Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Anhinga Trail is just inside the east entrance to Everglades National Park at Royal Palm Hammock. Paved walkways, sturdy boardwalks, and alligators, herons, egrets, and anhingas within a few feet create an aura of zoo-ness. But this is no zoo; the animals at Anhinga Trail are not tame. Why are they here? Why do they allow humans so close? Anhinga Trail was part of a road leading to Paradise Key, renamed Royal Palm Hammock when it became a state park in 1916. It has been a prime attraction of Everglades National Park since the park was opened in 1947. Year-around water is the key. Sawgrass prairie, open water, and narrow ditches with water lilies and other emergent vegetation border the trail. During drought, alligators dig deeper to find refuge. These gator holes attract other wild things. Animals at Anhinga Trail allow close approach because they need the rich resources of Taylor Slough and humans there are not threatening. Wildlife viewing at Anhinga Trail is best in March at the end of the dry season, when birds and gators gather in remaining pools.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.