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Florida’s conservation and wildlife management programs seem to be working well. Black bears are back up to their 1910 numbers, turkeys are doing well enough that even Holmes County has a season now, and it seems like there are about as many deer on the roads as cars these days.
That’s good news, right?.
Not necessarily. I have a different, more sinister theory that’s based on personal experience and the best scientific research available (in five minutes of searching Google and YouTube.) I believe animals have given up on this whole survival-of-the-fittest thing and they’re moving into the suburbs in droves.
Sure, it sounds silly, but consider it from the animals’ perspective.
Let’s say you’re a deer. Every fall, the woods start filling up with humans. From dawn until dusk, you’ve got unfriendly people stomping through your bedroom. Sometimes, they hide in trees and just stare at you. Or sit in little boxes and watch you eat. Occasionally, they whack one of your buddies and drag him off somewhere never to be seen again.
Now, let’s suppose you wander into the suburbs of somewhere like Atlanta or Nashville or Tallahassee. There’s a ready supply of neatly trimmed vegetation to eat, the humans are friendly, the dogs are contained, and it’s against the law to shoot you. Of course you have to deal with the angry aggressive stares of the hunters who live there, but there’s very little they can do when you’re in their neighborhood.
It used to be rare to hear of a deer in town. Now it’s barely worth snapping a picture.
It seems like a no-brainer. Squirrels figured it out years ago. Humans in the woods? Dangerous. Humans in the suburbs? Generous. (With the exception of 12-year-old boys with BB guns, of course.)
Ducks may be catching on as well. Several cities are contending with not just the wretched Muscovy ducks fouling up their urban lakes and parks, now mallards are also becoming full-time residents. (“Fly south for the winter? How ’bout we just don’t fly back up north instead?”) According to FWC, humans are actively contributing to this problem.
And then there’s the bears. My friend and colleague, Scottie Cole, is a former law enforcement officer who lives in Gulf Breeze. Scottie was taking his garbage out recently and interrupted a bear using his trash can as a dinner plate. The bear even had the nerve to come back for seconds after Scottie ran him off. Keep in mind, this wasn’t in some remote region of the Panhandle. It was in a densely populated coastal suburb. And don’t forget about the guy who got knocked off his bicycle near Panama City by a bear crossing the highway.
The most surprising refugees from the wild may be turkeys. That’s right: The most skittish, nervous and hard-to-kill animal in the woods is moving into suburbia like they own the place. And if you search for “turkey attacks” on YouTube, you’ll see what I mean. They aren’t just dropping by for a quick visit, they are by God aiming for a hostile takeover. The worst part is that some of the morons in these videos look like they’re ready to let it happen.
Seriously, watch the clips. There are grown men and women running from turkeys. People have been “trapped” inside their homes or cars by these big birds.
Now, I’m not an outlaw by any stretch of the imagination. I know there are laws against discharging firearms inside the city limits and I know why those laws are important.
But I also know this: I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if I was being held hostage by poultry.
So to my friends in law enforcement, consider this a confession-in-advance. If turkeys invade my cul-de-sac in Pensacola, you’ll be getting a call. It will be from my neighbors, likely reporting gunshots.When you come to get me, go on around to the back of the house.
I’ll be out by the cleaning bench.
Just follow the feathers.