Coming to Florida soon? I’m sure you’ll remember your sunscreen; but you might want to pack mosquito repellant, bear pepper spray and shark repellant, too. Why? Because it’s a jungle down here. And a swamp. And sharks turn up in the oddest places.
Mosquitoes: The county in which I reside, Orange County, was formerly named Mosquito County. The name change was made in 1845 when Florida became a state – probably a good idea promoted by whatever was the equivalent of a chamber of commerce back then. Everyone loves those Florida oranges, but due to a couple of severe winters in the 1980s that destroyed many of our lovely orange groves, you are more likely to be bitten by a mosquito than find an orange to bite into down here.
Bears: Recently I was driving through a residential neighborhood on a late afternoon and a Florida black bear crossed the street in front of me. He acted like he owned the place and I guess he kind of does. We have had them visit our yard on a few occasions. Raccoons and opossums also frequent our area. And I don’t even want to talk about snakes (so I won’t).
Alligators: For me the scariest things in the wildlife realm down here are alligators and sharks. According to The Defenders of Wildlife’s website, there are approximately 1.25 million alligators in Florida. Considering our population of nearly 20 million people, that means that there is about one alligator for every 16 Floridians. That being said, I stay out of our lakes.
Sharks: I can’t make myself stay out of the ocean, even though I know what lies beneath is pretty scary. I also can’t bring myself to stay off the highways, which are far more dangerous than our swamps, rivers, lakes and oceans. Just last week, there was an accident on I-95 in Volusia County (Daytona area) that illustrates this point perfectly. In that accident, thankfully, there were no people injured, but one shark lost its life.
Yes, I said a shark was in an accident on I-95. A semi-truck was transporting sharks to an aquarium in New York when a tire separated causing the driver to lose control of the truck. In the tradition of every fish story you have ever heard, this story has grown a bit. At first I heard there were three sandbar sharks in the accident. Then I heard that there were four hammerheads. The last count is five great whites, but one of them may have been a lawyer who showed up at the scene when he heard sirens.
So there you go, you aren’t truly safe anywhere, so why not enjoy that trip to the beach and take a dip in the ocean. Be cautious. Stay close to a lifeguard and be very careful as you drive there. But, please, stay out of the lakes. Don’t go crazy on me.