Guest article by Susan Strawbridge, Park Services Specialist
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will be focusing on Gopher Tortoises and Florida Turtles during the month of July. Early this year, the Wildlife Park started introducing monthly themes featuring natural and cultural resource opportunities in Florida State Parks. In addition to special exhibits in the Visitor Center and in the Education Center, special programs are scheduled on the month’s topic.
Two programs are planned on the theme of tortoises and turtles. The first program will be presented on Friday, July 11, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m. in the Education Center. The audience will hear Dr. Peter A. Meylan from the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust talk about his book entitled “The Biology and Conservation of Florida Turtles” and what he learned by putting the book together. The book was published in 2006 and is an edited volume with chapters on all 25 of the turtle species found in Florida, written by a group of 40 turtle experts.
Dr. Meylan is Richard R. Hallin Professor of Natural Science in the Collegium of Natural Sciences at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he teaches courses in ecology, evolution, zoology, vertebrate anatomy, herpetology, and the ecology of amphibians and reptiles. He is a Research Associate of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, New York), the Bermuda Aquarium (Flatts, Bermuda), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama City, Panama). His research interests include the morphology and phylogeny of turtles, the biology of marine and freshwater turtles, and general herpetology.
On Monday, July 21, 2014, starting at 1:00 p.m., Florida naturalist Jim Bierly will present a program on Gopher Tortoises. Bierly was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and lived there until moving to Citrus County fifteen years ago. He says, “My association with and
interest in Gopher Tortoises began when I was four or five years old. Our neighborhood had several Gopher Tortoises until housing development killed almost all of them in the area.” After moving to Sugarmill Woods, he met several wildlife officials who helped him in the relocation of Gopher Tortoises in the development. He also served on the committee to reclassify the Gopher Tortoise from “A Species of Special Concern” to “Threatened.” Bierly is also interested in native plants and founded the Citrus County Native Plants Society, serving as its President for several years.
Both programs are included in regular park admission, which is $13 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $5 for children ages 6 through 12. Children age 5 and under are admitted free. Come to our programs, and you may enjoy an all-day visit to the Wildlife Park. Learn about our new Florida Panther kitten and see him at a distance, weather permitting.
The Education Center reopened in March after the first phase of restoration was completed on this historic building. The building was the original entrance to Nature’s Giant Fish Bowl and was built in the 1940s. The roof was replaced, and brick work was added to the lower half off the interior walls to protect the building from water damage. The remaining interior walls were repainted.
The Wildlife Puppeteers will be presenting their first puppet show on Saturday, July 12, 2014, starting at 1:00 pm. The puppet show is entitled “Whose Habitat is it Anyway?” starring Tori, a little girl, and her new friend Beary, a Florida Black Bear cub. They meet in Tori’s backyard and learn about each other and how they can better get along and share the habitat.
The Wildlife Park will also be holding their second Wildlife Ranger Camp from July 14 through July 20, 2014, for children ages 10 through 12. For more information on the summer camp, please contact Tricia Fowler at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1006.
As you can see, we have a lot planned for July and encourage you to visit Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to learn about the importance of Florida’s wildlife including Gopher Tortoises and Florida’s Turtles. For more information or to register for the Florida Turtle and/or Gopher Tortoise programs, please call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.