Dolphin Tales: Bottlenose dolphin and the mangrove coast
Our local resident bottlenose dolphins can be spotted every day of the year along our mangrove coast. They will live their entire lives within a five-mile radius, joining other pods for hunting, socializing and mating. They are perhaps the most familiar and beloved of our marine mammals. Their athletic ability, curiosity and charismatic “smile” have attracted the attention of humans for centuries. We are fortunate that they live and thrive in our local waters.
Florida has nearly 470,000 acres of mangrove forests contributing to the overall health of our coastal waters. Mangroves are the perfect habitat for our resident bottlenose dolphins. Mangrove roots provide nursery habitats for a multitude of fish species along with certain sharks and crustaceans. Once the fish mature, they leave the protection of the mangroves and become part of the food web in the estuaries and coastal waters of Southwest Florida. In other words, they become lunch for bottlenose dolphins. Watch for dolphins swimming in short bursts of speed and creating large wakes and splashes along the mangroves. You may even see a dolphin tossing a fish in the air.
Mangrove branches also serve as rookeries for coastal birds such as brown pelicans, white ibis, frigatebirds, cormorants, anhingas and snowy egrets.
American alligators and American crocodiles are both residents of mangrove habitats.
It is not uncommon to see one of these reptiles in the Manatee Cove off of Pelican Bay on Cayo Costa Island. They seem to live in harmony with the manatee as long as there is plenty of food for everyone. Our manatee are vegetarians while the gators and crocs eat small fish, mammals, birds, insects and crustaceans.
Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239 994-2572.