From A Child’s Perspective

Most of us remember spending our lazy childhood days of summer playing outside all day returning only to grab a bite for lunch or a popsicle to cool off. We were relatively free to experience our natural world through exploration in a vacant lot, playground, field or stream. We were not afraid to reach out and touch creatures that we found and really observe them up close.  Our only concern was running home before the street lights came on and before dinner was on the table.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for most children these days. It is widely accepted in the medical community that unstructured outdoor play has many physical, cognitive and social benefits. Reduced obesity and stress, higher IQ’s and creativity, less aggressiveness and increased happiness are just a few of the benefits children and adults derive from submersion and immersion in nature. However, most parents are hesitant to let their kids experience this kind of freedom. Concerns over safety, busy schedules and lack of natural areas to explore contribute to this “nature deficient.”

 But, we can still experience our natural world without fear.  Florida still has many areas in which to immerse ourselves. Take some time this summer to get out and enjoy a walk around your neighborhood, visit a local or national park or come and experience what the Sawgrass Nature Center has to offer. You may be surprised what is in your own backyard wilderness.


Wildlife brings back small memories

baby squirrel alzheimers

One of our squirrel Foster Moms, Barbara Curtis, had a wonderful story to relate. She had a woman come to her home who suffered from Alzheimer’s. As we all know, this is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior, and a disease which is also very difficult on the patient’s family.
The woman sat next to her husband during the visit. Barbara needed to feed and toilet her squirrel and went into the next room. Unbeknownst to her, she was followed by the woman. When the woman saw what she was doing, she became very animated and reached out to the animal. The husband had followed the woman and when he saw how she was reacting, was overcome with joy. This was the first time he had seen his wife with such life and joy in her in quite some time. As it turns out, she had been a wildlife rehabber in earlier years. Seeing the squirrel must have just touched that bit of remaining memory.

Species Spotlight: KNIGHT ANOLE

Knight Anoles, native to Cuba, are being spotted more and more throughout South and Southwest Florida. Larger than the green and brown anoles most Floridians are familiar with, Knight Anoles can reach 13 to 20 inches in length (they are often thought to be small iguanas). They are bright green with a yellow or white stripe over the eye and the shoulder. Eating primarily insects and small lizards, they also sometimes prey upon frogs and nestling birds.
While little can be done to control them once they become locally-established, homeowners and landscapers should be aware of this species to avoid spreading them to new locations.  Audubon Florida encourages the use of IveGot1 to report sightings of Knight Anoles to help track their spread.
You can help early detection and tracking efforts by reporting any non-native species you see online or using your smartphone (call 1-888-IVE-GOT-1 if you have a live animal in front of you).
©Audubon Florida

P3 Eco-Challenge winner SNC volunteer Rachel

 About the P3 Eco-Challenge

The Broward PEco-Challenge engages and rewards traditional BCPS schools, teachers, students, administrators, and volunteers in learning about and implementing environmentally sustainable measures and green initiatives within their schools and communities.

This initiative is a multi-divisional and organizational effort that supports STEM programs in our schools.  STEM and Instructional Resources Department of Instruction and Interventions Division, Physical Plant Operations Division, and Information Technology Department of BCPS, and their partners, Broward County Natural Resources Planning and Management Division and the Environmental Education Council of Broward County are operating as partners to execute this initiative.

she won first place!

Students – Elementary
Trophy Rachel Supnick Manatee Bay Elementary eReader, Watch Out, Ivybook

her teacher also won!

Educator- Elementary

Runner-Up certif. Andrea Perez Manatee Bay Elementary eReader, 1 Red & Blue Sciencesaurus, Gardening for Grades book, Watch Out, Ivybook

Her School was also nominated

Manatee Bay Elementary School Wacky Wild Science Program


Volunteer Recognition from the Friends of Music

Stacia has been volunteering with the SNC for 3 years. Her range of support has been incredibly diverse. She has attended wildlife rehabilitation classes and learned so much that she often substitutes for our rehabbers when they are out. She also volunteers in the hospital weekly and fosters wild baby mammals at home with round the clock feedings.

Stacia took a grant writing class and sought out grants that would benefit both the SNC and foster volunteerism in her 9 year old daughter Rachel. Stacia has also chaired the Volunteer Craft Fair and the Thred Up clothing drive, both of which made funds for the SNC’s operating account, and she helps at all special events.

Last, but not least, she is an ambassador for the SNC.  As is often the case with those with the passion, her volunteerism became a family affair with daughter Rachel and husband Lonnie participating also. She has also involved Rachel’s school in support of the SNC.

Congratulations Stacia!

Volunteer Recognition Awardee Stacia Supnick

Florida’s Threatened Gopher Tortoise at SNC

Florida’s Gopher Tortoises are “Threatened”

Gopher Tortoise

 There are 5 young Gopher Tortoises at the Sawgrass Nature Center in Coral Springs.  You can see these youngsters in the lobby of the administration building.

 Gophers can live for more than 40 years. There is a Gopher tortoise now living in Halifax, Nova Scotia that is 70+ years old.

 Gophers are native to all the southeastern states. They can be found in rural and urban areas. They are not good swimmers, so they live on land and like to dig large deep burrows. These burrows can be up to ten feet deep and 40 feet long, and are as wide as the length of the tortoise that made it.

In addition to providing the tortoise a home, the burrows are also used by a range of other species including the indigo snake, Florida mouse, gopher frog and burrowing owl. Gopher tortoises are referred to as a Keystone Species because they share these burrows with more than 350 other species. In Florida, the gopher tortoise is listed as “Threatened”. Both the tortoise and its burrow are protected under state law.


Come to the Sawgrass Nature Center and tour the facility, be sure and stop in the administration building where you can see these gopher tortoises.  While there you can pick up information about  other events such as our Spring, Summer and Winter “CAMP WILD”. Learn about our NATURE EXPLORER PROGRAM and how to become a volunteer at the center.



The Three Owlets

The Three Owlets

A call came into the center Sunday, Feb. 16th from a woman who discovered 3 owlets in the trunk of a dead palm tree that her husband had just cut down. She wanted to bring the babies to the center, but I asked her to send photos of the babies as well as the cut down tree & her yard.  From her description, & the photos of the owlets, I discerned that they were nestling/fledgling screech owl babies. I was also able to see that there were no other trees in her yard but there were several in the neighbor’s yard which was directly behind hers.  I asked her if she would consider borrowing a nest box from us and asking the neighbor in back if he would let us hang it from one of his trees. Since they had just cut down the tree that morning, I felt that there was a good chance that the mother owl would return to find her babies. Both finder & neighbor agreed to hang the box.

3 baby screech owls

I called Monica from the Humane Unit and asked her if she could do me the favor of checking out the condition of the babies & put them into the nest box for the finder. Monica reported that they looked fine and that she had indeed placed them into the nest box.

Each day I called to check on them – but the finder had not seen the mother bird. I asked her to look for owl pellets or any other sign of the mother visiting the nest, but she could not tell.

On Thursday, February 20th -my day off-after climbing over the fence from one yard to the other, I climbed up a ladder, removed the nest box and brought it down to the ground so I could have a look inside.

Three terrified owlets were hunched in one corner of the box but appeared to be ok. I took each one out and gave it a quick check up. I also weighed each baby on my portable scale. I recorded the weights at 90, 95, & 98 grams. To the amusement of the homeowner, I cut up a dead mouse that I had brought along & fed some to each baby. I also gave them some oral fluids. Other curious neighbors came out to see the babies as well. The owlets seemed to be in good shape-not thin or down and out. They were, however, covered in bird mites which crawled all over me as I examined them. I placed them back in the box and hung it back up in the tree.

Mama screech owl

On Saturday, February 22nd -my day off- I decided that I would then take them back to the center to raise them myself. My great volunteer Stacia came along with her husband Lonnie and daughter Rachel to help and also to take photos and video. As soon as we went into the yard Rachel spotted the mother owl in a palm tree beside the nest box!

We carefully lowered the box to the ground and checked on the babies. We weighed them again and recorded their weights at 93, 98, & 103 grams. All looked healthy and had gained weight. I treated each with oral Ivermectin and then wrapped them in a towel moistened with mite spray to help rid them of the pests. We cleaned out the box, gave it a light spray of miticide and put in new clean bedding. We then returned them back to the box -while the next-door neighbor also took photos- and hung it back up in the tree.

screech owl weigh

Stacia & I returned that Wednesday and installed a motion activated camera in the nest box. We weighed the owlets-they were 97.5, 98 & 109 grams, and looked healthy & mite free.

We again visited the site that Saturday only to discover that all the owlets were gone and the mother had not been seen since the afternoon before. The camera recorded over 800 ten second videos! Towards the last of the videos it appears that the last of the babies left the nest at around 3am on February 28th. I am so glad that my decision to try to re-nest them was correct; baby animals always have the best chance of survival when they are raised by their parents-and yes, I am still scratching and have red welts all over me from the mites.


Another day in the life of a rehabber.