Sunday, August 9, 2009

Illegal Aliens... of the scaly kind

Florida has long been under assault by foreign invaders, human and animal. A lot of the invaders seem native because they have been here for all my life; water hyacinths, eel grass, mallaluca, armadillos, cattle egrets… but it was about 20 years ago, in St. Augustine, that I first really noticed tropical invaders when at night, the walls of buildings would be crawling with geckos. During the day it was brown anoles.

I remember thinking that these things aren’t supposed to be this far north, they will die in winter. However, the winters aren’t cold enough to kill them anymore and now they’re in my yard, 40 miles further north. I really must say I don’t mind the geckos, they eat roaches, nor the anoles for that matter except that they are larger and more aggressive than our natives and I’m afraid they will displace the homeboys.

But as bad as it is up here in Baja Georgia, down in south Florida, down around where Punch lives, near Tampa, it’s an all-out creature explosion. Down there, you can stick you finger in the ground and it will grow leaves. Careless people, many of whom I’m sure thought they were doing the humane thing, are turning loose their unwanted pets and they’ve proliferated to the point that the place is a zoo.

Add to that Hurricane Andrew blowing the whole frigging real Miami Zoo onto the Everglades and you’ve got the makings of a melting pot that’s boiling over. Case in point are the pet snakes that people turn loose. Snakes like Boa Constrictors and Burmese Pythons. Burmese Pythons grow to 20ft and weigh as much as 400 pounds! These bastards attack and kill alligators, the here-to-fore King of the Jungle.

The situation has gotten so bad that the National Park Service has placed a bounty on them and are issuing hunting permits to people with firearms to go track them down. A few weeks ago, a pet python in Miami suffocated a toddler. If the parents hadn’t arrived when they did, they would have found the tot in the belly of the beast, literally.

I’ve always been a live and let live kind of guy, especially with mother nature. I don’t harm anything that doesn’t harm me. Not even wasps and spiders if they stay out of the beaten path. I figure everything has it’s place and a right to be. And also, I’m fascinated by them. I enjoy watching their cycle of life.

But I’m not sure how I feel about knowing I could come across something that wants me for lunch. Although, as I think about it, all kinds of things want me for lunch. Things that I battle on a daily basis; mosquitoes, yellow flies, gnats and the occasional flea. It seems to me you have a right to defend yourself so I don’t flinch at killing the blood suckers.

But, I was once confronted by something that was dying to have me for lunch, and totally capable of pulling it off.

Along with a couple of friends, I was invited backstage at the zoo to watch the lions being fed. The building was like a cellblock, cages with bars and heavy wire mesh separated by a hallway. Lions were lazing about in their cages eating or just resting and I felt perfectly safe. At the end of the building was an empty cage and the zookeeper took us all down there.

He said this should be a fun evening as they were going to feed a large male that they had just gotten from the wilds of Africa. Seems he was hurt or something and they were going to rehabilitate him. So, we were anxiously awaiting the big event when soon, the lion came in.

He didn’t hesitate. The moment he saw us, in one leap, he cleared the room and, roaring, slammed head first into the cage door. The women ran from the building screaming. I damned near wet my pants.

That lion stared at me with a coldness in his eyes that I could feel in my groin. It was primal. To that animal, I was just another item on the menu. I even tried staring him down, you know, like you can your dog. Forget it. I tried a "I love all living things" vibe. He didn't give a shit.

Other than alligators, who mostly want nothing to do with you, and a shark or two, I’ve never confronted anything in the wild more dangerous than a dog. I have a friend who went to the arctic once, got caught in a blizzard, and holed up in a metal survival building. It’s a good thing too, because no sooner had he and his companion made themselves comfortable than something outside spent most of the night trying to tear the place apart so as to get in with them.

In the morning they found the bear tracks in the snow. Just another item on the menu.

Hummm, I wonder how long it will be before Python in green curry sauce makes the menu?


  1. Green curry is good. I had Rattlesnake once, it was like eating the neck of a chicken only it tasted like rattlesnake. Watching it cook on the grill was interesting. The peices kept twisting around as they cooked did not really have to turn them. Very bony.

  2. Personally I think the only python I would not mind encountering is Monty...You do know that if you gave him unlimited kill capacity Nugent would come over from Texas and kill anything he could get an arrow into.

    Maybe we'd get lucky and the big 400 pounder would see him before he saw it.

  3. It's funny, as much as I've been around snakes (I used to collect rattlesnakes and sell them to Ross Allen) I don't believe I've ever eaten one. I am pleased to learn they don't taste like chicken brother Punch.

    I think you're on to something WM. 'Spose we organize a python hunt with all of the folks we'd like to see wrestle one participating... Rush Limbaugh, that venomous roach woman columnist who's name escapes me at the moment, and the like. Dang, I'll bet we could sell tickets to it.

  4. You took the wrong tact with the lion. You should have called him, "timba"...calms them down every time. I know, because I've seen Johnny Weismueller do it many, many times. Doesn't work with phythons though...or parrots.

  5. WOW..your lion story gave me a bit of a shiver. And I am sure being locked up only fuels his testosterone.

    And that snake pic gave me hives. UGH.

  6. JJ... Good advice. But I thought Timba was the elephant. Or does Timba mean be quiet? I forget.

    JennyMac.. It was scary. Really scary. That sucker was as big as a horse. His eyes were about the size of golf balls. I didn't have the nerve to check out any other kind of balls, took me two days to find my own.

  7. OK then...Leo. Lions are stupid, Timba, Leo, they don't know the difference...what is important is that you SOUND like Johnny W.

    And no Timba does not mean, quiet. It means, "my foot, my foot, don't stand on my foot!"

  8. BTW - next think I know, you'll be telling me you don't know what "tonka" means.

  9. I have to admit that there are times when I do sound like Tarzan, but the good side is, I look like him too.

  10. Now you've gone too far. Everyone knows, even the most simple minded amongst us, excepting one, that Tarzan is immortal.

  11. Then explain why he abandoned his monkey friends, took off with that hussy, Jane, who was doing every baboon in the Congo, and changed his name to Jungle Jim. Explain them apples.

  12. That was just a brief interlude before his Marlin Perkins days, and eventual re-emergence as Crocodile Dundee. Besides, who wouldn't take off with a dish like Jane, even if she did have a thing for baboons? Anyone but pussy whipped old farts would see the logic in that in a heartbeat.

  13. well, I'm not Tarzan, but if you see Maureen please tell her I'm here.

  14. Punch, I have it on good authority that Jane is retired and living on Longboat Key.

  15. omg.. that lion.. I would have reacted quite similarly to you.. or the woman LOL


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