Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Fish-Hunting Raccoon in Collier-Seminole State Park

The second hike on which we embarked in Florida wasn't as exciting as the first one. Well, I guess this is to be expected: in the end, we were not in a zoo, but in a real world with animals free to go wherever they wanted.

The highlight of this hike was a raccoon trying to catch a fish right in front of our noses. Like most animals we encountered in Florida, this raccoon was completely oblivious to our presence, giving me plenty of opportunities to take close-up photos.

A raccoon in Collier-Seminole State Park, Florida

The behavior of the raccoon made me wonder if in Florida’s parks animals were paid (or somehow bribed) to parade in front of visitors. How else would you explain why this raccoon decided to go hunting directly in front of the observation platform, located at the end of the 0.9-mile-long boardwalk trail?

A raccoon looking for fish

Collier-Seminole State Park, in which this short boardwalk trail is located, can also be explored through other hikes (there are over 10 miles of hiking trails), by bike (on a 3.5-mile unpaved bike trail), and by canoe/kayak. The park provides canoe rentals and organizes ranger-led guided canoe trips through the mangrove swamp several times a week. We almost signed up for such a trip, but because of the timing issue we decided to go kayaking with another company.

If you don't like organized trips, and feel comfortable kayaking and navigating by yourself, you could rent a kayak and embark on a 13.6-mile canoe trail that follows the twisting Blackwater River through a mangrove forest. The park's rangers will be happy to give you the map of this trail, as well as share some navigational tips that you might need.

In the park we also saw many birds, including this graceful wood stork.
A graceful wood stork flying above our heads

Collier-Seminole State Park is located on the southern side of the Tamiami Trail, 20 miles east of Naples, and 16 miles west from the intersection of Hwy 41 and SR 29. There is a fully-developed campground (with showers), which can be booked online. It seems, though, that the campground doesn't fill up too quickly, so you also might try to get a spot there without a reservation.