Bimini unfortunately has an overpopulation of feral house cats, which are opportunistic predators and feed on many birds, lizards, and snakes. According to the American Bird Conservancy, feral cats are responsible for killing 1.4.-3.7 BILLION birds each year! Feral cats have likely contributed to the extinctions of 14% of bird, mammal and reptile extinctions on Bahamian islands.
The in an effort to reduce the number of feral cats on Bimini, the Shark Lab has been hosting spay and neuter vet clinics for decades.
FERAL HOUSE CAT - INVASIVE
Anolis smaragdinus lerneri
The Bahamian Green Anoles are an insectivore lizard species native to the Bahamas, growing up to 20 cm in length. Their coloration can range from dark brown to a vibrant green, found throughout trees and other vegetation in dry environments. Males may display a pink throat fan, known as a dewlap, in predator intimidation or mating displays. They are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Photo: David Palfrey
BAHAMIAN GREEN ANOLE
The Northern Racoons, rodents distinguished by the black rings of their tail as well as the bandit-like mask on their face, are an invasive species to the Bahamas, native throughout North America. They are most active at night and tend to forage for any food available, such as fruit, animal eggs, insects, and garbage. They’re typically solitary unless caring for their young, and can grow between 60-95 cm as mature adults.
NORTHERN RACOON - INVASIVE
The Pink Blind Snakes are more common on Bimini than the Brown Blind Snake, and are often mistaken for earth-worms. They can commonly be found hiding under rocks and logs near ant nests, and around termite mounds, where they can easily feed on the tiny insects inside but prefer dry sandy habitats. Blind snakes are the most primitive group of snakes. Their eyes are very small, and surrounded by rigid scales that are slightly darker than the rest of the body.
BAHAMIAN PINK BLIND SNAKE
Tropiodophis canus curtis
The Bimini Island Ground Boas, or Bahamian Dwarf Boas, are a relatively small species of wood boa, growing to about 38 cm (15 in) long. Their back consists of dark brown blotches among lighter shades of brown. They use their yellow tails to attract prey, such as lizards and frogs. They constrict their prey before swallowing it whole.
BIMINI ISLAND GROUND BOA
The Caribbean Spiny Lobsters can be found as shallow as 1 m and as deep as 90 m throughout the coasts of the Caribbean Islands and Northeastern South America, often sheltered among coral reefs, shelfs, and seagrass beds. At night, they leave their shelters in search of food, including smaller invertebrates and some plants. They’re known for their sharp spines found across their bodies and they’re two long antennae, with typical body lengths of 20 cm and in some extreme cases, up to 60 cm. Along with Queen Conches, they’re among one of the most valuable seafood exports for the Bahamas, and are thus integral to the Bahamian economy.
CARIBBEAN SPINY LOBSTER
Nassau Groupers are medium sized fish with a pale beige coloration and five dark brown vertical bars along their bodies, a large black blotch on the ventral side of their caudal fin, and a row of black spots behind their eyes. They can be found in coral reefs or on other hard structures such as rocks and ledges in Southern Florida, the Florida Keys, Bermuda, the Yucatan and the Caribbean Sea. Once the most common species of grouper in the United states and Bahamas, the Nassau Grouper quickly became scarce due to overexploitation, and are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Mangrove, or grey, snappers are a smaller species of snapper, growing to a maximum of 18 inches and 10 pounds. They are light grey in color with darker grey or black fins, and a black stripe running through its eyes. In Bimini, mangrove snappers are very commonly found in and around the mangroves and seagrass beds. The IUCN Red List lists mangrove snappers as of least concern.
Mahi mahi, also commonly called dolphinfish or dorado, have a very distinct bright yellow-green coloration with a blunt, square head and dorsal fin running the entire length of their body. They can grow up to a maximum of 2 meters, but are most commonly between 0.5-1 meter long. Mahi mahi are typically found offshore underneath floating objects (such as boats, debris, or large patches of seagrass) throughout tropical and subtropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. The IUCN Red List lists mahi mahi as least concern.
Mutton snappers have a classic snapper body shape with a muted green color on top, and red sides, underbelly, and fins. The most defining features are a black spot on the upper half of their body in line with their anal fin and blue stripes through and below their eyes. Juvenile mutton snappers reside in mangroves and seagrass habitats, while large adults are typically found in offshore reefs along the east coasts of North and South America, especially in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. They are listed as near threatened with decreasing populations on the IUCN Red List.
Great blue herons are very large and tall with a long neck. They have a blue body with a grayish underbelly and a dark streak on the heads. Their bills are long and dusky colored. They live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats, and can also be found foraging in agricultural lands. Least concerned according to the IUCN Red List.
GREAT BLUE HERON
The Common Bottlenose Dolphins are found throughout the oceans as far north as Normway of Europe and as far south as Argentina of South America. They are commonly found swimming in small pods off the northwestern coast of Bimini, sometimes mingling with Atlantic spotted dolphins. Reaching up to 4 m long, they’re able to swim at bursts of 35 km/h (22 miles/h), which along with their amazing echolocation abilities and eyesight,, allow them to effectively chase fish species for food. They’re listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, but are often victims of getting tangled in fishing nets as bycatch.
Photo: Chelle Blais
COMMON BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN
The Giant Hermit Crabs are the largest hermit crabs ever discovered, and can be found both on the land and in the waters of Bimini. As the crab grows, it searches for larger and larger shells of conchs and other molluscs to protect it’s soft body from predators. As opportunistic omnivores, they often scavenge on animal carcasses or graze on macroalgae, and can even be found in dumps or compost piles. If threatened, they flex their abdominal muscles to retract further into their shell, and can also use their sharp claws as defence if necessary.
GIANT HERMIT CRAB
Ameiva auberi richmondi
The sub-species of Bimini Ameiva is a very common sight during the day time. This family of lizards is heat loving inhabiting both wooded and developed areas of the island. The ameivas are very fast moving lizards, and are likely to quickly flee when approached.
The Cuban Brown Anoles are an opportunistic carnivore species native to Cuba and the Bahamas, seen foraging on small animals, animal eggs, and even resorting to cannibalism or feeding on the eggs and juveniles of competing anole species, such as the Bahamian Green Anole. They can reach up to 18 cm in length with long black markings down their light brown back, and are commonly found around residential areas. The throat fan, or dewlap, of males is typically a vibrant orange. They are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Photo by David Palfrey
BAHAMIAN BROWN ANOLE
The Green Iguanas are an herbivorous species invasive to Bimini, native to various countries throughout South & Central America. This species displays numerous green colorations, from dark to pale, along their face and body, often reaching lengths of over 200 cm (nearly 6.5 feet) from snout to tail. Their habitat is primarily within the trees, occasionally reaching the ground for mating and nesting opportunities. They’re a common species in their native regions, and are thus listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
GREEN IGUANA - INVASIVE
The Brown Blind Snake is found on most of the larger islands of the Bahamas, including the Abacos, Andros, the Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, and throughout the Exuma chain. On Bimini they are most commonly seen in rotting logs, and under rocks. The Bahamian Brown Blind Snake is a small species of snakes that are long and thin, giving them their other common names such as worm snakes and thread snakes. Their heads are small and almost indistinguishable from their tails other than two small eyes at the tip of their nose, and an underslung mouth. Unlike the pink blind snake, the brown blind snakes spend their time in moist well-vegetated areas.
BAHAMIAN BROWN BLIND SNAKE
Alsophis vudii picticeps
The Brown Racers are the most common snakes in the Bahamas, and Bimini's beautiful sub-species is often sighted on both South Bimini and North Bimini. Racers are quite active, diurnal snakes, and can often be found hunting for food in the wooded areas of South Bimini. The BBFS staff has witnessed Brown Racers feeding on Anolis lizards, and even on a Pink Blind Snake (Typhlops biminensis) near a termite mound. The Bahamian Brown Racer is a rear-fanged colubrid snake and is mildly venomous. The Racers' venom is used to immobilize small prey, such as Anolis lizards, and poses little or no threat to humans.
Photo: Chelle Blais
BAHAMIAN BROWN RACER
The Red Cushion Sea Stars are the largest species of starfish found in the Caribbean Sea, found in the calm and shallower waters of the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Bahamas. Although commonly referred to as red cushions, they can be colored brown, yellow, and particularly green among camouflaged juveniles within seagrass beds. Their thick bodies can reach a width of 50 cm, their skin studded with dark-coloured spines. They are an omnivorous species, primarily feeding on slow invertebrates or microorganisms.
RED CUSHION SEA STAR
The Queen Conches are a large species of snail found throughout the Caribbean Sea, characterized by their beautiful shells. Their shells are a pale brown with a vibrant pink lip with thick spiny projections, whereas their soft tissue is orange in color. Their shell accounts for most of their mass, allowing them to reach a mass of ~5 lbs (2.3 kg) and a length of 18 cm. Along with Caribbean Spiny Lobsters, Queen Conches are an immensely popular seafood item among local Bahamians and international trade, and are thus important for the livelihood and economy of Bimini.
Photo by David Palfrey
The most noticeable feature of the loggerhead turtle is its large head which supports its powerful jaw muscles. Their powerful jaws allow them to feed on hard shelled prey items such as conch, and whelks. They can grow to be up to 113 kg and 90-100cm long. Their primary threats are bycatch in fishing gear, habitat degradation, vessel strikes and intentional harvest of turtles and their eggs, and pollution. They can be found in the Caribbean, both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the eastern side of the Mediterannean sea, throughout the Indian Ocean, and the North and South pacific.
Atlantic spotted dolphins grow to be between 1.5-2.3 meters long and are covered in spots that darken and become more widespread as they age. Juvenile spotted dolphins are commonly confused with bottlenose dolphins, because they do not develop spots until around the age of three or four. They can be found travelling in pods of anywhere between 5 and 200 individuals in warm temperate and tropical waters throughout the Atlantic Ocean, however in Bimini, they are believed to be residential, being born, reproducing, and spending their entire life here. Atlantic spotted dolphins are listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.
ATLANTIC SPOTTED DOLPHIN
The Shortjaw Bonefish is commonly found in tropical and warm temperate waters around south Florida, the Bahamas and Bermuda, but can be found worldwide. They prefer intertidal flats, mangroves and river mouths with deeper adjacent waters. Unlike other fish, bonefish can tolerate oxygen poor water because they are able to breathe air through a modified lung-like air bladder. These fish typically swim in schools of around 100 individuals and follow the tides into shallow waters and back out to deeper waters. The most distinguishable features of these fish are their inferior mouth, conical nose that protrudes one third of the length of its body past their mandible, their slender and rounded bodies, and deeply forked caudal fin. In the Caribbean they can reach a maximum length of around 77cm. These fish are currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
Green sea turtles are the largest of the six hard-shelled sea turtle species, growing to between 3-4 feet long and 300-350 pounds in weight. They are also the only herbivorous sea turtle species, which causes their fat to be green, giving them their name, green turtle. They have grey, brown, or green shells with five scutes (shell panels) down the middle of their shell, and four scutes on either side. Green sea turtles can be found in subtropical and temperate waters in the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Bimini is an important foraging site for juvenile green sea turtles, which are most commonly found in the South Flats of South Bimini and in Bonefish Hole on North Bimini. The IUCN Red List currently lists green sea turtles as being endangered with decreasing populations.
The Magnificent Frigatebird is a long-winged, fork-tailed bird found in tropical oceans. Males have a bare patch of red skin on their throat. While the females have a dark head and white breast patch. They are currently listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List.
The Brown Pelicans are one of the largest bird species found in Bimini with a wingspan of up to 2.3 m and a weight of up to 5 kg (11 lbs.). They’re distinguished from other birds by their large, sac-like bill which they use to scoop fish and other small animals out of the water when they dive. In breeding season, adult brown pelicans have a pale yellow head and a dark neck. They can be found throughout the trees and docks of Bimini, and will often stay at the surface looking for prey if the water is too murky to dive into. They’re listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
Photo: David Palfrey
The Northern Curly-tailed Lizards, as their name suggests, are identified by their tail curling upwards into a spiral, which helps deter predators from a distance. With a length of up to 26 cm (10 in) from snout to tail, they display a variety of bands and stripes on their pale yellow and greenish-brown body. They are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of prey such as flowers, seeds, insects, and spiders.
Photo by David Palfrey
NORTHERN CURLY-TAILED LIZARD
Epicrates striatus fosteri
On August 14, 1941 Thomas Barbour - the Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology- described a new boa as "black as a raven's wing- with a glittering pearly iridescence of extraordinary beauty" from North Bimini, Bahamas. Although new to science, the boa was already well-known to the Bimini Islanders as one of the "fowl snakes" native to the Bahamas. The snake in question, the Bimini boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri) is currently considered to be a close relative, or subspecies, of the Hispaniolan boa of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but the relationship is not readily apparent. The Bimini boa differs from the Hispaniolan boa in terms of its coloration and pattern. The Hispaniolan boa is marked with somber tones of chestnut and dusky brown, whilst the Bimini boa is resplendent with its ground color of shimmering black, decorated by a series of irregular grey blotches along the length of the back and a contrasting creamy white belly.
One of the most amazing attributes of this snake is its large adult size (ca. 8+ feet) along with the density of the populations that once existed on North and South Bimini. Their numbers were affected in the late sixties and early seventies when hundreds of these snakes were removed from the Bimini Islands for the pet trade. No ecological studies have ever been published on the Bimini boa, but it is likely that it inhabits a variety of subtropical dry forest habitats on Bimini- including mangrove, where the adults feed opportunistically on rats and birds. Juveniles tend to feed on smaller prey, such as Anolis lizards and Eleutherodactylus frogs.
Mating takes place in early spring and the young are born in early fall. As in other subspecies of E. striatus, the Bimini boa has relatively large litters of ca. 20 baby snakes, each weighing ca. 15 g at birth. Similar to other species of boas, the young are born alive and are ready to hunt within days with no parental care. Litter size within the species is dependent on female body size. Younger, smaller females will have smaller litters, whilst larger individuals will have larger litters. Bimini boas reach sexual maturity in 3-5 years, depending on how successfully they are able to hunt and grow. While males will attempt to mate each year, females reproduce biennially, or every other year.
The future of this beautiful snake is uncertain. Once common on all the Bimini Islands, including East Bimini, North Bimini, South Bimini, and Easter Cay, populations have evidently been much reduced by human persecution, illegal collection, and development. Long ago, in the forties, Barbour lamented about "the extermination of what few land vertebrates there were once to be found on such islands as Cat Cay and Gun Cay."
Editors note: Through the efforts of the Shark Lab and others the Bimini population has been made aware of the importance of this exquisite boa. As a result of this the Bimini boa populations have blossomed, especially on south Bimini. Today Shark Lab and others have placed PIT tags and tracked several dozen Bimini Boas!
Photo: Sean Williams
Text Courtesy of:
Peter J. Tolson, Ph.D
Director of Conservation & Research
The Toledo Zoo