TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A new Facebook group is accepting members who love wildlife and are curious to learn more about what they’re finding in their own backyards.
“COAST 2 COAST Snake and Wildlife Identification & Education” was created on Aug. 22 and already has 1,775 members.
The group has multiple admins and moderators, many of who work in venomous snake removal or with wildlife rescues. Anyone who has joined the group can post pictures of snakes or other animals they need identifying or may have questions about.
It’s a closed group, so users have to request to join and answer a few simple questions.
Members are reminded to not post their own opinions or guesses about the wildlife and to leave things to the experts.
Facebook user Taryn Marie created the page after not being allowed to add wildlife professionals to her neighborhood’s Facebook group.
“We are on a nature preserve and there is a lot of wildlife. There were a lot of wildlife postings stating they were killing snakes. There are a lot of cranes being injured and I was trying to get information out to people from the professionals in the community that I work with and that deal with this on a daily basis,” she said.
“And I was being told that because they weren’t residents of Connerton, they [the group admins] weren’t going to allow them to join the group.”
Taryn told 8 On Your Side she notices misinformation in other groups because they are not managed by actual professionals.
“They’re just your average person giving their opinion, which a lot of times is incorrect information and that concerns me. I firmly believe that education saves lives. Therefore it’s important to make sure that the information that’s being given is coming from professionals who are qualified and licensed to give that information.”
John Anderson removes venomous snakes and also works in education with his animal ambassadors. He is an admin on the page and answers many questions about snakes and spiders.
“It’s to give education for wildlife. What to do when you come across wildlife. How not to interact with it or interfere, just leave them alone and let them go about their day,” he said.
Anderson said he keeps the Facebook page up while he works to take care of his animals.
“Then if it chimes in and I have time, I’ll open it up and I’ll take a look at it. And then if I don’t, someone else is there to pick it up to see,” he said.
Founder of Owl’s Nest Sanctuary Kris Porter is also an admin on the page. While her expertise isn’t reptiles, she still receives a lot of questions about coyotes, foxes and other mammals.
She said Owl’s Nest Sanctuary gets tagged in posts all the time.
“It shows the need that people have. We get tagged in Facebook all day long. I’m sure everybody that has a license does, but yeah, it goes on all day. So we’re either answering questions or they’re rescues, they usually tag us,” she said.
“Animals are a big deal and Florida’s pretty wild, so you do find things that you have no clue what’s going on, so why not ask the experts rather than the old days, you used to call your vet or call the Humane Society. Well, they are just going to call us anyway.”
Anderson is passionate about educating the public on Florida’s reptiles. He appreciates what he sees on the Facebook group and the fact people really are trying to learn.
“And people that aren’t trying to kill them, they’re wanting to know what it is and they’re leaving them alone. That’s the main thing, ‘cause from the time that you’re little, most people are taught to be afraid of snakes,” he said.
“If you don’t teach that, they learn to respect the animal and then they’ll just leave it alone and let it go about its day. I mean, the snake has a big part in the ecosystem. It eats a lot of pests that would come and chew into your home and cause property damage like rats.”
To join COAST 2 COAST Snake and Wildlife Identification & Education, click here.