Saw Palmettos Importance to Wildlife

saw palmetto berries for wildlife

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens), is an important plant to wildlife and insects. Growing almost exclusively in the state of Florida, in lower Georgia and southeast Alabama.
All parts of the saw palmetto are used by some kind of wildlife or insects. They are eaten and used for cover and nesting.

More than 100 bird species, 27 mammals, 25 amphibians, 61 reptiles, and countless insects use saw palmetto as food and/or cover (Maehr and Layne 1996).

In the spring, the three-foot stalks bloom with small yellowish-white fragrant flowers. This attracts many insects including pollinators and the very important honey bee.
The leaves are a host plant to the palmetto skipper and monk butterflies.

In the fall the stalks give birth to berries that are high in fat content. Bears, foxes, raccoons, birds, and others eat the berries. The berries are essential for bears who have to fatten up before the denning season. Berries are on plants from August to October, the prime time for the bears to get their needed nutrition. Female bears must gain a lot of weight to be able to give birth. If they do not, the embryos will not implant and no cubs will be born.

saw palmentto stalks

These scrumptious berries (to wildlife), can be found in the local landscape, people’s yards and all over the state. You’d think that this would be enough for our bears and other wildlife and maybe for some wildlife it is, but with bears, they need to consume 20,000 calories a day during the fall.  And bears only live in certain areas, so for those areas, in particular, the berries and plants are especially needed.

The berries are believed to help benign prostatic hyperplasia. Studies have found both negative and positive results when compared to a placebo. Pharmaceuticals make claims that it does help, and thus they are a multi-billion dollar industry.
This industry has created a harvesting frenzy. The pickers glean as much as they possibly can to score big bucks from the buyers who in turn make a very handsome profit from the drug companies.

 

snakePickers actually risk their lives to gather these berries. The eastern diamondback rattler makes a home in the bushes. Bears frequent them. Biting insects as well. Then there are the over 90-degree temperatures that bring heatstroke and dehydration. The plant leaves are sharp and cut, thus the name “saw” palmetto. There are also risks of alligators and water moccasins if near water. But for $1.00 to $2.00 a pound and at 100 pounds an hour, the risk is worth it for most pickers who have low paying jobs otherwise.


 

It used to be that the berries were harvested mostly by migrant workers that didn’t have a crop to pick at the time of year that the berries are ripe, but since it was so lucrative, lots of folks jumped in. At one time the berries were bringing three to four dollars a pound.

Because of the importance of the berries to particularly bears, bear advocates fought to have some restrictions placed on the harvesting.
Thus the Florida Dept. of Agriculture put forth the following:

Pickers must now have a permit from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Unfortunately, this permit is free and workers under a crew leader are not required to have a permit.

It is unlawful to pick on any private land without the written consent of the owner along with their contact information.

It is unlawful to pick on any public, state, city or county land unless permission is granted by the proper authority and submitted for approval on a permit application.

Buyers, transporters or processors are not required to have a permit, but they are required to have the following on their person at all times:

A bill of lading
A copy of the harvester’s entire permit, which now includes a second page that contains the permission letter(s).

Buyers, transporters, and processors are required to have a copy of the harvester’s entire permit, which now includes a second page that contains the permission letter(s).

From reviewing posts by pickers, they report many buyers do not ask from any of these things. So, they do not have them.

This presents more governance needed by law enforcement who already have their hands full just busting illegal harvesters.

Further, The stalks that they remove will not produce blooms the next spring preventing insects and bees from having them to use.
There is no limit to the amount of berries that can be picked.

saw palmetto 5

Pictured above a local buyer readies his haul to take to Valensa, the pharmaceutical company that is one of the end buyers.  Local buyers set up at various locations and post their location on a Facebook page dedicated to getting this and other information out, like prices being paid. They often do not require any permits or permissions to be shown by the pickers. Some pickers and buyers use such websites to discretely contact one another for a rendezvous to exchange berries for money.  Keeping their location private is one way buyers provide a service for those who pick without permits or permissions.

So something needs to change.
The berry picking business is out of control.

Studies have not been done on the impact to wildlife yet, but it is believed that it may cause bears and others to go into neighborhoods searching for the food because of the lack of these berries.

The saw palmetto is listed as a commercially exploited plant. This doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal since it only requires getting a free permit, permission letter and then it’s a free for all.

Between 45 and 50 million pounds of berries are harvested each year in the United States, 80 percent of which is exported, according to estimates from Valensa International, a leading manufacturer based in Lake County. Most of these berries come from Florida.

For more visit on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Saw-Palmetto-Berries-For-Wildlife-109004287139364/

 

 

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Saw Palmettos Importance to Wildlife

FWC Policies Must Change About Helping Wildlife

EDIT NOTE:  Since writing this I have received some other information regarding the incident below.  FWC contacted me after I inquired about it.  Their version is not the same as the one given below.  I found out that the fawn was kept 6-7 days before FWC took it from this person.  The officer had the option of not giving a citation as they do when it’s only been a couple of days in possession, but since this had been a week he cited the man.  A neighbor evidently made an anonymous call to FWC regarding this.

If you find injured/orphaned wildlife you are supposed to call FWC and let them handle it.  The humanity in us makes us wants to help the animal ourselves and certainly it’s even more so when it seems urgent, as this did.  FWC says they will respond within two hours.  With all of us carrying cell phones these days, we should be able to contact them quickly.  I don’t know why this person said there was no response from them.  I can only  trust this is what happened.   If you are not licensed to handle wildlife or keep them, you can be fined.  It’s sometimes a toss-up but just know the risks.


 

This is shared by permission:

 

Thursday 4/25/19
Approximately 3:30

A baby fawn was walking up to a lady by a busy roadway in Orlando. The lady attempted to call FWC multiple times. The mother deer was deceased nearby, she presumed to be hit by an automobile. The lady who called was advised by FWC to get the fawn to a fawn Rehabilitator. I had been in the area, the person was frantically trying to keep the deer from entering the busy road and getting hit. I offered to take it to a rehab place nearby, the person I knew was unable and unavailable to help because his recent fire and his facilities were destroyed by a recent fire. (Jim Bronzo) He advised me to take it to a rehabilitation facility in Brevard since I lived there I agreed to help. It was noted by both of us that the baby fawn’s ears were extremely curled, which is a sign of severe distress and needed immediate attention.

 

baby fawn

On my way home I bought temporary supplies, (receipt in hand) at Tractor Supply to begin nursing the starved, dehydrated, approximately 3-day old fawn.

Upon returning home the baby fawn was by this time going into shock from hunger and dehydration. The torque test revealed it was severely dehydrated. With having had a class 3 license in 2004, I knew what to do, act quickly on behalf of the fawn if it was going to make it to a rehab facility.

So I began using a Pedialyte liquid, (baby Gatorade) for hydration administered by an eye dropper. I administered 2-3 ml every 30 minutes by mouth to get it fluids. The baby deer improved slowly over the next 3 days and began to eat a 1 oz of baby kid (goat) formula by bottle. Using a warm washcloth stimulation, the baby deer finally urinated and had a bowel movement by the fourth day. Feeling the baby fawn was improving slowly, I researched several wild animal rehabilitation facilities nearby, left messages with no return calls. By the fifth day, she was eating 3-5oz of formula, every 3-4 hours, readily from the bottle.

Also during this time, my other half had been admitted to Holmes regional hospital for asthma attacks associated with pneumonia. So I was quite busy holding the homestead together with my 3 children and my 84-year-old demented mother, and a distressed baby deer.

By the 6th day, the baby fawn was ready to be placed at a rehab facility, but no return calls had been received, my other half had returned from the hospital on Wednesday evening.

baby fawn day 6

 

On the 7th day while I was at work, May 2, 2019, an FWC officer showed up at the residence, around lunchtime. (Officer Delano) Unaware of who reported the deer, my significant other showed him the baby deer, who was kept on a screened back porch. The baby deer was kept isolated there, with two bedding areas available for her comfort. It had a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet. She was isolated in hopes of a successful return to the wild. Officer Delano requested her to sign over the deer, which she cooperated fully. Tara also donated the bottle and kid formula to the rescue the deer would be taken. Tara had prepared a large transport box with hay for the 45-minute ride to the rehab facility. I, Paco, had a conversation about how I obtained the deer because Tara was unaware of the facts of the deer situation. Officer De Lano requested that I call him back upon returning home from work, which I complied with 2 times, De Lano sent FWC officer Hatfield at 7:30 pm to have me sign the deer release form and deliver a violation with fine of $331. 😕

The baby deer was taken to Creature safe place, in Ft. Pierce Florida, with Wynn Burns, who has stated, I did an excellent job rehabilitating the fawn, and the fawn was doing very well. She recommended I be placed on her list, to become a licensed independent rehabilitation person by obtaining a class 3 license.

I am making a $100.00 donation to Creature safe place on behalf of the deer. She stated she would write a letter of what a good job was done rehabilitating the baby fawn. Please share this story. It’s the ONLY way this crazy stuff is going to stop.

This was the officer, he was young polite and professional according to my other half, however, inexperienced being 3 months with FWC, I only spoke with him on the phone and answered all his questions. My other half signed a release for the fawn, the officer instructed me to call him when I returned home, I did so twice only to have another officer deliver a citation to me at 8 o clock at night, also after several attempts to text the officer on where the baby fawn was taken. Not one return text or call concerning the safe delivery of the baby fawn. I had to call 6 different places in Ft Pierce, the officer had told me during the phone conversation that the only rehabilitation facility is in Ft Pierce. But he didn’t even know the name. 🤦🏽‍♀️ The second FWC Officer did seem rather embarrassed having to deliver a citation.


There needs to be a policy change regarding people helping orphaned and injured wildlife.  Obviously, this fawn was of no threat to the man who helped it.  It’s not like he was trying to help a full-grown injured bear.  People run across injured, sick, orphaned, entrapped, etc. wildlife all the time and sometimes they must act to save the life of the animal.  FWC cannot always be there at the time to do anything to help the animal and as most of us know they often choose to euthanize rather than to save an animal.

Please email FWC’s commissioners to ask them to inform people better about these rules.  The majority of people do not visit the FWC website and are not educated about handing orphaned/injured wildlife.  https://myfwc.com/contact/fwc-staff/senior-staff/commissioners/

 

FWC Policies Must Change About Helping Wildlife