It’s just another day at the office; wrestling alligators and tracking panthers! Read on for an exclusive Q&A with the Swamp Men.
Get a full night of Swamp Men tonight starting at 7P et only on Nat Geo Wild!
What type of involvement have you had with national wildlife authorities? Do they inquire about coming on the property often and if so, how do they interact with your staff?
Because the Big Cypress Reservation is a Sovereign Nation, all outside wildlife agencies need to obtain permission from the Seminole Tribe before entering the Reservation. The Seminole Tribe has appointed Ed Woods as the contact for such matters. For example, when the Fish and Wildlife Commission wants to check on a collared panther who has remained in one spot for a period of time, they contact Ed at BSS to coordinate a visit to the Reservation to see if the panther is injured, has given birth or if the collar has somehow come off. Ed will coordinate their visit and will assist in their efforts to locate the panther.
What type of wildlife/conservation programs do or have you initiated on the Reservation?
Here are a few examples:
BSS sometimes serves as a “wildlife refuge.” People will bring in injured animals (birds, alligators,
deer, etc) and BSS staff will try to nurse them back to health if possible – or bring them to a place that can.
They have also taken in animals such as ostrich and bison when farms have shut down.
People bring in pets that they do not want anymore or can no longer take care of – such as snakes, pigs, etc – and BSS staff will make sure they are healthy and either add them to their shows or release them on BSS’s 2200 acres.
Wildlife Care Centers have also contacted BSS when they have an injured animal that cannot be released back into the wild. BSS will take in these animals and incorporate them into their shows and educational programs.
A thriving bird rookery was also created when BSS made a new airboat trail for visitors to enjoy.
BSS also has a “catch and release” policy for snakes and alligators ensuring that the healthy, uninjured ones are not in captivity for life.
What type of animal issues do you encounter in the park, having wild and captive animals within such blurred boundaries?
Because BSS is located in the heart of the Florida Everglades, it is pretty common for staff and guests to have encounters with snakes, alligators, raccoons, opossums, armadillo and occasionally panthers and bears. It is extremely important for BSS staff to remain vigilant at all times.
Can you provide a list of the BSS animals (just type and numbers)?
On display and/or roaming the 2200 acres:
Bison – 130
Water buffalo – 60
Elan – 25
Neilguy – 30
Red deer – 25
White tail deer – 40
Sica deer – 20
Ostrich – 20
Pigs – 500
Cracker cattle – 40
Alligators – 150+
Cayman – four in captivity, plus babies just born
Croc monitor – 1 in captivity
Black throat monitor – 1 in captivty
Snakes – 40 in captivity including eastern diamondback rattlesnake, water mocassin, timber rattlesnake, copperheads, yellow rat, red rat, coral, scarlet king snake
Panthers – two in captivity
Bear – one in captivity
African spurthigh tortoises – four in captivity
Gopher tortoises – 150 have been relocated to BSS
Goats – six in captivity
American crocodiles – ten in captivity
Birds – rosetta spoonbill, snowy egrets, American egrets, ibis, glossy ibis, limpkins, botail grackles, red wing blackbirds, great blue heron, etc
Skunks – one in captivity
Armadillo – three in captivity
Opossums – four in captivity
Red shoulder hawks – 2
Red tail hawk – 2
Cooper hawks – 1
Kestrel falcon – 1
Tarantulas – 1
Deer – one roaming free around BSS grounds (usually around parking lot)
Chickens – 30
Vultures – 2