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/

 

 

Saw Palmettos Importance to Wildlife

Yes, FWC Kills Bears!

Recently an activist stated that FWC does not kill bears.  How bazaar coming from a bear activist who has been involved in stopping the bear hunts.   Anyone can request these records from FWC.

To prove my point about FWC killing bears, I am including some images of records sent to me from FWC of the bears that they have killed during 1/11/15 to 4/11/16. These records do not come color-coded. I did that so I could reference certain things more easily.

bear deaths 2bear deaths 3bear deaths 4bear deaths 1

Yes, FWC Kills Bears!

FWC kills many bears every year

This is just a few of the areas and reasons FWC killed some of our bears in 2015.

 

FWC kills many bears every year

Orlando Sentinel helping spin lies about the black bears

 

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Nick Wiley did not disclose that he is the executive director of FWC in the recently published article he wrote to the Orlando Sentinel. As executive director he is clearly
biased and so that articlle should be read as tongue in cheek, or fingers crossed behind the back.

Regarding the number of bear calls in 2002 – The bears were still on the endangered list.
In 2015 – The bears were not and FWC was asking people to call if they even saw a bear!
I’d say they were working their spin to get people to agree to a hunt. Not that people’s opinion matter but it’s better to instill fear, such as Marion Hammer with the NRA just did by saying bears are terrorizing our neighborhoods! What a lie! And that’s all we get from such hunting biased organizations and people.

The count of 4,350 did not deduct the over 600 bears killed last year!!! How’s that for spinning the truth?

I’m sick of all the lies just to try to justify a hunt that should not take place to please the mere 1% of the hunting populace in the state.

The bears are wandering out of their areas because people are feeding them and the forest are being dozed down. The oaks trees are being replaced with long-leaf slash pine which offers no food. The saw palmetto berries are being raped by illegals who sell them to the pharmaceutical industry.  Wiley failed to emphasize the enormous problem there is with that! Omission of truth is lying!

Wiley mentioned the number of road kills. This in itself is controlling the numbers of bears along with the 129 that FWC killed last year and natural deaths. No need for a hunt.

We have “thousands of human-bear conflicts a year?” Seriously? A person seeing a bear in their yard is NOT a conflict! Keep it real. When you say these thing you know people are going to think there was interaction and that people were in danger! Shame on you!

Bears have increased all over the United States. Not just Florida. It’s not so much to do with FWC as it is with nature. And left to their own, nature will take care of the populations and control them.

For those reading this who do not know, “conservation” according to FWC includes hunting – killing. They do not “conserve.” They are mandated to provide hunting opportunities for hunters. That is their job!

The reason for Nick Wiley writing this article is to make the public trust the FWC in  making the decision for having another bear hunt. Pure and simple.

Unfortunately, The Orlando Sentinel did not allow people who are not subscribers to even comment on this article.  Guess they need the money.

If you want the truth about the bear hunts and the FWC, join a Facebook group devoted to them.

People owe it to our wildlife to be educated and fight for their lives.

Orlando Sentinel helping spin lies about the black bears

Bears: Wanted Dead by the FWC

Rick Scott – Governor of the State of Florida
Nick Wiley – Executive Director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation
Commission
Commissioners on the FWC Board:
Aliese Priddy, Ron Bergeron, Robert Spottswood, Brian Yblonski, Adrien
Bo Rivard, Charles W. Roberts III, Richard Hanas
Diane Eggeman – Division Director of Wildlife Management with FWC
Thomas Eason – Habitat & Species Conservation Divison Director, Bear Expert and Biologist with FWC

All accountable for the murder of over 300 Florida black bears in the
2015 slaughter of, old bears, mother bears, underweight bears, cubs,
baited bears, sitting duck bears, bears deep in the wilderness, bears
on private land, public land and state land. Not bears that were visiting neighborhoods and making FWC uncomfortable by people calling them when they spotted them. A practice FWC even told people to do. They well publicized
for people to call when they saw a bear. These bears weren’t even
doing anything. They just weren’t in hiding. And for our Florida bears
that is a death sentence.

What happened to learning to live with wildlife? It’s amazing that so many
other states that have wildlife, have learned to live with them. But no, not
Florida. We won’t even tolerate seeing them. How ludicrious.

And why is that? You may think it’s because there were a few attacks
that happened close together one year and that must be the reason we
cannot allow bears to be in the same air space as humans. But that’s not
the reason. So, is it they get into garbage and make a mess when humans
won’t secure their garbage? No, that’s not the reason either. Well what
about there being too many bears? FWC brought this up after the other
two reasons weren’t strong enough to warrant a hunt. There’s just too
many bears. So what? There are too many humans too but we don’t go
out and shoot hundreds or thousands so their won’t be so many. They
say they can’t sustain themselves. Not enough food, not enough land
for that many bears. They don’t even know how many bears there are
but this must be the reason.

After a two day hunt with almost three times as many bears being killed
in one bear management unit in the panhandle, FWC says, that’s because
there are too many bears. Was there any research in as to why there were
that many killed in that area? And by the way, that was a carnage and lasted
hours longer than it should have but FWC did not have control to call it
off any earlier. So, no there hasn’t been any research as to why. The easy
and convienent answer is “ther are too many bears.”

I can’t tell you when I’ve ever seen a black bear in Florida. I spent a lot of
time on the Wekiva River in the 60’s and 70’s and never saw one. This area
is a hotbed for bear sightings now. I would be thrilled to see them.

After the FWC successfully brought the bears back from near extinction
by closing hunting on them and by the US Fish & Wildlife putting them on
the threatened list, black bears have come back. But back to what? Can you
say there are too many because you built homes smack dab in the middle
of their homelands? All of those homes built in the 80’s up around the Wekiva
area in Seminole county are in their territory. Expect to see bears!

Has FWC or anyone before the attacks of 2014 done anything to educate people
in those areas about securing their garbage and the other things that need to
be done  to not attract them. Have they been taught what to do when they see
one besides call FWC? Do you know what FWC has done when you called and they came out to trap the bear(s)? You probably think they relocated them. NO.
They did not. They took them where nobody could see what they were doing
and they killed them. “One and Done” has been their philosophy. The bear didn’t
even have to tear anything up!

We lose hundreds of bears every year to road kills, poaching, starvation,
interbreed canabalism,  disease, and FWC killing them. With
that many bears dying every year, why on earth would you have a hunt to
kill more of them? There is that question again.

The answer? Because it makes money. The almighty dollar. And it pleases
the commission board members who are hunters, the governor who is a hunter,
the National Rifle Association who many are hunters and lobbyists, the hunters in the state, the Safari Club International, the Boone and Crocket club, and on and on and on. Hundreds or thousands of groups of individuals who love to kill.

This is sport to them. This is fun. In a recent meeting, Lee Day a bear hunting opponent who monitored one of the bear check-in stations, played an audio recording of a bear being shot by an arrow. The groaning was beyond what my
my mind and heart could take. But the FWC commissioners who listened, were not
moved. Their eyes were dark and hollow, lifeless. Like this is something they
were use to hearing.

Maybe Liesa Priddy is use to her cattle being killed or some other livestock or
maybe she’s heard it many times when she has gone out and killed animals in a sport
called hunting. Whatever the reasons, it was clear that this commission could not
be shaken.

What moves people to be pro-killing of such beautiful, sentient beings? The only
thing more powerful than the blood lust is greed. The FWC board of commissioners is made up of very wealthy people. Their decisions are made by those two things.

Can this ever be changed? This is the 21st century. We no longer must hunt
to eat. Most all of us live in areas where there is no wildlife disrupting our
comfortable ways of life. It is said that management of wildlife is not necessary.
Nature will take care of their numbers.

So we are given the Kool-Aid to drink in order to justify the hunt. And many
uneducated people do. Only with education of these things will there ever be
change. It is the moral responsiblily of all of us who know better to teach those
who don’t.

May we live in harmony with our wildlife, educating others and being active to
help those who cannot help themselves.

Bears: Wanted Dead by the FWC

Critical Food Source For Wildlife In Florida Being Sold Off

Should our natural resources be sold off to the highest bidder?
Should they be used for profit while the wildlife that depends on
them for food be depleted of enough sustenance to survive?

That’s exactly what is happening in Florida with the saw palmetto berries.
These berries that have been said to help prostate health and some other ailments
have become quite a big business for pharmaceuticals, the companies that sell to them and the people who pick the berries. Eighty percent
of saw palmetto berries come from Florida.

The saw palmetto berries become ripe in August through September. A time when many migrant workers are out of work because there are no crops to pick. So they have turned to the saw palmetto berries.

The saw palmetto berries come at a cost to the pickers. They even risk their lives as rattle snakes make their homes in the palmetto bushes. There are biting insects and jagged leaves on the bushes that cut their hands and arms. They must wear protective gloves and long sleeves and pick in the Florida heat. But it’s all worth it to them.
They can make over a thousand dollars in just a few days.

Most pickers go out together and pick. Perhaps they are families. They load up in a truck with their bags and machetes and find a spot to pull off of the road to pick for the day. Usually the driver leaves and comes back and picks them up because leaving a truck on the side of the road would be a risk to be found out that they are picking illegally. They pick on private lands without permission. They pick on state land where it is now illegal
since a one year moratorium was placed on the picking of them on state land by agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam who was pressured to do something after public outcry.

These groups of pickers have proven to be a problem to law enforcement who when they come upon them do not have enough man power or vehicles to arrest them. So they make them dump the berries
and send them on their way. One person who doesn’t like the berry pickers said that the private land owners should call the cops to arrest them and stay there to retrieve the berries and go sell them themselves. Not exactly what needs to happen

In 2005 the berries were selling for thirty-five cents a pound but
now are up to as much as three dollars a pound. According to the Hearld
Tribune in Sarasota which ran an article in 2005 about the berries, they had been quietly being sold for more than twenty years. Here we are ten years later and little has been done.

Black bears forage on these berries at a critical time of the year when they are trying to pack on pounds as they prepare to enter into the denning season when they can lose 25% of their weight. And for females, it’s a matter of life or death to their unborn cubs who require this nourishment
to become viable.

As per the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) –
“The relation between the Florida black bear
(Ursus americanus floridanus) and saw palmetto (Serenoa
repens) epitomizes the complexities and challenges in
developing habitat management guidelines for the
Southeast’s largest land mammal. Both species were
once widespread throughout Florida, but now exhibit
patchy distributions throughout the state. Both species
provide keystone processes for the ecosystems in which
they reside: the black bear as a seed disperser (Maehr
1984a, 1997a) and saw palmetto as preferred food and
cover for hundreds of animal species (Maehr and Layne
1996a,b).”

You can see this is a critical plant for bears as well as other wildlife but for many years these berries have been allowed to be picked for a $10 a day permit on state land by the Florida Forest Service. Surely, the FWC knew about this. They are suppose to work together. And yet
it never stopped it. Besides the harvesting there has been burning off of palmettos in controlled burns of scrub land. These burns cause the palmettos not to be able to produce berries because of burning them back to the ground as well as have other negative effects.

In a report by, by Linda Conway Duever Conway Conservation, LLC regarding the Ecology of Saw Palmetto Management, the FWC says the following: “We have been, in effect, managing saw palmetto landscape ecology backwards. We should use longer fire intervals for substantial habitat patches deep in natural area interiors and shorter intervals in more buffer zone areas. This would help protect fruit resources from poachers and keep berry-seeking bears and frond-accumulation fire
hazards away from people, hence reducing the huge costs of nuisance bear incidents, traffic accidents, and urban interface wildfires. Managing mesic South Florida flatwoods for a more natural and diverse landscape mosaic by burning more palmetto in patches closer to the <10 acres/burn area typical of lightning fires in that region is also important, as is remembering that bears and/or panthers may be harmed if fires enter the old palmetto stands they use as denning cover. Since Serenoa repens is predicted to be extraordinarily persistent in the face of climate change, improving management of this species to increase its wildlife value can be
viewed as an especially good longterm investment.”

We have noticed an increase of bears visiting neighborhoods to forage through garbage and whatever else they can find. It has been shown in other states when there are low mast years, bears will venture out into neighborhoods, even breaking into homes in order to find enough to eat. Those low mast years where created by nature in those states. But in Florida, it is man who has created the problem.

Clearly, this problem needs to have more attention. A permanent ban on harvesting of the berries on state land and possibly to include private land. Protections need to be in place to keep these plants safe from humans for the sake of all wildlife. Along with these protections, heftier
fines need to be implemented because as it is, it’s worth it to the harvesters to risk the smallfines in leiu of the rewards they get when they sell them.

The group, Speak Up Wekiva along with senator Darren Soto (D-Fl), has introduced a bill called The Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act. This needs to be supported by everyone as it will help to make these important plants safer.

https://www.change.org/p/the-florida-legislature-the-florida-black-bear-habitat-restoration-act

Together we can all help by reporting harvesters when we see them and protecting the saw palmettos
wherever they are.

Critical Food Source For Wildlife In Florida Being Sold Off

Habitat for Florida Bears Has Been Stripped And Needs Protection

Chuck O’Neal with Speak Up Wekiva and Senator Darren Soto have introduced a bill to restore and protect the habitat of our wildlife, in particular our bears.

As you know there has been a lot going on in the news about our black bears. There is so much I could tell you about them and the issues surrounding them that you probably
don’t even know. Most people don’t.

Their food sources in their habitat have been stripped. In some areas of the state the saw palmetto berries are so heavily harvested there are none left for the bears or other wildlife that depend on them.

Saw palmettos berries, according to one biologist is the most vital food source for bears.
These berries become ripe at a time when bears have to pack on pounds to survive winter
when they will lose up to 25% of their body weight. If a female doesn’t get enough food
her pregnancy will terminate.

For years our state forestry service sold permits for $10 a day for people to harvest these
berries on state land. Most of them are harvested by migrant workers who find themselves
out of work at the same time. They go into the forests and scrubs and pick tons upon tons
of berries.

Just recently in June of this year a temporary moratorium was put on the harvesting of these
important berries by the commissioner of agriculture. This is only a one year ban. This will
hardly give the bears time to figure out that this natural food source is once again available
to them in their habitat.

Along with the saw palmetto berries, developments and deforestation is taking away much needed trees that produce acorns which are also needed for food by the bears and other wildlife. In one area of Ocala they are cutting down all the turkey oaks saying they are invasive even though they’ve been there for hundred years and produce much needed acorns.

It has been shown that when bears are not getting enough food in their habitat they will go out of it to find it. Many bears are now being found in neighborhoods throughout Florida foraging for food. And they find it in the source of garbage not properly kept by the homeowners.

The Black Bear Habitat Rehabilitation Act also addresses this problem. For too long governmental agencies, who were responsible for wildlife food resources and safety of citizens, have failed. We now have a problem on our hands and their go to answer was to kill the bears instead of using non-lethal methods.

With food sources back in tact, garbage secured, and everyone becoming bear wise, we should see a change in a short time without the need to kill our bears.

Please read more about this act.

https://www.facebook.com/download/170624986618557/Florida_Black_Bear_Habitat_Restoration_Act%20.pdf (This is the Act)

Habitat for Florida Bears Has Been Stripped And Needs Protection