Friday, December 2, 2022

Our Island Ecology



By Chadd Chutsz

New Year 2016 brings a new column to Coastal Breeze News- Our Island Ecology! Enjoy regular updates and insights on Marco Island nature and wildlife, straight from the desk of the City of Marco Island Environmental Specialist, Chadd Chutsz.

Burrowing Owl Chicks Arrived!

The first chicks of the season have been spotted by Owl Prowl volunteers! Three fluffy chicks along with mom and dad have made themselves at home on a sandy lot just a short fly from the beach.

Writer Rosanne Pawelec is kindly donating a portion of sales proceeds from the book “Ollie Finds A New Home” to a burrowing owl fund to assist the city and the Owl Prowl volunteers for burrowing owl education, equipment and signage. Thank you, Rosanne. The Owl Prowl volunteers maintain the growth of the vegetation around owl nests, owl perches, boundary tape, and stakes and of course, report on new chicks and any new nests. Contact Chadd at 239-389-5000 for more information.

Red Tide Passes

The first red tide of the winter was reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) as a patchy distribution across Southwest Florida at levels of not present to moderate over Christmas. A light to moderate wind out of the South and favorable currents for Marco Island has thus far spared us from the worst of the ill effects. If you want to keep tabs on red tide go to If you observe fish kills, please call the Collier County Red Tide Hotline

Burmese python sightings.

Burmese python sightings.

at 239-252-2502. To speak to a health professional regarding red tide symptoms, call the Florida Poison Information Center toll free at 1-800-222-1222.

Invasive Exotics

The Brazilian pepper trees have fruited their distinct red berry clusters. Australian pines, carrotwood trees and scaevola continue to leap from landscaping to sand dunes, lots and public lands.

Pythons, Lionfish and Lizards

The warm winter has produced favorable conditions for tropical exotics on the move, including Burmese pythons. Collier County has recorded 90 sightings, compared to Monroe County at 200 and Miami-Dade County at 1,777 sightings. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding a Python Challenge competition from January 16th through February 14th. Check out for more information. Training sessions on python removal have already begun!

The cold-tolerant Argentinian tegus in Florida is the latest invader on the FWC radar. Growing up to 4 feet, tegu lizards are established in Hillsborough County and in Miami-Dade County. Report exotic animal and plant species to the “I’ve Got 1” hotline at 1-888-Ive-Got1 or online at

Lionfish also continue to proliferate the Caribbean and Atlantic. Lionfish derbies held across the state bagged thousands of this venomous fish known for their ability to wipe out other marine life in any area they populate. Watch for more of these derby competitions coming this spring. You can even hold your OWN derby competition! For more information, contact

If you have a topic you’d like to see covered in this column, or a question you’d like answered, contact Chadd at 239-389-5000.

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