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Get Outdoors, get healthy!

By Sandra Chafin
Special to The Star

Traveling down Treasure Road our next adventure will be a real treat if you are lucky enough to find the namesakes of the road – playing and sliding in a small pond. Otter Slide Road has a small pond where it will be obvious otters have used it many times. If you are quiet and sort of sneak up on them – they are a lot of fun to watch. You might also see baby alligators while you are looking for the otters. 

Otter Slide Road is 1.33 miles from Treasure Road to Money Bayou Road. The terrain is not unlike other roads we have traveled except for seeing the fun the otters are having and arriving at the edge of Money Bayou. 

Most likely, the Buffer’s otters are River Otters. They prefer fresh water however; they can be found in coastal salt marshes. Lantra Canadensis, or River otter live in dens called holts which is dug into a riverbank or under roots of trees. They may dig their own burrow, or they might just take over an abandoned beaver’s burrow and remodel to their specifications.  

Finding River otters starts here

The River otter can adapt for both land and water. They have short legs, webbed toes, and a strong flattened tail. They have 5 toes and a heel pad which has a shape similar in design as a horseshoe. Their ears appear large for its small flattened head. 

The River Otter is the most commonly encountered mustelids in Florida. You can find River otters throughout Florida except in the Florida Keys. River otters are the aquatic members of the weasel family. 

Will have to look for River otters another day – they’re not out at time of picture.

River otters are powerful swimmers and eat a wide variety of prey including fish, birds, reptiles. Small animals, amphibians, and crustaceans.  

While otters might look friendly, they are dangerous in the wild. You should always stay 50 yards from them for safety and never try to feed an otter. 

If you have unwanted otters and want to discourage them, you might use lemongrass around the pond they are living in to get them to move on to another location. 

Let’s talk about more ways that getting outside is important! While you might think seeing more trees, palmettos, shrubs, native flowers and some animals will not help you – Boy, would you be wrong. Improving your short-term memory may be improved – just by being outdoors. 

We all sometimes forget a name, or lose our keys or glasses, so it is to our advantage to try to enhance and boost our memory. We all appreciate ways to improve on this behavior. Research shows that these issues may be helped when we go outdoors. We are bombarded by streetlights, traffic and many noises which creates chaos. Our minds are pulled in so many different directions. Getting out in nature and observing natural, quiet scenery with trees, birds, animals, blue skies, and flowers, calms our minds and helps us focus. Feels like, these days, we should move to the outdoors, doesn’t it? 

Just waiting for the otters – to play.

Another surprise and a benefit of being outdoors in nature – your eyesight might improve. An Australian study found that school age children who spend more time outdoors had a reduced risk of becoming nearsighted. Children in the study did not share the same results after spending equal amounts of time indoors This study showed that being outdoors in fresh air and sunlight protects growing eyes more than equal physical activity in doors. 

Get outside for the children. In 2002 a published study found that 8-year-old children could better identify Pokémon characters than plants or animals in their neighborhoods. Unhealthy habits naturally develop when children spend too much time inside. 

Want to live longer and have a great quality of life? Increase your longevity by getting outdoors. Studies show that living near areas with parks, nature trails, forests, and lawns greatly improve one’s chances of living a longer, healthier life. If you ask why walking in nature is better than your own street, one reason is air quality. It’s just better in areas of dense vegetation. The Buffer Preserve’s trails provide good air quality due to the trees, shrubs and dense vegetation. 

Get Healthy, Get Outdoors! The benefits of being outdoors is there, waiting on you to take advantage by venturing outside. Do it for your family, do it for yourself.  

Exploring nature has so many benefits and there’s no wrong way to do it. It helps to be reminded of why it’s good for us --- so let’s reconnect with nature. Our bodies and minds will thank us. If you happen to meet someone on a trail or road you can social distance. Remember to strive for times of the day that are not as hot, drink plenty of liquids to be sure you are hydrated, wear breathable light clothing and use sunblock. A cap or hat, a phone, closed-toed shoes are all helpful. Happy Trails!  

Trails, trees, and blue skies help you get healthy