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With the Wild Things
Weekdays @ 7:20 AM

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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
  • The Barred Owl is perhaps our best-known owl because it is active during the day as well as at night, nests and hunts in cities as well as in mature forest, and is somewhat tolerant of human observers. Barred Owls get their name from the vertical “bar” stripes on its breast. They are also well known for their distinctive “eight-hooter” call cadence of the phrase “Who cooks for you …Who cooks for you all. Barred Owls feed on a diversity of small animals – ranging from mice, small birds, small snakes, lizards, insects, and especially crayfish.
  • Milkweeds are diverse and widespread. They are also well known because of putative medicinal properties and now, especially because of their association with Monarch Butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars feed on milkweeds – consuming toxic chemicals, which they store in their body, making both the caterpillars and the adult butterflies toxic and noxious to would be predators. What is less well known is that Monarch butterfly populations are declining rapidly. Why? Excessive use of herbicides that kill milkweeds along with other plants, clearing of land for human uses, pesticides that kill insects, and climate change are all likely involved. Florida is home to at least 24 species of milkweeds and also to a sizeable, but perhaps shrinking, monarch butterfly population – a population that includes migrant monarchs that pass through Florida from more northern breeding areas to wintering areas in Mexico and other areas south of us. There is much we don’t know, but scientists are concerned and investigating the potential links.
  • Storks are large, somewhat heron-like birds that spend a lot of time feeding and standing or sitting around – sometimes in small groups. Like herons and egrets, they feed on fish, crayfish and other small animals that they capture in aquatic environments. They are unique birds that may be most closely, but still distantly, related to pelicans. The Wood Stork is North America’s only native stork and is easily recognized by its primarily white plumage with black wing tips, a long heavy bill, long legs, pink feet, and a relatively bare head with wrinkled neck skin. A Wood Stork’s bill is not designed for spearing prey, but for deftly grabbing it. Among a Wood Storks unusual behaviors, a Wood Stork will often rest on its “heels” while sitting on the ground with its feet lifted above the ground. It will also sometimes stand on one leg with its other foot lifted and propped against the leg it is standing on.
  • The Limpkin is a large bird of wetland – especially swamp – habitats that can be found throughout Florida and only more recently and rarely in other southern states. It is a tropical species also found in Cuba and on other Caribbean Islands and well into tropical South America. The Limpkin is a food specialist – feeding primarily on large Apple Snails, but also taking clams and some insects. The Limpkin has been a game bird in Florida – but is now protected as a troubled species – troubled because of habitat losses and fragmentation of the suitable habitats that remain. Florida has only one native Apple Snail and its populations have also declined. Four additional Apple Snail species now occur in Florida and compete with the native species. All four are invasive exotics most likely introduced through the pet trade.
  • Baldcypress trees are well known for their ability to grow in standing water as well as on dry land. They are also known for their longevity – many living to more than 300 years, some reaching the venerable age of 2000 years. Such old trees are often giants, rivaling their relatives, the redwoods and sequoias of California. The wood of Baldcypress is exceptionally resistant to fungal decay and insect damage – making it a good wood to use for outdoor projects. Baldcypress bark is somewhat “stringy” and loose ends of bark often extend from the trunk. Birds often grab the loose ends, and pull long thin strips off to use as a soft, durable lining for their nests.
  • The Muscovy Duck is a native of riverine forests of Central and northern South America where it was domesticated centuries ago. A few populations in south Texas are considered “native,” but elsewhere in North America the Muscovy Duck is considered an exotic invasive species. Columbus is said to have obtained some domesticated Muscovies during his voyage to the America. By the late 1500s the Muscovy Duck was being traded as a domesticated bird around the world. As a result, it was given several different names and supposed places of origin. In the culinary trade, the Muscovy Duck is generally known as the Barbary Duck.
  • The Swallow-tailed Kite is a hawk with crisp and beautiful black-and-white plumage and an aerial ability that allows it to sail seemingly effortlessly with few wing-beats as it twists and turns, providing an incredible display of aerial aerobatics to seize basking lizards, tree frogs hugging plant stems, dragonflies on the wing, nestling birds from exposed nests, and a diversity of other small animals. Its long, deeply forked black tail is used as a rudder allowing the kite to perform its aerial ballet in its search for food.This master of the air used to arrive around St. Patrick’s Day to nest throughout Florida and across the Gulf states. With climate change it has been arriving earlier. In late summer it gathers in large roosts for the night then suddenly disappears to migrate to Central and South America for the winter.
  • The Zebra Longwing is a butterfly that lives up to its name – it has long, narrow, black wings that are strikingly crossed with pale yellow stripes – markings that are a warning signal to predators that try to eat it. Zebra Longwing butterflies not only drink the nectar of Passionflowers, but they consume some of its pollen – which endows them with cyanide compounds that make them noxious to predators. This relationship also promotes their communal roosting behavior – giving truth to the adage that there is safety in numbers. If a predator eats one Zebra Longwing, it quickly learns to avoid others. Being in the center of a group provides safety for this butterfly.Florida has several species of Passionflowers -- and the leaves of all provide food for Zebra Longwing caterpillars as well as nectar and pollen for the adults. Because of its beauty, slow, graceful flight, and distribution throughout the state, the Florida legislature designated the Zebra Longwing as “Florida’s State butterfly” in 1996.