Only In Florida Moments 2016: Wildlife Edition

Dec 28, 2016

What happens when you expose a Florida resident to mosquitoes, screw worms or gators?

A lot of crazy stories from 2016. We’ve put together quite a few of these year-end roundups, but this is the first year we had no choice but to put together a wildlife-only edition. (See our non-wildlife Only In Florida stories here.)

To a certain extent, living in a giant drained swamp between two national parks, we sort of asked for it. But, here in Florida we navigate our relations with animals with a lot of panache. Fighting the state to keep your pet gator so you can feed it pizza and cookies? Perhaps you’d rather dress the gator up for Halloween? You’ll find company in Florida.

Here are some of our staff picks for craziest wildlife stories of 2016, in their own words:

Teresa Frontado, Digital Director - Would you like some gator with that Frosty?

"In Palm Beach, east of Loxahatchee, a young man wanted to play a prank on a friend, so he found an alligator on one side of the road, took it, went through the drive-through of the Wendy’s where his friend worked and when the cashier turned, the three-and-a-half-foot gator was thrown into the window. The cashier freaked out and jumped out of the window. The guy was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Because, it turns out, an alligator is less an animal and more a deadly weapon. Moral of the story: do not touch alligators."

Wilson Sayre, Reporter - To Save Or To Kill, That Is The Question

""Pinecrest is known to be a pretty easy area to police, there’s not a lot of major crime there. So when an officer came across an iguana stuck in a chain-link fence and set it free, the force seized on the moment to make its presence known. A press release highlighted a photograph of the officer with the fence victim. The problem is, iguanas are incredibly invasive--known for causing road collapse and garden destruction--and wildlife officials said instead of saving the iguana the officer should have euthanized it. No good deed goes unpunished it seems." 

Kate Stein, Reporter - Three Deer and a Beer?

"It turns out fast food isn’t just a problem for humans. In a report called Supersize Me, (not to be confused with the documentary Super Size Me) scientists waded through the poop of a Burmese python. Turns out, the snake ate three deer in just a few months. Since the 1990s, there has been a significant drop in the small-mammal population. We might have the answer to that mystery."

Nancy Klingener, Key West Reporter - Got Some Pets!

"The first outbreak of screwworm in the U.S. in 30 years happened this year in the lower keys and is still going on. The Florida Department of Agriculture set up a quarantine area so when you’re leaving the keys if you have pets, you’re supposed to pull over and get them checked out. Almost 7,000 animals have come through so far, mostly dogs, cats and birds. Also: 8 sea-snails, 3 raccoons, 1 snake and 1 ape. Because Florida."

Sammy Mack, Reporter - Will You Pee In A Cup For The Camera?

"It’s tangentially related to wildlife because it has to do with Zika, but we’re going to count it anyway. In August, Miami Beach sent out a press release alerting reporters that there would be health workers would be going door-to-door to test for Zika. Reporters were really excited, because things had been pretty close-hold up until that point. So a big group of reporters showed up at the time and place. The problem was, no one told the health department or the residents. So you had a gaggle of reporters standing around with cameras and microphones while residents were being asked to pee in a cup on camera… awkward!"