Many of Florida’s wild creatures occupy natural habitats, but some venture among people. In recent years, these encounters have become more prevalent due to human encroachment upon pristine territories.
For example, roaming animals sometimes “visit” private homes. In Fort Myers, a panther was discovered lounging on a front porch. Fortunately, it was not intimidated and departed by itself.
Birds of prey might react aggressively around humans. In a Jacksonville Beach neighborhood, six residents experienced owl attacks during the daytime, possibly from a nesting owl.
Similarly, at an Orlando golf club, nesting hawks terrorized golfers.
Sharks are certainly threatening. Volusia County leads the world in shark bites. New Smyrna Beach is the “shark attack capital” of the world. This beach draws crowds, which attract sharks. Surfers are most vulnerable.
In addition, Florida rattlesnakes instill tremendous fear. Periodically, these snakes vacate burrows or hideaways under rocks and logs and wander into traffic. An Eastern Diamondback slithered across the road near the entrance of a community in Estero and continued into the grass. Another Diamondback captured on the Dunedin Causeway was relocated to a preserve.
The Eastern Diamondback is found throughout Florida and is the largest venomous snake in North America. Its sustained rattle is sometimes confused with the persistent buzz of the cicada. Fatalities from bites can be avoided with antivenom.
A much smaller rattler is the Dusky Pygmy, a skilled swimmer. This is the most common venomous snake in the state. Its small rattle is difficult to hear. The painful bite is not fatal, but might result in the loss of a finger or toe. This snake and all snakes can bite underwater.
In Florida, there are also venomous arachnids. The brown recluse spider is identified by the violin-shaped marking on its back. It secludes itself in dark recesses, such as in a pile of clothes or a shoe long left untouched. A bite might produce tissue damage called necrosis. Contact with this shy spider is uncommon. It is nocturnal and a recluse.
The Southern Black Widow species also might be encountered. The distinctive red hourglass-shaped marking is displayed on the underside of the female. Although the female is generally timid, she delivers a painful, but rarely fatal, bite when harassed. The male is not a threat. This and other spider species might be concealed in a bunch of grapes or bananas while probing for insects.
Furthermore, other arachnids are troublesome. The three scorpion species in Florida are not lethal, but their tail-delivered stings are painful, comparable to bees.
Ticks thrive year-round in Florida’s climate and might cause Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Mites are often microscopic and might induce skin irritations.
Realistically, fatalities caused by wild creatures are infrequent. Most creatures flee instead of challenging humans. Awareness, respect and averting confrontations are vital.