Red Bug Slough: Rico’s Adventure to Sarasota County’s Dog Friendly Park
By Dr. Sue Nielsen
Address – 5200 North Beneva Road, between Clark Road and Proctor.
Basics — Red Bug allows pets on leash only. No fenced in areas to let your dog run free. Bring your own poop bag and pick up after your pooch. Bring your own water. There is a water fountain at the entrance but no doggie water stations. There are wide open grassy areas as well as trails through the woods. Benches and picnic tables are available. I suggest wearing good shoes rather than sandals or flip flops because the trails are a bit sandy. Although insects are not a big problem, it might be a good idea to put bug spray on your ankles as there are gnats in the grasses.
Rico and I go to this park frequently. He loves a good walk and every time we go, it can be a little different with new path to investigate. Two miles of trails wind through the park, thickly covered in pine needles for a soft feel and quiet ambiance. It’s flat terrain with easy walking. The trails are not obviously marked so it’s best to bring the map with you, but it’s simple to find your way back to the main open area. The wooded areas have palms and tall old pines living together. Native grasses will rise up to your shoulders. Spanish moss drapes the oak trees adding to the old Florida feel. Beware! There are sand burrs just off trail in some places, so be careful letting your pup explore too much. One day Rico got about 30 burs around his neck and ears that were a bugger to get out afterwards. He lost some fur with that day’s adventure!
The park is busier on the weekend, less so on weekdays. Rico and I have encountered many friendly people with their dogs, although some were off leash. We watched a man let his dog retrieve a ball from the slough despite the park sign warning that alligators are present and “dogs make great alligator food”! Keep your dog safe – on leash and away from the water. There are plenty of grey squirrels to distract and entertain. Rico is fascinated by their scrambling and scurrying up the trees. Occasionally you can see raccoons or armadillos, and very rarely bobcats. More reasons to keep your dog on leash.
It’s an Audubon birding hot spot as well. We saw a variety of birds including a great egret, great blue heron, mottled ducks and mallards, vultures, osprey, anhinga, pileated woodpecker, and many other song birds. One day the hawks and vultures were numerous overhead, riding the upward warm current. With our four pound dog, we kept a close eye on the predator birds. We also saw over 5 types of butterflies and dragonflies which is a sign of a healthy environment. It’s easy to find the Florida state butterfly – the Zebra Longwing butterfly – as they were abundant in the trails just off the creek. I tried for a long time to get a picture, but they refused to sit down and be photographed. The Gulf Fritillary butterfly was much more cooperative.
Overall, we highly recommend Red Bug Slough for a short or long walk with your dog. It’s a quiet oasis tucked away off a busy street. Nature lovers will enjoy it the peaceful and scenic views. After you leave you may question, “What is a slough anyway?” It’s a swamp or shallow waterway with trees. Slough is pronounced as “slew”. Now you know!
Upcoming adventures for Rico include biking on the Legacy Trail, walking through Oscar Scherer State Park, and a road trip to Naples to check out the state parks, dog parks, and the local dog friendly stores and restaurants. Rico also recently started agility classes. The instructor felt he had “good focus, eager to learn, and good jumping skills.” Check back with SarasotaDog.com for Rico’s adventures and all things dog!
Enjoy our gallery here of additional scenery at Red Bug Slough. [nggallery id=66]