Why Keep The Animals?

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Sherry posed a very good question about why the state keeps the animals and birds in the park, and being that it is an extremely lousy stormy day outside, I thought I would undertake the project of educating everyone about the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park.

A comprehensive history of the area going back to the civil war can be found here and is interesting reading although I won’t reproduce it here :-). To sum it up, the Park’s early history included a series of private owners who maintained tourist attractions on this site. The last private owner had plans to sell the land to a developer, but a grassroots effort generated by the county residents succeeded in gathering enough signatures on petitions to block the sale. The county purchased the park, and after running it for a few years, the State of Florida purchased the Park from Citrus County on January 1, 1989. This would preserve the land from any further threats of development.

As per Florida State Park directives, the management of the Park has shifted from entertainment to environmental education, and from the display of exotic animals to the protection and exhibition of native Floridian wildlife and plants. With one exception, which I will detail later.The Park encompasses 200 plus acres of land, and wetlands, hydric hammock areas and spring-fed springs are some examples of the diverse physical features of the Park. The centerpiece of the Park is a deep natural spring of the first magnitude that pumps out over a million gallons of water each hour. The water here is SO clear. To provide the best possible view of the spring, previous owners of the Park installed a floating underwater observatory in the main spring in 1964.

The headsprings
On a visit to the park back in February, I took this picture of Al and Cousin Bill and Cousin Bruce on the upper level of the observatory.
The springs here provided a refuge for the Park’s captive-born West Indian Manatees, as well as a half-way house for rehabilitating manatees that are scheduled for release back in the wild. Last year the Park was host to four manatees that had become extremely sick from the red algae bloom that happened south of us. These manatees were successfully nursed back to health and released in the spring. I read a news report that 276 manatees died the winter and sp…