As unpleasant as it may be, the smaller manatee is trying to mate with the dead one, which is tethered to the dock so that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can pick it up to perform a necropsy.
“It is not uncommon for male manatees to do this, as the female still has an attractive scent to them, even after she has passed away,” deWit said.
Baby manatee clinging to its dead mother – this is a result of the water releases from Lake O. Do we want Rick Scott to have 6 more years in office? Elect people to Congress that care about Florida's environment, people, and economy. #ToddJTruaxforCongresspic.twitter.com/InxmayYWCp
FLORIDA ALGAE CRISIS: This heartbreaking image shows a baby manatee clinging to its dead mother. Her death appears to have been caused by toxic algae in the water near the Cape Coral Yacht Club. Toxic blue green algae is impacting large swaths of Florida. Photo: Niki Padilla. pic.twitter.com/FdyG98k2MK
This year, 484 manatees have died in Florida through July 20.
That’s the highest number for this time of year since 2013 when 694 manatees died through mid-July. By the end of 2013, more than 800 manatees were dead, topping the previous record of 766 set in 2010 during a lengthy cold snap.
Just eight of the deaths were in Palm Beach County, with half related to boats or other human interactions. By far the highest number if manatee deaths were in Lee County where 109 died, 52 of which were ruled natural. Red tide-related deaths are categorized as natural.
A man who said he is an “experienced boater,” was tracked down by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last month after witnesses said he nearly hit surfers in the waters off Jupiter’s Carlin Park.
Pierre Esperance, 63, is facing a misdemeanor charge of reckless or careless operation of a vessel, after the Jan. 4 incident that FWC officers found out about through social media posts.
Esperance, who FWC said has a Quebec drivers license, is a member of the Palm Beach Boat Club in Riviera Beach. He was reprimanded by the owner of the club prior to FWC involvement.
In a Jan. 5 email, the club owner “condemned” Esperance’s actions and said he was only authorized to be on the Intracoastal waterway, not open ocean, according to FWC.
The National Weather Service in Miami had a small craft advisory in place for coastal waters in Palm Beach County from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5. Seas were in the 7 to 9-foot range with winds blowing up to 29 mph.
“Happily, I’m an experienced boater and I had no choice to go threw (sic) these surfers because it was the only way out,” Esperance allegedly responded in an email to the club owner after he was reminded he was only to be on the Intracoastal, according to the FWC report.
Esperance was allegedly driving a 22-foot boat he had signed out from the club. The FWC report says he was within 60 to 180 feet of the shore when he came close to the surfers.
Pictures show the boat between the breaking waves and beach.
“It was crazy,” said Jim Tolliver, a Jupiter resident who was surfing that day following a cold front that cleaned up the head-high waves with an offshore wind. “I don’t know what they were doing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Tolliver, who has been surfing for 40 years, said there were about 50 people in the water and the boat was coming dangerously close to some of them.
“They came really close to me, but they got a lot closer to some of the kids out there,” Tolliver said.
FWC Officer Benjamin Hankinson, who was able to initially identify Esperance from pictures and comments posted on Facebook, said the boat was being operated at “planing speeds” – fast enough for the hull to lift out of the water.
“Upon review of the investigation, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is direct-filing a reckless operation misdemeanor charge on the operator,” the FWC report says.
The penalty for committing a first-degree misdemeanor is one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
According to the investigation released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, there were seven violations of the treaty.
The men in the photos are not identified in the report, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is not identifying the people involved in the shark-dragging video, which it is investigating.
The 2015 investigation was opened after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received numerous complaints about Instagram and Twitter photos that showed people manhandling birds, including a brown pelican, cormorant and white pelican.
The FWC and USFWS agreed to work together on the investigation.
In September 2015, agents tried to interview one of the men in the photos but he “immediately invoked his right to an attorney.”
In interviews with acquaintances and friends, one told wildlife officials that he had been with the man under investigation when he caught a protected spotted eagle ray and used a spear gun to kill it. The ray had a “hole, with blood, around the head area.”
“The spotted eagle ray was loaded into the back of (redacted) truck and taken to (redacted) house,” the investigation says. “(Redacted) said that (redacted) chopped off the wings of the spotted eagle ray,” and was going to put them in his freezer. There are no photos of the eagle ray in the investigation, but images have been posted on social media.
After five months, the service recommended the case be closed because although there were photos of the violations with the men identified in them, investigators “could not establish a venue or time frame” for when the photos were taken.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott also weighed in on the video.
On Friday, Scott wrote a letter to FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski calling the video “incredibly disturbing.”
“The brutality and disrespect shown to this animal is sickening and I am sure that you share in my outrage over these individuals’ heinous actions,” Scott wrote.
Yablonski responded: “Each and every member of our agency is disgusted by the behavior shown in the video. FWC Division of Law Enforcement investigators are working diligently to come to a lawful resolution in this case.”
A licensed psychologist who reviewed the viral shark-dragging video and disturbing images of animal treatment attributed to a Florida man said they show a lack of empathy and a need for power or control.
“An individual who is able to engage in cruelty to animals and not have any remorse shows a disconnect and a lack of empathy, a lack of consciousness,” said Rachel Needle, a West Palm Beach-based psychologist. “I’d be curious to see what their family is like in terms of kindness to others and to animals.”
Needle said while there is some research linking childhood animal abuse to adult violence, there is no direct link between abusing animals and the likelihood someone will abuse humans.
“This sociopathic behavior demands attention and prevention,” the petition says. “Many feel that this act of violence is in fact a criminal act.”
Needle said sociopaths tend to be more impulsive and have difficultly forming relationships, where psychopaths are selfish, manipulative, have a lack of remorse, and are considered more dangerous than sociopaths.
She said the fact that there was more than one person involved may also explain the lack of feeling of responsibility for the act.
“Certainly they weren’t thinking they were going to get into any trouble,” Needle said. “People want to show of everything on social media and they probably thought this was cool.”
Robert Klepper, a spokesman for the FWC said he cannot say when the investigation into the shark dragging video will be finished.
“Since there are so many moving parts to an investigation like this, we are unable to provide a timeline as to when it might be complete,” Klepper said. All I can say is that investigators are working diligently on this case.”
One of the men seen in the disturbing shark-dragging video that went viral earlier this week has a history of posting troubling photos with wildlife in the past and has been previously investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed Wednesday that there was an open investigation in 2015 of the previous photos, but is not linking the man in the shark-dragging video with that investigation. The investigation was closed this year with no charges filed.
Social media has not been shy about publicizing the man’s identity, including posting his name, date of birth and address in Palmetto, Fla., on multiple message boards and websites.
The Palm Beach Post is not naming the 21-year-old because he has not been identified officially by authorities.
A more-than-400-pound tiger shark washed up dead this month north of the Juno Beach Pier with a large hook in its jaw and no outward signs of injury.
The sight of the impressive fish lolling in the surf break with curious dogs sniffing at its corpse reignited a debate on fishing for shark from the beach, and what happens when the toothy torpedoes are violently dragged onto terra firma at the end of a fishing line.
“For being such consummate predators, they are remarkably delicate organisms in many ways,” said Dan Abel, a professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. “Well-meaning people catch sharks, release them and think if they swim away, it will be fine. But that’s not always true.”
Struggling at the end of a fisherman’s line, a shark’s body goes into survival overdrive. Deadly amounts of lactic acid build in muscles that can become so fatigued that they just stop working. Even if released, the shark can sink to the bottom of the ocean and suffocate.
If a large shark is hauled onto a beach for a trophy picture, its motionless tail no longer helps pump blood to its small heart. Capillaries on its belly burst, turning white flesh to a rose pink. Internal organs hemorrhage under the crush of gravity where sea water once buoyed its weight.
“The recreational fishermen no doubt enjoy the sport of shark fishing, but need to recognize that these animals are not able to handle the physiological stress of fighting on a line for an extended time,” said Florida Atlantic University shark expert Stephen Kajiura.
Kajiura’s students performed the necropsy on the tiger shark found north of the pier and are awaiting results. But he suspects it died after a fight with fishermen.
“They likely released it thinking it was OK, but it was probably near exhaustion and died from stress soon afterwards,” Kajiura said.
University of Miami shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag was tracking the shark found dead in Jupiter.
The hunting season begins August 15 and ends the morning of November 1. The first four weeks of the season are divided into four quota weeks, and each permit is assigned one of those weeks. Legal hunting hours are 5 p.m. through 10 a.m.
Each permit, which costs residents $272 and out-of-state applicants $1,022, allows a hunter two alligator kills per season.
The harvest areas and hunt dates are specific for each permit, and the permits specify the boundaries or limitations of the harvest area.
Hundreds of alligators were removed from Palm Beach County in 2016 either after nuisance calls from residents or through the annual permitted harvest.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 544 gators were pulled from every manner of body of water including private pools, canals and the brackish Intracoastal.
“My experience is that anywhere there is a small body of water, there can be an alligator,” said Richard Cochran, a Boynton Beach resident who has been trapping alligators for the FWC since 2012. “I’m not trying to be an alarmist, it’s just that there is a potential anywhere there is fresh water for an alligator.”
Click below for an interactive map of where the gators were found:
In Palm Beach County, the largest concentrations of nuisance gators removed were in Wellington and in the 33412 Zip Code, which straddles Northlake Blvd. between Florida’s Turnpike and 140th Ave. N. Trappers took 53 gators from Wellington and 49 from the 33412 Zip Code.
Cochran said he averages about 50 alligators per year.
It’s not a profitable job for Cochran – he gets $30 per gator, which he said can be costly to process for meat and leather.
The American alligator is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under their Threatened Due to Similarity of Appearance classification because it looks so similar to the American crocodile, which is federally listed as threatened. This listing provides federal protection for alligators but allows full state-approved management of alligators. All federal listings are incorporated into FWC rules.
Floridians can’t just call up the local alligator trapper to remove it like a raccoon.
Instead, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission operates the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program, where people can report a suspicious gator.
The FWC decides whether it poses a risk and will then assign a trapper that it contracts with and licenses.
Cochran said if a nuisance gator is 4-feet long or longer and the trapper doesn’t have a special permit to take it alive, it’s an automatic kill. Permits to take a live gator can be costly, so he said most trappers end up killing the gators they pick up.
Otherwise, nuisance gators can be sold to an alligator farm.
“The biggest thing is people should not feed alligators,” Cochran said. “If I know an alligator has been fed, I generally will kill it no matter what because they’ve lost their fear of humans.”
Carol Lyn Parrish, a spokeswoman with the FWC, said this is the busiest time of year because its nesting season. The dry conditions may also be putting alligators on the move more often as the seek out water.
Florida is escalating its war against Burmese pythons, nearly doubling the ranks of paid hunters, adding prizes for layman kills, and doling out bonuses worth $10,000 in a program that marked its 50th snake takedown Tuesday.
Dusty “Wildman” Crum, barefoot and wearing a homemade boar’s tooth necklace, was lauded by the South Florida Water Management District for catching the 50th invasive python in a population control experiment that began March 25.
Crum, an orchid dealer in Venice, Fla., has nabbed three snakes in the district’s program, including a 14.6-foot long, 70-pound female displayed during a live webcast from Homestead.
“I’m looking for the 16-footer. She’s out there somewhere waiting for me,” said Crum, who found two of his snakes near the ValueJet Flight 592 Memorial along the L-67 canal. “Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you go for days and don’t see anything.”
The water management district is paying 25 hunters minimum wage – $8.10 per hour – to hunt and kill pythons. They can earn incentives starting at $50 for a 4-foot-long snake and $25 for each additional foot above that.
On Tuesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced a similar program with 22 paid hunters who began their python pursuit April 15. In addition to the paid hunters, FWC launched its Python Pickup Program that encourages people to kill pythons by offering prizes such as T-shirts, $100 gas cards, Yeti tumblers, GoPro cameras and other gear.
To be eligible for prizes, people must send a photo of the dead python to email@example.com with their name, address, T-shirt size and information on where the snake was captured.
People who want to learn more about how to find, catch and kill pythons can sign up for training through FWC. A class is being offered June 17 at Okeeheelee Nature Center in unincorporated Palm Beach County.
“We know many Florida residents and visitors want to help tackle this tough conservation challenge by going after pythons in the wild and removing any they can find,” said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. “We want to continue to encourage and support this important citizen conservation effort.”
Burmese pythons are at the top of the food chain in the Everglades, eating their way north and south and facing no natural predators.
In September, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that python hatchlings had been found in Key Largo, while a 10-foot python was found on a levee at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County.
In December, researchers determined a 15-foot female python had eaten three white-tailed deer in the 90 days before its capture because their hooves were still in its stomach.
“They are ambush predators,” Crum said. “The bird, the rabbit, the otter, they are going to lose every time.”
The largest snake captured through the water management program was 15-feet, 10 inches, and had 80 eggs in its belly.
“We are removing with that one snake, a generation of snakes in that area,” said Rory Feeney, the water management district’s bureau chief for land resources, during a meeting this month.
The district’s program, which has a budget of $175,000, is scheduled to end June 1.
Crum said he will take his snakes to a tanner in South Florida to make something out of their skin.
But there’s not a lot of money in individual snake sales, said Abram Mendal, vice president of Pan American Leathers, Inc., which has showrooms in Texas and New York.
Mendal said he buys python skins in bulk from Southeast Asia with as many as 500 skins purchased at a time.
Depending on quality, a raw skin can go for between $5 and $10 per meter in lenght (about 3 feet). If a small-time python hunter wants a skin tanned, he or she can take it to Pan American Leathers, but they will pay for the service.
“We are happy to do one or two at a time, but they would own the leather,” Mendal said.
Mendal said his company spoke with FWC officials when the Python Challenge first began, emphasizing the importance of collecting snake hides in quantity for the program to be commercially viable.
FWC has held two Python Challenges, where contestants compete for prizes awarded for snake quantity and size. Crum was part of a team that took home the most pythons – 33 – and longest snake – 15 feet – during the 2016 Python Challenge.
“They are on top of it,” Mendal said about FWC. “They know they have a problem and are addressing it, but most people aren’t experienced in hunting pythons and need to be trained or bring in a consultant.”
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Services and FWC have worked with Irula tribesman from India to hunt pythons.
Crum said he uses his bare hands to catch the snakes.
“I got bit last week, but it healed up in a couple days,” he said. “I got a little tooth stuck in my finger. I thought it was a splinter.”
Previous story: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is escalating the war against the invasive Burmese python in the state, offering prizes and T-shirts for kills.
The new Python Pickup Program hopes to encourage the public to remove and report wild Burmese pythons by giving them prizes.
People can win T-shirts, snake hooks, Yeti tumblers, Plano sportsman’s trunks, GOPro cameras and Badlands backpacks.
The grand prize is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman’s License.
Here’s how it works:
Anyone who removes a python needs to take a picture of the snake as well as submit evidence of where it was removed. the T-shirt is an automatic, and all submissions will be entered into a grand prize drawing held next year.
The job pays $8.10 an hour, plus incentives starting at $50 for a 4-foot-long snake and $25 for each additional foot above that.
A snake found guarding a nest with eggs is worth an additional $100. The district set aside $175,000 for the program.
“A lot of people are just sick that they are here in the first place,” said water management district spokesman Randy Smith about people who applied to be hunters. “There’s not a lot of sympathy for the python.”
Since late March, water management district hunters have killed 50 snakes.