Unexpected Wildlife On Morning Drives

Its true that Florida has an extensive highway system crisscrossing through all manner of habitat types. The interesting thing is that this past few weeks I have noted a rather shocking number of different wildlife dotting the roadside landscape in numbers I have never before seen (or perhaps noticed).

For several mornings now a small flock of wild turkey has taken to foraging between the oak hammock and the pavement in the newly-cut grasses and torn out saw palmetto stands. White-tailed deer, smaller here in their southernly range, reflect back car headlights with the mirror-like reflectors in their eyes on night drives. Great blue heron stalk early tadpoles in the drainage ditches alongside courting woodstorks. And, rather fantastically, a dozen-strong troop of wild boar went running a short parallel next to my car on a late afternoon.

Of course, the highway takes its toll.
As it fragments the habitat it cuts into the population numbers of these animals. Turkey vulture and black vulture populations in Florida are neatly supported by the carnage caused when wildlife meets vehicles. In some cases the vultures become unwitting victims as well.

Most amazingly, in all these sightings, is the realization that the small tan-colored dogs I have seen on rare ocassions in Florida are not Fido on a long solitary walk. Three days ago I pulled over on SR 528 and came face to face with a freshly dead coyote. I’ve been hypersensitive to their existence here since learning about their interaction with my beloved red wolves and have pined away hoping that within my lifetime they would not gain a foothold here in Florida. Last spring in Lake County I saw them but wouldn’t accept the sighting as real. Now it seems that the highway is revealing the true structure of the wildlife in the area in a way that sensors and random surveys perhaps cannot.