I had an interesting discussion with a visitor to Florida the other day. He was wondering where the dangerous animals were, especially snakes. In Florida we have rattlesnakes and cottonmouth (water moccasins, whatever you want to call them). And gators of course, and bears, and wild cats. I gave him the best explanation I could, based on my experience with the wildlife of the region.
Animals, I explained, are where you find them. I can go out in my kayak and try to get wildlife photos for hours and get nothing, and come home and find a snake hanging off a tree in my back yard (yes snakes climb trees). Of course just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. Pygmy rattlesnakes, a Florida native, hide like expert snipers. They are the one snake that I’m the most worried about, since you can’t see them until you disturb them. And when they get disturbed, you don’t want to be around them.
Alligators are just about anywhere. You’d think they’d stay in the swamps, mangroves and marshes, but no, they go walkabout quite frequently. They cross highways, lounge in swimming pools, and (my personal favorite) make life difficult for golfers, among other typical things they just do. They stake out territory, and once you find them you can relocate them rather easily. But a lot of them just seem to be random wanderers. I’ve never found them overly aggressive, but sometime they’ll try to crawl into your canoe or kayak. Maybe they think it’s some kind of floating log, maybe a floating log with lunch on it. Snake will do this too, by the way.
Bears and wild cats I have yet to encounter in Florida. I treat them with great respect. They will mess you up. For most people, the best bet for seeing a bear is just driving through central Florida. Seeing a wild cat is pretty rare, since they’ve been pretty much wiped out.
So if you visit Florida, just be aware of your surroundings. It’s not a scary place infested with deadly reptiles. The worst thing in Florida, as in much of the rest of the world, is the people. Be more sacred of them.