By Patricia Zick @PCZick
“Why aren’t there any mosquitoes when I visit Florida,” someone from Pittsburgh recently asked me.
“Where do you go in Florida?” I asked.
“To Disney World, Sea World – all those theme parks around Orlando.”
I wondered how to reply without bursting this man’s image of natural Florida within the gates of worlds made from the crumbs of a chopped up natural world and sculpted into the vision of a perfect living community.
The real Florida, buried under tons of asphalt in the majority of the state, does exist in random spots and clumps of preserved zones or land unfriendly to developers who have yet to figure out how to grab remaining wetlands and scrub forests to turn them into yet further replicas of what some would prefer to call natural.
People come to the Sunshine State for a week or more to soak up the sun and ride trains through wild lands with propped and stuffed bears, panthers, and alligators. How tranquil it all appears from the seat of a train. Twenty years later, after the kids are grown, they race south and become shocked when the first mosquito stings or a coyote eats their dog.
That’s the real Florida. New subdivisions are built on the edge of raw and natural wetlands and woods. People want to view the natural world, but often don’t want to be bothered by all the creatures that inhabit the last vestiges of wild land. Often the new developments disrupted the habitat of the wildlife further confusing the natural order of things.
The Florida you visit makes the most of Florida’s attributes by creating perfect enclaves with no bugs and wildlife. If you move to Florida, expect wildlife in abundance and learn to live with it. The real Florida is mostly tropical. Mosquitoes breed in standing pools of stagnant water and multiply faster than I can type “nature.” Wildlife, from alligators to lizards, do the best to adapt and sometimes that means coming into urban areas to seek food from garbage cans or from the end of leashes.
Without hard freezes and snow-covered ground, nonnative flora and fauna can thrive and throw ecosystems out of balance. Bears look for easy food and coyotes roam neighborhoods that once provided shelter for their young.
The “wily” coyote earned its name based on its behavior. In wide-open expanses of land, the coyote roamed and only became a menace when attacking domestic livestock. Ranchers handled the situation. When the coyote found its environment disrupted, such as in Florida, the animal adapted. Space became a problem. Subdivisions encroached on rural areas, and the wily coyote adapted to become the urban coyote.
The same thing happens wherever habitat is disrupted. The wildlife doesn’t just walk away into the sunset to find a benevolent zookeeper where the public can see wildlife behind cage bars.
If the wildlife adapts, then so must we by respecting and enjoying wildlife from a distance. Coyotes adapted when humans fed them, which led the wild animal to associate humans with a dependable source of food, according to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The coyote became aggressive and bold and led to attacks on humans, pets – leashed and unleashed – and livestock.
If you want to minimize your contact with wildlife – from bugs to alligators – buy a condominium or rent an apartment.
If you love nature but hate buzzing mosquitoes, watch the Discovery channel. But if you understand the nuances of living with yet separately from wildlife, buy a home on the edge of wilderness and help educate others on how to live peacefully with wildlife. And don’t forget to buy a set of good binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens.
Tortoise Stew can be shelved with your Carl Hiassen books, because both authors hate the development and corruption that is making all of Florida look like Miami, and because both are great reads. -Peter Guinta, The St. Augustine Record