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With the Wild Things
Weekdays @ 7:20 AM

With the Wild Things is hosted by wildlife biologist Dr. Jerry Jackson and produced by the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Funded by the Environmental Education Grant Program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, With the Wild Things is a one-minute look at a particular environmental theme.

Dr. Jackson takes you through your backyard, and Southwest Florida’s beaches, swamps and preserves to learn about “the wild things”.

Latest Episodes
  • An autumnal holiday tradition — the pumpkin — is a true native of the New World. The gourd was put to many good uses by Native Americans and assimilated into other cultures as they came here. Dr. Jerry Jackson takes a look at our native produce which includes corn and three species of wild rice.
  • Wild Turkeys have the word “wild” in their name to distinguish them from the birds that have been domesticated for centuries and bred for their meat and feathers. Florida is one of the prime native homes for Wild Turkeys although they now occur in almost every state as a result of introductions and other conservation efforts. They also occur naturally well into Latin America – where the first domesticated turkeys were found by early explorers and taken back to Europe. There were so few that they were not regularly eaten, but kept for special occasions – such as our Thanksgiving and other holidays. Wild Turkeys are related to pheasants, quails, and yes, even jungle fowl (the wild ancestors of our chickens). Males are easily distinguished from females by the black tips of breast and back feathers on males and brown to buff tips of the same feathers of females. Males are also generally larger than females. Males have spurs on their back of their legs; females only occasionally have spurs.
  • “Phenology” is a term that refers to the timing of events in nature. Understanding phenology provides us with answers to such questions as: “When does this bird nest?” “When does a plant bloom in our area?” “When does this bird molt?” What competitors, predators, or habitat characteristics might influence when a species is present or successful? The obviously repeated word here is “when”, but phenology also incorporates the question “Why does this timing occur?” The answers to the “Why?” are diverse – sometimes referring to day length, seasonal weather patterns, the presence or absence of predators or competitors, the age, physical characteristics or spatial distribution of plants in a habitat, or diverse seasonal energy demands on the subject of our interest. In short, the key to understanding “phenology” is to understand the physical and biological complexity of the world in which a species lives and the impacts of that complexity on the life of the creature we are focusing on.
  • Killdeer are plovers that are prominent among shorebirds because of their broad use of habitats in addition to our shore areas. Any place that is open, with short vegetation and usually with a bit of gravel can provide nesting and feeding areas for Killdeer. This even includes rooftops. Although summer heat can be deadly for them, Killdeer will shade their eggs to keep them at an appropriate incubation temperature and often soak their body feathers in water to drip on eggs or chicks. Chicks from rooftop nests can survive jumping from the roof or sliding down rain gutters. Downy chicks have only one neck band; adults have two.
  • Every holiday has its back-story and a bit of history – many also have associations with the wild things around us. Halloween is a holiday rich in lore of wild things – such as bats and spiders --and domesticated plants and animals such as pumpkins, rutabagas, and black cats. Rutabagas? Learn the connection as this week’s Wild Things celebrates those wild and not so wild connections in the lore and history of Halloween.
  • Our Black and Turkey vultures are common sights in Florida skies.An adult Black Vulture on the left and a juvenile on the right. Note the black colors, the wrinkled head of the adult, and the tiny feathers and lack of wrinkles on the head of the juvenile.
  • Orb-weaving spiders are those spiders that create webs in which flying or falling insects are captured. Many, such as the Banded Garden Spider, the Golden-silk Orb-weaver, and the tiny Orchard Spider are active during the day, some, such as the Tropical Orb Weaver are primarily active at night. Most create a new web each day. If you have a wooded area, you can often go out shortly after dark with a flashlight and find Tropical Orb-weavers as they begin to create their web for the evening. By morning the web is gone and the Tropical Orb-weaver is in hiding among dense vegetation.
  • Echolocation is second nature to animals such as bats and dolphins. Can humans also find their way using sound as a tool?
  • Did you ever wonder where the name “whisk broom” came from? First of all it is Norwegian – and originated long ago as a result of the Norse people using this plant with a long bare stem to hang onto, and multiple almost bare branches at its tip. Got dirt on your sport coat? Pluck one of these plants hold it by the stem – and “whisk” it off. The Norse people used them to “visk” off the offending dirt. Only later did “visk” become “whisk” in English. Long before “whisk brooms” were “invented”, the Norwegian people found them in nature, made use of them, and gave them their name.
  • The Hispid Cotton Rat is a native American rodent that can be up to a foot long from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail – but it is usually smaller in Florida. This rodent has dense, long fur that is light colored at the base, brown towards the tip, and the tip is often black – giving the rodent a rather grizzled appearance. Hispid Cotton Rats are prolific, capable of producing as many as nine broods in a year – but their average life expectancy is less than a year. This is a species native to open, sunny, tall grass areas throughout the state and is a very important component of Florida’s natural ecosystems because it is food for most of our hawks and owls, and many snakes, and mammalian predators. Hispid Cotton Rats are also occasionally a problem species – especially because of their fondness for sugar cane and other succulent crops.