Beach Meditation to Benefit YOU and SCCF Tonight!

Support SCCF while setting your personal intentions under the New Moon!

Please join us tonight, Friday, January 27th, at 5:15 pm. We’ll meditate at Alison Hagerup Beach Park at 14790 Captiva Drive. No previous meditation or yoga experience is required. Yali Zawady of Ambu Yoga leads a guided meditation as the sun sets. Suggested donations of $10-$15 are accepted for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. Please bring a towel or blanket to sit on. Public parking available.

Ambu Yoga is a yoga studio and clothing boutique in South Sea Resort’s Chadwick Square on Captiva Island. They offer a variety of in-studio classes, beach yoga, yoga on the lawn at South Seas Resort and SUP Yoga. Ambu Yoga is a member of the SCCF Business Roundtable and has made significant contributions to SCCF’s mission through its New Moon Meditation Series. Contact info@ambuyoga.com or 239-314-9642 (YOGA) for additional information.

Sonic Sea Film Screening – Evenings at the Homestead Returns!

Join us to view and discuss this award-winning film. Sonic Sea is a moving and provocative 60-minute documentary created by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) about the devastating impact of industrial and military ocean noise on whales and other marine life.

Narrated by Rachel McAdams and featuring Sting, the film offers solutions and hope for a quieter ocean, and underscores that the ocean’s destiny is inextricably bound to our own. We are honored that Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Whale Programme Director, will participate in SCCF’s screening. Patrick played a key role in the production of Sonic Sea, and is the son-in-law of SCCF’s immediate past President Ron Gibson.

Wednesday, February 15 at the Bailey Homestead Preserve, 1300 Periwinkle Way. Advance purchase required by clicking here. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Cost of the program and refreshments is $10 per person. Please carpool if at all possible.

Shorebird Internship 2017

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This position has been filled – thank you for your interest!

Description:

We are seeking one intern to assist the SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Program’s shorebird monitoring project from Feb. 6, 2017 through August 4th, 2017. Primary duties include: Assisting the shorebird biologist, shorebird monitoring and surveys, nest searching, setting up nest area enclosures, interacting with the public, communicating with our team of volunteers, and data entry.  Additionally the shorebird intern will assist with the care and maintenance of several live animal exhibits at our nature center (snakes and aquatic turtles) and may be occasionally required to give presentations about them. The intern will also assist with other departmental projects as needed, including but not limited to: invasive species removal, sea turtle monitoring, bald eagle nest monitoring, small mammal trapping, freshwater fish and invertebrate sampling, frog call surveys, prescribed burns, and vegetation monitoring.  Housing is provided.

Required Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, environmental science, or closely related field
  • Ability and desire to work long, irregular hours (including weekend hours)
  • Ability and desire to work outdoors in adverse conditions (intense heat, biting insects, etc)
  • Ability and desire to interact with the public and give presentations
  • Ability to collect accurate data and enter into Microsoft access and excel databases
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Ability to live in shared housing
  • Ability to lift and carry heavy objects (up to 40 pounds)
  • Must possess a valid driver’s license
  • Willingness to clean and maintain several live animal exhibits (snakes and aquatic turtles)
  • Willingness to learn and assist with other projects as needed

Desired Qualifications:

  • Previous field experience with ground-nesting birds / nest searching
  • Ability to identify and re-sight banded birds
  • Experience with GPS and GIS
  • Willingness to use your personal vehicle for work on occasion (mileage reimbursed)
  • Bird identification skills
  • Experience with public outreach and environmental education

Salary: $200 week/ $400 travel allowance/ housing provided

To apply:  Please send a cover letter, resume, and 3 references to Audrey Albrecht at shorebirds@sccf.org   by December 31st, 2016 (no phone calls please)

Enjoy the Holidays on Conservation 20/20 Preserves

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Lee County voters spoke volumes about continuing the Conservation 2020 program with 84% support for the local referendum.

On this long holiday get outside with your friends and family to discover and experience our fabulous preserves.  And mark your calendars to join  an upcoming guided walk to learn more,  see schedule of upcoming walks and map below.

 

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Your Donations at Work: Protection, Education, and New Programs for Sea Turtles

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For many islanders, May marks the end of the Busy Season. The traffic improves and, for some, thoughts turn to northern homes and summer travels. But for a dedicated group of staff and volunteers at SCCF – those working tirelessly in the Sea Turtle Program – the Busy Nesting Season is just heating up.

The sea turtle season is officially underway and the first nest of the season was laid on April 22nd – what a great marker that was to celebrate Earth Day! We’re coming off a record year for sea turtles on our beaches, with 522 nests laid on Sanibel and 133 nests laid on Captiva in 2015.

Protecting the nesting sea turtles and hatchlings on our beaches would literally not be possible without the tireless efforts of more than 100 SCCF volunteers and a small but dedicated group of staffers. Every morning from April through October, they survey 18 miles of beach. Rain or shine, usually in the company of no-see-ums, they search for tracks that sea turtles might have left behind when emerging from the sea to nest. The discovered nests are staked and then monitored daily until the hatchlings begin crawling to the Gulf. Storms, humans and predators may disturb or destroy the nests, reducing their survival.  After the nests hatch, they are evaluated to determine the number of hatchlings that successfully emerged.

FullSizeRender (2)-2SCCF’s volunteers play a huge role in educating folks on the beach about keeping the beaches safe for nesting sea turtles by turning off lights, removing beach furniture at night, and filling in large holes that could trap turtles. Our volunteers also help to reduce the amount of trash left on the beach. Last year they collected over 800 gallons of trash that could have been ingested by sea turtles and other marine creatures.

In addition to nest protection activities, the sea turtle program also responds to live and dead sea turtles that wash up on the beach, participates in collaborative research projects, and helps monitor beach construction projects. This season, we are very excited and proud to launch our nighttime tagging project that will provide important data for our nesting research on Sanibel and Captiva. This new work will add our local data to the research currently being done by Mote Marine in Sarasota and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Keewaydin Island.

Please consider celebrating the start of Sea Turtle Season by supporting SCCF’s conservation activities. If you have not yet contributed to SCCF’s Annual Fund Drive, your gift will qualify you as a Member in Good Standing for another year. If you have already made a donation this year, we hope you might consider supporting the new Adopt-A-Beach Program to help fund sea turtle monitoring. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

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And for those of you looking for a different way to support SCCF and the sea turtles, you are invited to join Yali Zawady of Ambu Yoga on Friday, May 6 at 7:30pm. She is leading a New Moon Meditation on Alison Hagerup Beach Park at the end of Captiva Drive. Once a month, instead of class fees, Yali accepts donations for the Adopt-A-Beach Program, and an anonymous donor will match your donation. To learn more visit www.ambuyoga.com.

 

 

Your Donations at Work: Interns Make the Difference

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Different groups of people work together to advance SCCF’s mission. They include two dozen staff members, hundreds of volunteers and donors, and – for the next few months, anyway – six terrific interns.

Smiling above from left to right, we are pleased to introduce Alaina Mahn, Chelsea Petrik, Jess McCulloch, Brandt Quirk-Royal, Liz Beans, and Jenna Beyer.

The wildlife biology work being done by Alaina and Chelsea have them monitoring snowy plover nesting, surveying the population sizes of other shorebird and seabird species, and helping with tank talks and the Nature Center’s wildlife displays. Jess and Liz are making a real impact in the continued rollout of the demonstration gardens at the Native Landscapes & Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve. Jenna has been helping the Marine Lab scientists by cultivating tape grass which she then plants in five sites along the Caloosahatchee where its growth and survival is monitored. Brandt has returned and is providing much needed technical support for the Sea Turtle Program, especially because the data collection has skyrocketed along with the nesting activity of the last few years.

Seeing these happy and helpful interns really demonstrates why our members support SCCF’s day to day operations.

donate nowWe look forward to sharing more stories that illustrate how your operating support is making a difference. If you have not yet given to the Annual Fund Drive, please donate today. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

Your Donations at Work: Ensuring No Child is Left on Shore

unnamedSCCF’s environmental educators reach thousands of residents and visitors every year with programs that encourage the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. Of all the educational programs supported through the Annual Fund Drive, the No Child Left On Shore outings are unquestionably among their favorites.

Designed by SCCF educators Kristie Anders and Captiva Cruises’ Richard Finkel and Paul McCarthy, NCLOS is a collaborative outreach project between SCCF and Captiva Cruises, the anonymous “Boat Lady,” the Schlossman Family, and many other supporters of SCCF’s annual operations.

unnamed (1)This program addresses the real need to provide the children of Southwest Florida experiential knowledge of the Caloosahatchee watershed and estuarine environment.  Shrinking school budgets have drastically reduced the number of educational field trips previously funded.  Many Southwest Florida families, especially those with language, cultural, physical and economic barriers, do not have opportunities to get out on the water.  Their children have never held a live sea star, shrimp or snail.  They have never waded in shallow sea grass beds and observed a horseshoe or spider crab. Thanks to No Child Left On Shore’s on-water educational field trips, that is beginning to change.

“This is a fantastic way to foster environmental stewardship that will last a lifetime,” said SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad.

Among the groups on past outings were a youth group from The Immokalee Foundation, YMCA summer campers from Fort Myers’ Dunbar neighborhood, and children from the Brightest Horizons Child Development Center in Harlem Heights.

As Lee County educator Dr. Charles O’Connor wrote after his students joined Richard Finkel on a Cayo Costa field trip:
“Wow, what a fantastic No Child Left On Shore trip! Just a beautiful outing with all types of neat estuarine creatures gracing our day. The dolphin below generated an unusual water halo, just from the speed and power of his watery exit.  We had groups of dolphins cavorting in our wake. Lots of sea creatures in the seine net – lined seahorse, horseshoe crab, striped burr puffer, pinfish, and a menagerie of other critters.”

unnamed (2)Seeing these happy learners really demonstrates why our members support SCCF’s day to day operations.

We look forward to sharing more stories that illustrate how your operating support is making a difference. If you have not yet given to the Annual Fund Drive, please donate today. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

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Your Donations at Work: Providing Scientific Input on the Lake Okeechobee Releases

darkwater2116At SCCF, we know the best way to address the current water quality crisis is by working with like-minded leaders in well-informed cooperation. Your support allows SCCF to inform policy with science.

On February 9, SCCF Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel sent an action alert urging SCCF members to write to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) about the very high volume of dark water and polluted runoff coming down the Caloosahatchee into the estuary waters surrounding our islands.

Captioned RAWOn February 10, Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane — who has also been actively urging Sanibel residents to get involved — convened a meeting of the mayors of Lee County’s six municipalities. Rae Ann was invited to join the elected officials to inform the discussion with science and context for the issues which she has been engaged in for the past 20 years.

Rae Ann and the SCCF Marine Lab scientists coordinate with the City of Sanibel, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and our other regional partners in preparing a weekly Caloosahatchee Conditions Report, that provides a snapshot of local water conditions. Rae Ann prepares the report, which goes to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the SFWMD, Florida Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, our congressional and state legislative delegations, elected County  and City officials and various local stakeholders. The weekly report is science-based, reporting data from SCCF’s RECON water quality sensors and additional targeted sampling by marine lab staff.

On February 11, Governor Scott called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate action to stop the releases of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. By the end of that day, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued orders that allow the state operational flexibility in managing  water.

At the federal level, the U.S. Army Corps pursued a deviation to move water south under Tamiami Trail through the Shark River Slough. These operational changes represent an incremental step in “pulling the plug at the bottom of the system” so the system can operate the way Everglades restoration is intended to work.

Yesterday, on February 15, water had started to move south. With over-saturated conditions throughout the system, it will take weeks to reduce the discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and we feel the impact of these actions.

Whether it’s a local development issue, water management practices, or funding for local water quality projects, there are few others in Southwest Florida who can bring the knowledge and expertise that Rae Ann does to the issues facing our region. We are so grateful to the SCCF members who support her work through their Annual Fund Drive gifts.

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Your Donations at Work: SCCF Restoring Oyster Reefs

Oyster Rest-7693SCCF’s Marine Lab has been working tirelessly to restore historic oyster reefs around Sanibel and Captiva. Oyster reefs are one of the most threatened estuarine habitats in the world. Destruction from overharvesting, dredging to build roads and other structures, and pollution have resulted in the loss of 85% of historic oyster reefs in our estuary. SCCF is making great strides to reverse that loss and protect the estuary that surrounds us.

At the Tarpon Bay site, 56 volunteers working 300 hours joined SCCF Lab scientists who clocked in 46 full staff days on the restoration. Together they transported 63.5 tons of shell to make the reef – that’s 4,100 filled buckets carried on 32 barge trips.

At the San Carlos Bay site, 31 volunteers worked 155 hours alongside Lab staffers who gave 37 full days to the project. When completed, the reef they created contained 45 tons of shell, consisting of 2,973 filled buckets carried on 21 barge trips. Shells were from fossilized oysters, which were then covered with “green” oysters collected from three Sanibel restaurants.

“This is the largest and most well-documented oyster restoration project that has ever been attempted in southwest Florida,” according to SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad. “Two reefs were built entirely by volunteers and staff in Tarpon Bay and San Carlos Bay. Working together, it’s amazing what we can accomplish using lots of buckets, 20-ton dump trucks, and a pontoon barge donated to SCCF by Jensen’s Marina!”oysters-clean-waterSCCF’s work also included building a third reef north of the intercoastal waterway near Merwin Key. All restored reefs will be monitored for oyster density, reef invertebrates, water filtration and acreage size to document our success.

The benefits to oyster restoration are numerous – they are the “ecosystem engineers” of the estuarine world. They create complex habitats that attract fishes and invertebrates and serve as prey and habitat for many other animals. Oyster reefs also filter water, provide shoreline stabilization, enable seagrass growth, and reduce the likelihood of harmful algal blooms. Building these reefs is a great example of why our members support SCCF’s day to day operations.

We look forward to sharing more stories that illustrate how your operating support is making a difference. If you have not yet given to the Annual Fund Drive, please donate today. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

“Critter Tales”: Helping SCCF

IMG_6343Each week programs are presented at the Nature Center on the various species found on the islands. Their purpose is to teach island residents and visitors how to live in harmony with the many types of wildlife we are fortunate enough to have on Sanibel and Captiva.

Some of the popular subjects include bobcats, alligators, plovers, sea turtles, and reptiles. These programs are an excellent way of bringing visitors to SCCF and raising awareness of our mission.

To help, check out our Gift Catalog, that directly funds all our wildlife talks. 

A Fourth Grader’s Perspective – Immersion in Nature

 

4th grade Pick Preserve Field Trip November 2015SCCF’s Pick Preserve, located directly across the street from the Sanibel School, is an ideal setting to incorporate Environmental Education into all facets of classroom curriculum. The Pick Preserve’s nature trail is contiguous with State land managed by the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and is a wonderful example of Sanibel’s interior wetlands and mid-island ridges habitat. Students from The Sanibel School are led through the Pick Preserve by an SCCF Educator who conducts grade specific activities that are integrated with their Teacher’s curriculum. On a recent fourth grade Pick Preserve field trip students wrote about their experience.

A Fourth Grader’s Perspective – Luke Crater

4th Grade Pick Preserve Field Trip November 2015,5The Pick Preserve is a great place to visit. You can see an Eagle, Hawk and a variety of other birds. You can also see aquatic critters such as tadpoles, shrimp, and water bugs. The plants are fascinating as well. There are Gumbo Limbo’s, Strangler Figs, Sea Grapes, and Sabal Palms. The Pick Preserve is quiet and a great animal nursery. When I went I saw birds of all types like Egrets, Hawks, Ospreys, and many more! I saw fish, frogs, shrimp, and other aquatic creatures.

I learned a lot of facts. Did you know that the average level Sanibel is above Sea level is 3.5 feet?

My trip was amazing and your trip can be cool too! The Pick Preserve is a great place to see and observe nature anytime.

A Fourth Grader’s Perspective – Kyle Klaric

Today I got to experience the Pick Preserve industry. In the beginning of the walk we identified trees that hinted we were in high elevation. We saw trees such as Strangler Fig, Gumbo Limbo, Sea Grape, and Cabbage Palm.

After identifying the trees and the importance of them we got into what parts you need to call an area a habitat. We came to figure out that you need food, water, shelter, and space. Our awesome tour guide Mr. Finkel, had us say it super fast so that we remembered it.

We kept on walking along the trail and then got up on a wooden platform overlooking lowland areas. We got into the subject of low land area plants. During the trip we heard sounds of cicadas and learned interesting facts such as the highest elevation of Sanibel is 12 feet. We also learned the Cattail, Leather Fern, and Spartina all are plants that give a descriptive overview that when you see those plants you are in low land areas.

Next, out tour guide put on his boots and went into the wet land areas. He brought us up Fishing Spiders, Tad Poles, and Aquatic Plants and Soils. While doing the activity we saw many birds such as the Red Shouldered Hawk, Osprey, Frigate Bird and Cat Bird. I learned so much at the Pick Preserve Trail and I hope to learn more on my next experience next year!

If you are interested in finding out more about SCCF’s educational programs or to sponsor a SCCF Pick Preserve School Field Trip or No Child Left On Shore field trip contact SCCF at 472-2329.

*Richard Finkel works full time with Captiva Cruises conducting a variety of Natural & Cultural History tours within Pine Island Sound as well as Night Sky Astronomy Cruises. Richard has led Environmental Education programs on behalf of SCCF since 1991 and can be reached at RichardFinkel@captivacruises.com

“Restore Our River”: Helping SCCF

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In order to reduce nutrients in the Sanibel River Slough, SCCF’s Marine Lab scientists are planting sods of submerged grasses on SCCF conservation lands. The interior corridor of Sanibel is the centerpiece of the land acquisition efforts undertaken by SCCF. Sadly, decades of fertilizer application, sewer reclaimed water, and atmospheric deposition from automobiles have led to high nutrient concentrations in the Sanibel River. These efforts to plant submerged grasses will create habitat and move dissolved nutrients from the water to the plants.

To help, check out our Gift Catalog, that directly funds tape grass planting. 

Harmless Watersnakes Often Mistaken on SanCap

Cottonmouth (not found on SanCap) vs. Florida watersnake (harmless, and found on SanCap)

Cottonmouth (not found on SanCap) vs. Florida watersnake (harmless, and found on SanCap)

This time of year usually means high water in the basins on Sanibel. With that, come more frequent observations of snakes by residents and visitors. This is because the wetlands, where several Sanibel snakes call home, become flooded and watersnakes or their relatives need a place to dry out and sun themselves. With no other options, those dry places become backyards, sidewalks, and parking lots. When water levels drop, most aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes retreat to dry areas near the edge of the wetland and out of the way of most people.

Unfortunately with the rise in snake observations due to high water come the reports of “water mocassins” (cottonmouths), a venomous snake in Florida. Sanibel is well within the range of the Florida cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti), however they have never been documented on Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva, Cayo Costa or Pine Island.

Watersnake, not Cottonmouth
The snake that many people are seeing, and unfortunately misidentifying, is the Florida watersnake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris). This is a common snake of the freshwater basins of the island. In brackish and saltwater (mangrove) areas of the islands, that snake is replaced by the mangrove saltmarsh snake (Nerodia clarkia compressicauda). Both of these harmless snakes are unfairly persecuted by people because they are thought to be “mocassins” simply because they are seen in or around water.

This does not ignore the fact that we are in the range of the Florida cottonmouth and it is possible for them to arrive here by swimming across the bay or arriving in shipments of sod/mulch/plants etc. Snakes are a very important part of the many ecosystems on Sanibel. They both eat prey and get eaten by predators as part of the food web. Native snakes should not be harmed, especially on this conservation island.

A major issue is that most people cannot correctly differentiate between the two snakes. Common verbal inaccuracies that I often hear from snake novices are “it had a triangular head,” “it rattled its tail,” “it had a heavy body,” “it was swimming,” etc.  The truth is that most snakes have a triangular shaped head and most exaggerate that triangular shape when they are threatened. Most snakes will rattle their tail, even though they don’t have a rattle, as a false threat. It is true that cottonmouths have a large, heavy build, but well fed watersnakes can also be massive. Finally, all local snakes can swim. There are many misnomers when it comes to snakes — and watersnakes probably experience the worst of that in regards to the cottonmouth.

Here are some key diagnostic features for the Florida watersnake (usually between 2.5- 3.5 ft) as compared to the cottonmouth:

  • Round pupils, as opposed to all venomous snakes in the U.S. with the exception of the coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) which have elliptical pupils (like a cat).
  • Banding is usually reddish with white outlines. The white is usually visible along the lower side of the snake (near the underside), even on dark specimens.
  • The labial scales (upper lip scales) have dark vertical outlines.
  • The body can be highly contrasting or almost solid black, but the banding should still be somewhat noticeable on dark animals.
  • Primarily a freshwater inhabitant.

The mangrove saltmarsh snake (usually 1 – 2.5 ft): (1)

  • Round pupils, as opposed to all venomous snakes in the U.S. with the exception of the coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) which have elliptical pupils (like a cat).
  • Narrow banding (difficult to see in most adults.
  • Variable color forms (black or brown with faded banding, all red or orange, or a blending of those.
  • Primarily a salt water or brackish inhabitant (found in mangrove systems).

The Florida cottonmouth (usually 3 -5 ft) as compared to the nonvenomous watersnakes of Sanibel:

  • Elliptical pupils, like a cat.
  • Wide, non-conformed bands with spots and speckles intermixed.
  • Labial scales not boldly outlined, but can have a pattern.
  • Brown or black bar on each side of the head that hides the eye of the snake (common to most rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths).
  • Mostly freshwater but also inhabits saltwater in north Florida.

Diamondback rattlesnake found on Sanibel Causeway – Taken back to Pine Island

Juvenile Eastern Diamondback (taken back to Pine Island)

Juvenile Eastern Diamondback (taken back to Pine Island)

On October 1, 2015, a juvenile eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) was found by Lee County staff and brought to CROW from the Sanibel Causeway. The last documented eastern diamondback rattlesnake on Sanibel was in 1996. They are  currently considered extirpated on the island, but they still occur on two other large islands in Pine Island Sound (Cayo Costa and Pine Island). Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and eastern indigo snakes (Drymarchon couperi) are considered colonizing snakes. They are known for traveling across large waterways and between islands. This snake is most likely a transient from Pine Island or some other small island in Pine Island Sound. This snake was relocated to Pine Island where diminishing populations still occur.