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Key West’s Giant Land Crabs

August 11, 2010

Key West is not exactly the Galapagos islands teaming with wildlife (unless you include the locals) but you can see some pretty interesting critters if you know where to look.

Cardisoma guanhumi, also known as the giant crab or the blue land crab, looks creepy but is fairly skittish and mostly vegetarian (occasionally scavenging meat.) Females go into the ocean to lay their eggs: this land crab spends its larval stage as free-swimming sea creatures. Though they are harvested for food in Venezuela, Bahamas and the Caribbean they aren’t eaten in Key West by anyone I know.

The best place to see land crabs is along the trails and boardwalks of a small wetland preserve wedged between two condominium complexes in midtown Key West.  Both small trails in the reserve lead to a strip of beach where sunbathing, splashing humans are replaced by gulls and wading birds.  It’s a great space to just stop for a second and breath and get the sound of the city out of your ears.

Sure, lots of people come to Key West to party on Duval Street, but plenty who visit or live there enjoy birdwatching and wildlife too.  Though I love the conveniences of living in a small city, I often find myself wishing that Key West was just a little less developed and that more of its myriad habitats (wetlands, mangroves, hardwood hammocks, sea grass beds and coral reefs) were more carefully preserved.

Development, economy, tourism, environment–it is always a delicate dance.  Southernmost Florida– an especially desirable parcel of real estate–  is always in danger of being obliterated with concrete, condos and hotels, tacky tee-shirt stores and chain restaurants. For now, at least, pockets of wild-ness still exist, even within the Keys’ most bustling city.

The Key West Nature Preserve is located along the bike path of Atlantic Avenue in midtown, Key West.


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