Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is focusing on gopher tortoises and Florida turtles during the month of July. Early this year, the wildlife park started introducing monthly themes featuring natural and cultural resource opportunities in Florida’s state parks. In addition to special exhibits in the visitor center and in the education center, special programs are scheduled on the month’s topic.
Two programs are planned on the theme of tortoises and turtles. The first program will be presented at 1 p.m. today in the Education Center. Dr. Peter A. Meylan from the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust will talk about his book “The Biology and Conservation of Florida Turtles” and what he learned by putting the book together. The book was published in 2006 and is an edited volume with chapters on all 25 of the turtle species found in Florida, written by a group of 40 turtle experts.
Dr. Meylan is Richard R. Hallin Professor of Natural Science in the Collegium of Natural Sciences at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, where he teaches courses in ecology, evolution, zoology, vertebrate anatomy, herpetology, and the ecology of amphibians and reptiles. He is a research associate of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York, New York), the Bermuda Aquarium (Flatts, Bermuda), and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama City, Panama). His research interests include the morphology and phylogeny of turtles, the biology of marine and freshwater turtles, and general herpetology.
On July 21 at 1:00 p.m., Florida naturalist Jim Bierly will present a program on gopher tortoises. Bierly was born in St. Petersburg and lived there until moving to Citrus County 15 years ago.
“My association with and interest in gopher tortoises began when I was 4 or 5 years old,” Bierly said. “Our neighborhood had several gopher tortoises until housing development killed almost all of them in the area.”
After moving to Sugarmill Woods, he met several wildlife officials who helped him in the relocation of gopher tortoises in the development. He also served on the committee to reclassify the gopher tortoise from a species of special concern to threatened. Bierly is also interested in native plants and founded the Citrus County Native Plants Society, serving as its president for several years.
Both programs are included in regular park admission, which is $13 for adults (ages 13 and up) and $5 for children ages 6 through 12. Children age 5 and under are admitted free.
The Education Center reopened in March after the first phase of restoration was completed on the historic building. The building was the original entrance to Nature’s Giant Fish Bowl and was built in the 1940s. The roof was replaced, and brick work was added to the lower half off the interior walls to protect the building from water damage. The remaining interior walls were repainted.
The Wildlife Puppeteers will present their first puppet show on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. “Whose Habitat is it Anyway?” stars Tori, a little girl, and her new friend Beary, a Florida Black Bear cub.
For more information or to register for the Florida Turtle and/or Gopher Tortoise programs, call Susan Strawbridge at (352) 628-5445, ext. 1002.