Snake avoidance clinic for dogs at Hammock Bay April 27

snakeavoidanceThe Emerald Coast Vizsla Club is hosting a Snake Avoidance Clinic with Dr. Bud Calderwood, DVM at Hammock Bay on Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Dogs are trained to associate the smell, sound and site of a snake with a negative reinforcement. Dr. Calderwood fits the dog with an e-collar to provide negative re-enforcement. The strength of the correction is calibrated for each dog and is somewhat stiff, so expect your dog to react accordingly. Bear in mind, this training could be LIFE SAVING. The snakes used in this clinic have been rendered safe by removing their fangs and taping their mouths shut.

The clinic consists of a small course where various venomous snakes are arranged in several situations. The dog’s handler is instructed to lead the dog through the course on a leash. Dr. Calderwood’s expertise in canine and reptile behavior allows him to apply the right correction exactly at the right moment for each snake encounter. He has gained this insight through years of experience with many hundreds of dogs. The dog is then lead back through the course to gauge its reaction to subsequent snake encounters. This training is used to allow your dog to associate the sound and smell of a snake with danger and train them to avoid the situation. In our “neck of the woods” this is a very important training that may save your dog’s life.

$50 for first dog in family, $40 for any other dogs in that family, $35 to re-check a previously tested dog. Please make checks payable to ECVC. Click here to download registration form: ECVC Snake Avoidance Clinic Flyer 2014

Requirements:  This is a community service and ALL BREEDS of dogs are welcome. Dogs must be leash-trained, over 6 months old and weigh at least 20 pounds. If you have a dog that is less than 20 lbs., but over 6 months of age, you may be granted a waiver, but will need to call first for special instructions from Dr. Calderwood. Priority will be given to pre-paid entrants and to members of the ECVC. Day of event entries may be taken as space is available.


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Take a guided eco tour of Western Lake on a kayak or stand up paddle board April 28

greategretwesternlakeTime: 8:30 – 11:00 a.m.

You will travel from where the water comes in to Western Lake to where the water goes out from Western Lake to the Gulf of Mexico.  Discussion topics will include history, coastal dune lake ecology, and local anecdotes, as well as efforts to preserve the lakes and how the lakes preserve us. Your guide will be Karl Renelt.

Moderate or higher exertion level, depending on wind conditions. Participants are asked to bring forecast compatible clothing and personal comfort items (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). Kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rental included in the cost of the tour.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Minimum of 4. Location: Meet at The Boathouse at WaterColor, 34 Goldenrod Circle, Santa Rosa Beach.

Fee: $65 for kayak, $70 for stand-up paddleboard. Click here to register online or call 850-200-4160, Ref# 090602 – KAYAK, Ref# 090603 – STAND-UP PADDLEBOARD. Have your credit card ready.

Event subject to cancellation. In the case of inclement weather, registrants will be notified by email or phone the afternoon/evening prior, and fees will be fully refunded.

Hosted by Choctawhathcee Basin Alliance, Discover Roads Less Traveled eco-tours will introduce you to some of these very special places. Click here to learn about various upcoming events.


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Choctawhatchee Estuary Family Festival in Niceville April 26

estuaryThe Seventh Annual Choctawhatchee Estuary Family Festival, a free family and community event for all ages, will be held Saturday, April 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, located at 4281 Highway 20 East in Niceville.

There is no park entrance fee for the festival which offers fun activities, hand-on displays and environmental awareness. The event is hosted by the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural & Environmental Institute at Northwest Florida State College, with support from the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks.

The Choctawhatchee Estuary Family Festival features activities for the whole family including fish printing on t-shirts, operating an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV), explore the deep ocean and learn about critters that glow-in-the-dark, learn how to paddle board or take a kayak tour in the bayou, view wildlife displays, learn about our local environment and more.

The event will also include displays by the Okaloosa County Health Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, Audubon Society, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and others.

All activities and entertainment are free of charge! No need to RSVP- just be prepared to have a great time!

Families are encouraged to pack a picnic lunch and come learn about the local waters of our estuary and the people living and working there. For more information on the festival, contact the Mattie M. Kelly Cultural & Environmental Institute at 850-729-6469.

For more information:

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Mother opposum wreaks havoc at Freeport home

Opossum in Freeport garbage can with offspring. Photo courtesy Dan Baker

Opossum with her offspring sleeping in Freeport garbage can. Photo courtesy Dan Baker

Dan Baker of Freeport sent us a story about an unusual event at his home in Freeport April 14. We’ll let Dan tell the story:

“Yesterday evening around 9:00 P.M. windows open, fresh air and pure bliss was over me while watching the reruns of the Masters Invitational when suddenly our cats, Percy and Mini and the adorable dog Bella stirred in a panic after a quiet evening.  They all wanted out of this house barking howling, screaming, squalling and scratching at the door. There was no quieting them.  This kind of had me shook. I usually do not spook at anything. I stepped outside while shoving my way past the inside critters,  heard nothing, saw nothing to be alarmed about except a Whippoorwill in the distance. The inside pets by this time (12:30 A.M.) had be running all over the house. Bella was up and down on the bed, baying at the window or front door. By the way “Bella” is a full sized Yorky and she thinks she is a Rottweiler.  No sleep for me or them last night.

Seems the “Miracle of Birth” can happen anywhere. When I when out to deposit a bag in the garbage  can I took a double look. Mrs. O’Possum had delivered her litter of babies  (kittens or cubs or whatever) in my garbage can. Mother Possum could not be stirred. She seemed very content nursing her new arrival’s. I daringly crept up on the can with camera in hand got a couple of photos for proof.  Mom Possum did not stir…But now what do I do?

I have imagined trying to help extract the family from my garbage can but the picture in my mind of a pissed off Mother Possum trying to kill me just does not set right in my mind.”

Side note: Deb Edwards from Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge informed us these babies are not newborns, as newborn opossums are the size of a lima bean. When born, they transfer to the mother’s pouch for nursing and growth. Once they reach a larger size, the offspring attach to the mother’s back until large enough to head out on their own. We are not sure what the circumstances are, however hope mom and her babies are headed back to the woods soon.

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Take a guided canoe/kayak tour of Campbell Lake at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park April 24

topsailcanoeskayaksTime: 1 p.m.

Campbell Lake is one of the most pristine coastal dune lakes in South Walton. This tour is an opportunity to experience it up-close. Participants will meet at Tram Stop One in the parking area behind the ranger station at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and ride down to the Campbell Lake recreation area. After a brief safety discussion, participants will launch canoes and kayaks and tour the lake by following the shoreline. Along the way, the park service specialist will talk about all the aspects that make these lakes so special and visit some of the most beautiful areas in the park. This is a “behind the scenes” tour of a coastal dune lake.

Be sure to bring your binoculars and a camera as well as water and a snack. Shoes are required as we may leave the water and explore on foot in a few places. All canoes, kayaks, paddles, and floatation devices will be provided. This trip will require several hours of paddling and a little bit of hiking. There is space for three younger-aged children to sit in the canoes, but all other participants must be able to paddle a canoe or kayak. Event subject to cancellation due to high winds or inclement weather.

Space is limited to 11 participants, plus an additional 3 non-paddling children, minimum of 4.

Location: Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, 7525 W Scenic Hwy 30A, Santa Rosa Beach Meet at Tram Stop One in the parking area behind the ranger station. ::MAP::

Fee: $30 + a $6.00 entry admission per vehicle into the park.  Call to register 850-200-4160 and reference # 090581.

This event is brought to you by Choctawhathcee Basin Alliance, Discover Roads Less Traveled eco-tours. Click here to learn about various upcoming events.CBAecoadventures

Event subject to cancellation. In the case of inclement weather, registrants will be notified by email or phone the afternoon/evening prior, and fees will be fully refunded.

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Enjoy a canoe tour of Western Lake channel and outfall at Grayton Beach State Park April 30

greategretwesternlakeOn Wednesday, April 30 from 9 – 11 a.m. enjoy a canoe tour of Western Lake channel and outfall.  A Grayton Beach State Park specialist will lead you on an exciting trip on Western Lake discussing the importance and rarity of coastal dune lakes and what animal/birds call the lakes home.

Please sign-up at the ranger station prior to the day of the event. Event is open to the first 9 guests to sign-up at the ranger station. Participants that sign-up should meet at the boat ramp parking/canoe launch area. This tour will take 1-2 hours. Sunscreen and drinking water are suggested items to bring. Anyone wishing to bring their own kayak or canoe may do for this program.

Admission is $5.00 per vehicle.

Grayton Beach State Park is located at 357 Main Park Rd., Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. For more information, call: (850) 267-8300


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Community clean up day at Legion Park April 26

walton-county-logoWalton County District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander will be hosting a community clean up day in Miramar Beach at Legion Park April 26 from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. The park is located on Ponce de Leon Street.

Dumpsters will be provided for Walton County residents to dump trash, yard debris, tires, appliances and other miscellaneous items.  A crew and equipment will be available to off-load heavy items.  Recycling trailers will also be available for newspapers, glass and aluminum. Items that will not be accepted will be poisons, pesticides, paints, thinners, gasoline and other flammables.

For additional information about this or other community clean-up events, please contact either Commissioner Comander’s office at 850-835-4834 or the County Landfill at 850-892-8180.


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Take a hike on the Florida Trail along Econfina Creek

Mountain laurel blooms in April along the trial. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Mountain laurel blooms in April along the trial. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Scenic vistas await the explorer

Hiking the Florida Trail along the Econfina Creek just north of Panama City in Washington County is a must do for anyone who enjoys nature.

This portion of the Trail in Northwest Florida runs along the creek for a stretch of approximately 18 miles, with three convenient accesses. Choose from Scott Road trail head off of U.S. Hwy. 231 just north of Fountain; SR 20 trailhead between SR 77 and U.S. Hwy 231 near Pitt Spring or Walsingham Bridge, accessible via Strickland Road off of SR 20 north of Pitt Spring.

From Scott’s Road access, Two Penny Bridge is a two-mile trek over moderate terrain. Enjoy extraordinary views of the creek as it rolls over limestone rock along this section. In the springtime, you can find mountain laurel and rhododendron blooming along with vibrant Florida anise. In the fall, a variety of hardwoods provide subtle color changes with red and orange hues along this shady trail.

Two miles in from Scott Road access is an incredible suspension bridge the Florida Trail Association recently built crossing the Econfina Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors.

Two miles in from Scott Road access is an incredible suspension bridge the Florida Trail Association recently built crossing the Econfina Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors.

For a short 4-mile hike, Two Penny Bridge will be your turnaround point. The trek from Scott’s Road to Walsingham Bridge is 10 miles. The Walsingham area has camping facilities, picnic tables and portable toilet facility.

A fall hike provides great colors along the trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Fall colors along the trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

This section of the Florida Trail is owned by Northwest Florida Water Management District, and is chock full of recreation opportunities. Equestrian trails, paddling, birding, swimming, hunting and fishing are all available in close proximity to the creek. Econfina recreationarea map shows detailed information on the recreation area.

Pack a lunch and make a day of it, or pack your gear and camp out. This is Northwest Florida’s nature at its best. Note there is wildlife along the trail including snakes and ticks in the warmer months. Keeping an eye on where you are walking and check yourself for ticks when you exit the forest area.

Click here information about the Econfina Creek.

For more information about the Florida Trail, click here.


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Walton County bay and river fishing report for April 10

specktrout23Fishing is good for those that get out there

Choctawhatchee Bay: Folks reeling in some large speckled trout, some small redfish, a few sheepshead and black drum.

River: River is high, but folks have been reeling in some shellcracker.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439
(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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Explore nature at St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge

St. Vincent Island boast several fresh water lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

St. Vincent Island boast several fresh water lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Have you ever wanted to step back in time and explore the natural beauty of Florida?  Pack yourself a lunch and head over to the undeveloped treasure chest that awaits you at the St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

Located at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, in the Gulf of Mexico, St. Vincent Island NWR is a 12,300-acre barrier island. The island is 9 miles long and 4 miles wide. The triangular island is larger than most of the northern Gulf coast barrier islands and dissected by dune ridges, freshwater lakes and sloughs on the east end. The west ends supports dry upland pine forests.

A young alligator sunning itself. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A young alligator sunning itself. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The island is a haven for an abundance of wildlife including migratory birds, raptors, alligators, deer, and red wolves. It is rich with plant life that includes pines, hardwoods such as scrub and live oak, spiderwort, St. John’s wort, and gallberry, saw palmetto to name a few. The beach is a delight for shell seekers, as the tiny gems scattered along the south side of the island are a pocketful of keepers.

Accessed only by water, options to get there are paddling, boating or by shuttle boat located at the Indian Pass boat ramp. Call (850) 229-1065 for shuttle information/reservation. ::MAP::

Things to know:
• Motorized vehicles and equipment are prohibited – bicycles are permitted.
• Refuge is closed during permitted hunts and storm events.
• No potable water or telephones are on the island.
• The 2 restrooms are located near the boathouse and by the cabin in the interior.
• Bring water and insect repellent.
• The refuge is open daylight hours only. No overnight camping is permitted except during special hunt season.

A great horned owlet nestled in pine tree. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A great horned owlet nestled in pine tree. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Kayak/canoe/stand up paddle board:
It is a short paddle from Indian Pass to the western shoreline. Be observant of the tidal flow. At certain times, it can be quite strong making a short paddle very challenging. Once you reach the shoreline, you can paddle along the Gulf of Mexico or paddle the bay side and experience the many creeks and coves.

There are roads and trails throughout the island. Trail maps are available at the Wildlife Refuge office in Apalachicola and in kiosk near the boat dock on the western end of the island. Most of the biking roads and hiking trails are inland, so bikers and hikers should be prepared for biting insects in dense but beautiful forests.

Brown water snake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Brown water snake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Hiking options:
• From Indian Pass boat dock head down the road toward the Gulfside point. Note restrictions due to nesting shorebirds.
• Take the beach trail over to the Gulf side of the island. Have a pleasant walk on the beach.
• Cut back over to Indian Pass via “O” road (sign sitting up on dune). Follow to the end of “O” road and take a left on “B” road which will bring you back to Indian Pass. Young children can do this hike if they are used to walking.

• Start same route as Easy hike.
• Keep going past “O” road for as long as you wish. Cut back over any of the roads and take a left on “B” and head back to Indian Pass.

• From Indian Pass hike down road “B” to road “2”. Turn left onto road “2”.
• Walk to “E” road and take a right.
• Continue hiking as long as you want. Take a right on road “3” or “4” and hike to the beach.
• Turn right on the beach and head back

Aerial photo of St. Vincent Island NWR shows the natural sand ridges. Photo courtesy Debbie Hooper

Aerial photo of St. Vincent Island NWR shows the natural sand ridges. Photo courtesy Friends of St. Vincent Island.

Guided tours:
The Supporters Group of St. Vincent Island offers a guided tour of the island once a month. The tour is free, but participants must make a reservation and there is a nominal charge for a local boat captain to take you from Indian Pass to the island. Contact the St. Vincent Wildlife Refuge Office for reservations and the name and phone number of the local captain providing transportation to the island. The refuge office & visitor center is located in the Harbor Master building on Market Street in Apalachicola.

Hours are 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (850-653-8808). You can also schedule transportation to and from the island for yourself and your bike whenever you would like to visit the island. Click here for reservation information.

Pottery shards that have been found on the island indicate that Native Americans inhabited the island as early as the year 240. Franciscan friars doing missionary work with the Apalachee Indians named the island St. Vincentin 1633. Creeks and Seminole Indians inhabited of the island in the 1750s.

During the Civil War, a small fort called Fort Mallory was built off of Dune Road.  In 1868 George Hatch purchased St. Vincent Island at an auction for $3,000. His grave is the only marked grave on the island and can be found west of the cabin.

stvincentmapUSFWSIn 1908 Dr. Pierce purchased the island for $60,000 and during his ownership the island had several uses. He imported old world game and used the island as a private hunting preserve. The Sambar deer, an elk from India, acclimated to the island terrain and remains on the island today. He also raised beef cattle which were sold to the Apalachicola market. In 1940 the first oyster leases were granted for the bay waters by the island. The Pierce estate also sold pine timber to the St. Joe Company who built a bridge to the island for timber removal. The cabin was also built during this period.

The Loomis brothers bought the island in 1948 for $140,000 and turned the island into a private hunting preserve. Many exotic animals such as zebra, eland, black buck, ring necked pheasants, Asian jungle fowl, bob white quail, and semi-wild turkeys were brought to the island.

In 1968 The Nature Conservancy purchased the island for $2.2 million. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service then purchased St. Vincent with Duck Stamp funds. All exotic animals, except the Sambar deer and feral hogs were removed.

St. Vincent Island offers some of the most unique hunting opportunities found on any wildlife refuge. For hunters wanting to rough it and go after “big game” there is the primitive weapon (muzzle and bow) Sambar deer hunt. This elusive deer which is native to Southeast Asia can measure up to 6 ft. tall and can weigh up to 700 lbs. The 150 permits for this hunt are issued through a lottery that attracts between1200 and 1400 applicants.

Permits for the two other hunts, white tailed deer archery hunt and white tailed deer primitive weapon hunt, are issued to the first 250 applicants. ($25 fee). The application process is done through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Total Licensing System. Click here for info.

Camping is primitive and all supplies must be carried to the island and transported on foot to designated camping areas.

Visitor’s center:
The Refuge Office/Visitor Center is in the Harbor Master Building at 479 Market Street, Apalachicola, Florida. Refuge signs on Highway 98 will direct you to the Center. The Center is open Monday – Thursday 10 am – 3:30 pm E.S.T.

Become a friend of the island and learn more at:

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