The legal woes of Tampa Bay's top bird rescuer have now gone from bad to worse.
He's the target of a lawsuit by his own children who, among other things, accuse him of stealing from funds intended for charity and allowing a pornographic website to take photos of nude, underage girls on his property.
Ralph Heath Jr., the son of a prominent Tampa surgeon, founded the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores in 1971 and built it into the largest nonprofit wild bird hospital and sanctuary in the United States. ...
First it drives them insane. Then it kills them.
A toxic algae has been poisoning birds throughout the South. Now it's lurking in Florida's freshwater lakes.
This is not the same as the slimy, toxic blue-green algae plaguing Florida's east coast, its stench driving tourists away and forcing residents to stay indoors.
This one could be worse.
So far it has been blamed for killing thousands of birds....
The manatees are dying again.
Between 2012 to 2015, state officials said 158 manatees died in Florida's Indian River Lagoon, once known as the most diverse ecosystem in America. They weren't alone — pelicans and dolphins died by the score in the polluted lagoon too.
The manatee die-off sputtered out last summer. But now, according to St. Petersburg's Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, it has begun anew....
OLDSMAR — An algae bloom of unknown origin has killed what a Pinellas County official described Thursday as "thousands and thousands" of fish in an outfall canal between Lake Tarpon and the northern reaches of Tampa Bay.
The algae bloom near Oldsmar appears to have absorbed much of the oxygen in the water in that area, suffocating thousands of juveniles of a type of fish known as menhaden....
It's going to be a long, stinky Fourth of July weekend on Jensen Beach.
Instead of red, white and blue, the color of the day is green. Thick, putrid layers of toxic blue-green algae are lapping at the sand, forcing Martin County officials to close the beach as a health hazard.
"I've seen Jensen Beach closed for sharks," said Irene Gomes, whose family has run the Driftwood Motel since 1958. "I've never seen it closed for an algae bloom before."...
07/01/16 Human Interest
I read a lot of paperback thrillers, especially in the summer. Sometimes I think it's because of something in my DNA.
My grandfather was hooked on Perry Mason, both the TV show and the books by Erle Stanley Gardner. My mother couldn't get enough of Agatha Christie. Growing up, I jumped from Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.
I used to ride the bus to school, my nose buried so deeply in books such as Ax by Ed McBain that I barely noticed the horrified reactions their lurid covers got from the other kids....
The birds and the bats are about to get some help from the humans.
On Wednesday, just before launching into a 10-hour discussion about holding a second bear hunt, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to give a green light to creating or expanding 19 "critical wildlife areas" around the state.
These designated areas protect places where wildlife congregates to breed, nest, roost and feed. Among those proposed:...
EASTPOINT — In a surprise move, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 4-3 late Wednesday to hold off having a second bear hunt this year.
The vote marks a major change from last year, when the wildlife commissioners voted 6-1 to go ahead with Florida's first bear hunt in 21 years, despite strong public opposition.
The change in attitude was made more remarkable by the venue for Wednesday's all-day meeting, the tiny Panhandle town of Eastpoint where two of Florida's five bear attacks of humans have occurred. Commission executive director Nick Wiley said that was just a coincidence....
The ads are blunt: "Tell Gov. Rick Scott to stop killing our bears."
Opponents of holding a second Florida bear hunt have bought ads on television and digital devices to try to persuade Scott's appointees on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to vote against a proposed hunt today.
The commission's staff is proposing a more limited hunt than the first one. However, commissioners could vote for no hunt, or for a similar hunt to the one that occurred last October....
Pastor Manuel Sykes announced his decision to run for a state House being vacated by term-limited Rep. Darryl Rouson during a Sunday service at Bethel Community Baptist Church.
Sykes' brief flirtation with a run for Congress in 2014 caused political fight with the county Democratic party when then county chairman Mark Hanisee left him a voice mail saying he would be "persona non grata" if he stayed in the race. ...
State officials justify a $6 billion interstate project by making a bold claim: It will ease gridlock throughout the Tampa Bay area.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Bay Express will "reduce traffic time and traffic congestion for everyone."
That claim has been repeated in brochures, videos and testimonials that are part of a taxpayer-funded public relations campaign touting the project....
Biologists for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are recommending their bosses approve a second bear hunt, but one that is more limited in scope than what took place last fall.
The commission meets June 22 in Apalachicola, where its agenda includes a discussion of whether to hold a second hunt at all. The seven board members could end the hunt entirely or pause it for a year. Their staff is recommending neither, choosing a revised hunt instead....
Once upon a time, Ralph Heath Jr. was a legend: the Bird Man of Tampa Bay.
Starting with one cormorant in 1971, Heath eventually ran the largest nonprofit wild bird hospital and sanctuary in the United States. At the height of his fame, more than 50,000 people a year visited his Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, marveling at how he and his staff rehabilitated injured pelicans and other creatures. He even had his own ocean-going research vessel. ...
06/02/16 Human Interest
A couple of years ago, a real estate blog called Estately announced that, according to its highly scientific calculations, the scariest state in the union is Florida.
Why us? Because of our hurricanes, for one thing. And the shark attacks. We get more than anywhere else in the world. The blog also counted our tornadoes (frequently spawned by our hurricanes) and our many lightning strikes (we usually get more of those than anywhere else in the U.S.)....
The population of Florida's most critically endangered bird just got a little larger.
Four grasshopper sparrow chicks were hatched in a Loxahatchee laboratory this week, marking the first success of a captive breeding program launched out of fear the tiny birds were about to go extinct.
The hatchlings, however, won't be released into the wild, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Warren....