Property Owners Handbook - Page 42

V I . H abitats Our surrounding waters are famous for their snook, tarpon, redfish and trout. A common catch in our freshwater lakes is the largemouth bass, distinguished by its green color and a dark stripe along its sides from gill to tail. Bonita Bay is host to one of the true symbols of Florida, the alligator. They inhabit the freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers. When swimming, only the gator’s head and part of its back are out of the water, many times resembling a floating log. They are more commonly seen during mating season and droughts. Though they were once threatened with extinction, they have made a strong recovery due to strict hunting regulations. North American crocodiles, cousins of the alligator, are inhabitants of saltwater shorelines, but have, on occasion, been found in our lakes. They are distinguished from the alligator by their long, narrow snout. The crocodile, somewhat shyer than the alligator, is rare and endangered. Although both alligator and crocodile are potentially dangerous animals, their natural instinct is to avoid human contact and to flee. Neither animal should ever be fed since this diminishes their natural fear of man. Enjoy the sight of these prehistoric creatures, but always remember to keep a safe distance, and do not feed them. 40 Vegetation is abundant throughout the saltwater wetlands, but none is more important to our ecological balance than the mangrove. Mangroves may be the greatest natural resource of our state since they provide nursery and feeding areas for many forms of life, including endangered and threatened species. Therefore, management of mangroves has become highly regulated. Red, white and black mangroves are abundant throughout the Bonita Bay shoreline and through our central slough. Riverwalk, Spring Creek and Estero Bay Parks are excellent sites for mangrove viewing. The high trees and waters throughout Bonita Bay provide excellent habitat for many of Florida’s native birds. One of the largest wading birds, the great blue heron, is known for its “nest relief ceremony”. When the parent who went fishing for the babies’ food returns, the mated pair performs a beautiful ritual of flying and wing spreading. Of all the birds, the spoonbills are the most colorful, often being mistaken for flamingos. Their ruby red eyes and bald heads are not common everywhere in the state, so it is a delight to have them in Bonita Bay. These elegant birds feed by swinging their beaks from side to side until the special nerve ending signals at the end of their bills come in contact with food, causing the beak to instantly close. The wetland just east of The Sanctuary on Bonita Bay Boulevard, is a haven for wood storks, w w w. B o n i t a B a y Re s i d e nt s .c o m