Planning a trip to Florida this winter? Be careful when you are outside

It is a fact that many New Yorkers are leaving this state in quite large, if not impressive, numbers. Many of them are heading to Florida, the “Sunshine State”, either as a pleasant place to visit for a few weeks, or as a more permanent place to live.

And I’ll be the first to admit that Florida has a lot to offer newcomers in terms of sunshine and warmth, especially during the winter months.

But newcomers to the state, especially those who enjoy hiking, shore fishing, canoeing or kayaking, camping, or any other similar activity should educate themselves about the many dangers of wildlife and wildlife. flora that abound in many parts of this otherwise magnificent state. They range from dangerous to fatal, and all of them can be avoided, even at relatively close distances.

I’ll start with the flora. The usual suspects of poison ivy, poison ivy and poison ivy are present in sufficient quantities in virtually all forested areas. None of them are fatal (except those who are allergic to them), but the resulting rash can be just plain miserable. Knowing what they look like can save a lot of misery.

Continuing with the flora, there are two species of trees that should be avoided at all costs as one can kill a reckless hiker and the other is almost as fatal and can cause death in some cases.

The most dangerous is the mancenillier. It is also well known as the “tree of death” and may in fact be the deadliest tree in the world. Its bark, wood, small limbs, sap and leaves are all deadly poisons.

Even the smoke from burning wood can kill. The first Spanish explorers called the fruits of this tree the “little apple of death”. And for good reason. A single bite of fruit, without eating it, is always fatal.

Fortunately, it’s limited to the extreme coastal area of ​​Southeast Florida, and many of those trees have been safely destroyed. If you find one, never touch it or even sit under it.

And the poison tree is almost as dangerous. Metopium toxiferum is found from the northernmost Key Islands to the southern tip of the state. They are plentiful along some of the hiking trails around the Big Cypress and Everglades areas.

The most obvious way to identify them is to look at the leaves. If a tree or shrub in or around large swampy areas looks like it needs watering, it’s probably one of those potential killers.

Let’s move on to the wildlife part of this article because there are a lot of really dangerous animals, reptiles, amphibians, and lower order life forms.

I’ll start with the obvious. There are lots of alligators all over the Southeastern United States, and Florida is one of the “centers” for these large ugly reptiles. And even small babies can infect a person if they are bitten. They carry a lot of bacteria two weeks after they hatch.

But it’s the big alligators that cause the most problems, and there are a lot of big alligators. More importantly, they can be found just about anywhere. People have found them inside homes and garages and under carports and cars. They are found in storm sewers, swamps, streams, ponds, swimming pools and rivers. They represent a potential danger wherever they are.

As an example, a woman with friends was fishing on the shore of a boom and having fun laughing and taking pictures. Suddenly one of her friends, who was taking a photo at a longer distance, suddenly started yelling at the fisherwoman to come back and get back to shore. quickly done.

Fortunately, the fisherman got up and backed up quickly and didn’t ask why. It seems her friend saw a large alligator sneak up on the fisherman, and it was within two or three feet of her left leg. And this creature was estimated to be eight or nine feet long.

It’s not just alligators that are dangerous to humans. Florida has a booming (and still growing) population of feral and feral pigs. They can be even more dangerous than alligators, mainly because they will attack humans unprovoked if the mood strikes them.

Wild boars are a real problem in Florida.

And big boars have really nasty tusks. When you mix a critter (who always seems cranky) with sharp teeth, trouble is sure to follow.

There are three species of poisonous snakes in the Sunshine State, the eastern diamond-backed rattlesnakes (and a few lesser species), cotton water moccasins, and coral snakes. The first two are the real troublemakers.

Coral snakes are generally timid, emerging from their holes most often at night, and being both timid and rather docile with humans. And they’re rear-fanged snakes like cobras, which makes it unlikely to bite a finger at best. Their mouths are small. Remember, if a red ring on its skin touches a yellow ring, or the snake has a black muzzle, stay away.

But the other two are real potential dangers for humans. Rattlesnakes (actually three species) and water moccasins are generally quick-tempered and easy to anger. And adults of both species cluster along large poison glands. Adults of either species can kill or seriously injure adult males. Medical treatment is required if someone is “struck” by a poisonous snake species.

There is another species of snake that is now found in South Florida. Burmese pythons have now established themselves in the Everglades and are moving rapidly to Tampa and other populated areas. And they’re more dangerous than most people realize.

Pythons are one of the closest creatures to perfect killing machines. A large specimen can grow up to 12 feet. Some have been found in Florida that exceeded 15 feet in length. And the record to date is a 17 foot female who had 70 eggs inside of her when she was captured.

But make no mistake, small pythons as small as 7 feet are responsible for injuries and (a few) deaths of children and adults. At the same time, pythons disrupt (and destroy) native wildlife, much of which is unique to this South Florida habitat.

I have only named a few of the most dangerous animals. But this Deep South state has a lot more to deal with.

Large green iguanas are a large, rather ugly species of lizards that can grow to almost five feet in length, infested in many areas of the state. Fortunately they are herbivores, eating local vegetation. And they often spend their nights high up in local trees, which is most dangerous when the nights get very cold and these lizards fall from their perch in the trees.

The green anaconda has been spotted in several places in Sunshine State, and some were considered to be “around” 14 to 17 feet long. In their original habitat in South America, the largest reliably known specimen was well over 20 feet long. And an unreliable report of a specimen would be over 35 feet long. I don’t believe that one, but …

Florida has a growing population of cane toads. These large creatures can weigh anywhere from four to nine pounds. The main problem with them is their highly toxic glands behind their eyes. Animals such as dogs that bite into these glands often die within hours and there is no known cure. Even their tadpoles are poisonous.

This is only a partial list of the potential dangers to wildlife that can be found in Florida. You can find a more complete list of wildlife or danger from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. And the list goes on too.

Contact outside columnist Len Lisenbee at [email protected]

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