Nature Walks Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

gator
Everglades Gator eyeing me from a few feet off the paved visitor trail

As vacations go, this has been a good one.  It’s chilly in south Florida today (upper 60’s) but the weather has been perfect since we arrived a week ago.  Back home in Missouri, it has been less than perfect thanks to Winter Storms Gia & Harper.

We have visited two beautiful parks this week trying to maximize our time outdoors.  First up was the Everglades National Park near Homestead, Florida.  It was teeming with wildlife.   We witnessed numerous species of birds, turtles and fish.  We also saw a couple of manatees frolicking in a river and a few dozen gators sunning themselves on land or cruising the river as kayakers paddled by unaware.  On our nature walk we encountered several gators relaxing in the sun only a few feet off the trail, seemingly oblivious to our presence other than an occasional sideways glance.

Despite their inert appearance, we never let down our guard when near any creature that thinks it is higher on the food chain than us and has the teeth to back it up.

Unlike Missouri boat ramps, Everglades boat ramps have gators monitoring the activity.

boat ramp gators

We were unmolested by the Everglades gators, though a pickup pulling a boat passed us and threw up a rock that cracked our rental car windshield.

I did experience a traumatic event at a different Florida park not far from our hotel in Fort Lauderdale.  The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is one of my favorites when we visit south Florida.  Bordered on one side by the intracoastal waterway and the other by Highway A1A and the Atlantic, it is a chunk of natural Florida mere steps from hotels and multimillion dollar mansions.  I was hiking among huge banyons and mangrove trees on a nature trail at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park while images of a large cottonmouth snake that someone had posted pics of on-line were on my brain. Each root crossing the trail looked like a snake and each vine suspended from a tree brought to mind the giant Burmese Pythons the State of Florida is currently paying professionals to eradicate.

As I came around a bend in the trail, I encountered not a snake, but an elderly lady leading two small dogs on leashes with a Chihuahua trailing behind leash-free.  As we passed on the trail, we paused momentarily to exchange small talk. That’s when it happened.  To quote FDR, “I was suddenly and deliberately attacked.”  While I was distracted, the unleashed chihuahua darted over and bit my shin.

“Did he just bite you?” the woman asked.

“Yes, he did.”  I responded, torn between remaining calm while also wanting to dropkick the sneaky chihuahua that had penetrated my defenses and my leg..

chihuahua
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park Attack Chihuahua.  Don’t let that innocent look fool you.

“Has he had his shots?” I inquired.

“Oh, yes!” she responded, as a small spot of blood appeared on my left shin.  “I’m so embarrassed!  You bad dog!” she said to the miniature attack dog, who I hope is rabies-free.  I suspect that dog is probably more up-to-date on its shots than I am.

But now what Margo Kaufman once said makes perfect sense to me.  She said “I asked my Vet  what kind of dog he’d get.  He told me ‘I’d get a Chihuahua because when it died, I wouldn’t care’.”

 

 

 

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