Monday, November 29, 2021

The Everglades… After Sunset

Stepping Stones

Photos by Bob McConville
| Barred Owls will take advantage of dusk and dawn times to hunt their prey from the cypress swamps, flying low in the trees or hovering above a potential meal.


Join Bob on Tuesday March 2, at 6 PM when he talks about the varied animal species found in the Everglades. This is an OUTDOOR event at the Marco Island Historical Society campus, as the sun goes down. It is a FREE event and seating is limited. Social distancing will be in place and plenty of hand sanitizer will be available so, don’t be afraid of the dark! Let’s see who shows up here! Come out and have some fun!

Without a doubt, the Everglades deserves the title of one of the most fascinating areas on earth because of the vast number of animal species that dwell there, and the varied plant and tree life that can be found to create a home for all its creatures, great and small.

Driving through the ‘Glades or hiking the numerous trails and boardwalks gives one a view of how much goes on there. Naturally, these are daytime ventures. So, what happens when the sun goes down? Do all of the animals just curl up and go to sleep, waiting for another day? Hardly the case my friends, hardly the case at all.

Alligators will sometimes take out a game trail in hopes that a small mammal might pass by during the night.

There is so much activity after dark that it is difficult to fathom. If you were a predator during the day, you might actually be the prey at night! Let’s look at a few of these night stalkers.

Although they are not prey, but rather an apex predator, alligators will feed primarily at dusk or during the night. Quite often they will sit in wait, just off a main trail, looking for the chance to attack a small mammal or maybe take advantage of a turtle, fish or frog in the water. They hunt very little during the day, preserving their strength and agility for the cooler night conditions. They will spend their days between the water and the sunny banks priming their body temperature to perfection for an attack.

Another Everglades hunter of the night is the endangered Florida Panther. They are, indeed, nocturnal, feeding after dark. Panthers are carnivores and their diet consists of rodents, rabbits, and waterfowl while larger prey would be storks, deer and, believe it or not, small gators. They also keep the population of feral hogs in check as well as deer and raccoon, and other prey are kept balanced throughout the ecosystem. In recent years, adult panthers have been known to feed on small calves from area farms, a much easier meal than running down a white-tailed deer.

From the treetops, and a regular resident of the Everglades, the Barred Owl is also a night hunter, primarily at dawn and dusk. Resting during the day, but hunting opportunistically, they feed on small mammals, eating a lot of mice and other small rodents as well as squirrels, rabbits and opossums. Snakes, lizards, crabs, and fish are also part of their diet as they swoop below the tree branches, sometimes hovering about their potential meal before dropping down on it.

These are just a few of the hunters that take advantage of the darkness, dawn, and dusk to stay alive and remain nourished. Stay tuned in the future to hear about more of our nocturnal Everglades species!

Bob is a Naturalist on board the dolphin study vessel Dolphin Explorer and an owner of the Everglades ecotour Wild Florida Ecotours departing from Port of the Islands. He is an award-winning columnist for the Coastal Breeze News and an author of 2 books, available at local stores. In addition to enjoying his jobs, Bob loves his wife very much!



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