinks or tubs as the sand can quickly cause plumbing issues.
Wildlife – The coast of SW Florida is teeming with a variety of wildlife species (birds, alligators, snakes, lizards, etc.). Please respect these species and their environment by avoiding disturbance. Do not feed the wildlife and be sure to keep a safe distance. It is important to remain mindful of refuse as this can be EXTREMELY harmful to wildlife, make sure all trash is properly disposed of. Tips to reduce harm:
- Soda can 6-pack plastic holder – cut the openings to ensure an animal cannot get plastic stuck around itself.
- Fishing line – cut line into 6” strands to avoid tangling and properly dispose of in a trash receptacle.
- Plastic grocery bags – avoid bringing these to the beach/coastal areas as they can appear as jellyfish in the water and can mistakenly be consumed by another species.
Stingray Season – Every April through October stingrays tend to come closer to shore for the warmer water to mate. They will bury themselves in the sand to camouflage themselves from predators but this also makes them harder for us to see as well! Be sure to do the ‘stingray shuffle’ when entering the water by shuffling your feet instead of taking steps, this will scare off any stingrays in the shallows.
Sea Turtle Nesting – May through October is the season for sea turtles to come ashore for nesting here on our Gulf beaches. Sea turtle nests are typically marked on the beach so it’s important to leave these areas undisturbed. If you are lucky enough to catch the hatchlings making the trek back to the sea be sure to not interrupt their journey with camera flashes or flashlights, they follow the moon’s glow back to the water and this is a very important part of their survival.
Red Tide – This natural, annual algae occurrence happens when natural conditions are right, the organism can form blooms off the coast producing a toxin that can affect the central nervous systems of fish and wildlife, and can cause respiratory irritation in humans.
Mosquitoes and No-see-ums – These pests are very prominent in the tropics and can cause red, itchy bumps on the skin. No-see-ums are tiny enough to come through balcony screening so it is extremely important to keep the doors closed and your skin covered to avoid them entering the unit. Mosquito spray or repellants containing DEET are most effective for discouraging these insects to land on skin. If bitten, the bites can be treated with calamine lotion or anti itch cream and will disappear in a few days to a week.