Be Kind to the Animals
Many of us in Florida are transplants from other geographic locations. Many of us never stop marveling at the wonderful flora and fauna here – so exotic and foreign to us, even after years of living here. Lizards and frogs play everywhere, and some of the birds are taller than me.
Recently I witness two incidences of cruelty to wildlife. One was obvious – a tourist torturing a lizard. One was a much-less-obvious form of cruelty that might surprise you.
First, let me say that my understanding of Florida law is that cruelty to animals in any form isn’t tolerated. Sadly, in neither case was law enforcement involved.
While driving on the famous International Avenue in Orlando I heard a woman scream. I was in the passenger seat and the screaming woman was on my side of the street. I grabbed my phone ready to call 911 in defense of a woman I presumed was being attacked.
What I saw astounded me and infuriated me. Three tourists were torturing a small lizard – an anole. These lizards are very common here. They entertain us as they scamper and play. They eat insects. They are completely harmless to humans.
The tourists were probably in their late twenties or early thirties – two women and one man. The man was seriously buff. He could have beat up a human his own size easily. Why he had to beat up a tiny anole is completely beyond me.
The woman was screaming because the man had caught the lizard and was pushing it in her face. She was afraid of the lizard and he was teasing her with it. He dropped the lizard and both women ran away, cowering and screaming. He was able to catch the lizard again and threw it at the women.
It was like a sick enactment of the old Jim Stafford song “Spiders and Snakes”.
When our twelve-year-old boys act this way we reprimand them. When our children are afraid of harmless creatures we teach them to appreciate nature. Where the heck did these Neanderthals come from?
My second tale of animal cruelty is about sand hill cranes. Sand hill cranes are very common in Florida. They are very large birds, very intelligent and naturally friendly. They eat a lot of ants, which is a good thing in Florida.
This summer I noticed that the local sand hill cranes liked to walk through our neighborhood. They were really fun to watch, but I wondered why they wanted to be so close to humans. Quickly, I discovered that two of my neighbors were feeding them every day.
In Florida, feeding the wildlife is patently discouraged. Feeding the wildlife is a form of cruelty. When we feed the wildlife, three things can happen. First, we throw off the natural balance that exists between predator and prey. Second, we can be harmful to the animals’ health. Finally, the animals become tame and easy prey for predator animals.
As soon as I saw these poor sand hill cranes enjoying their bread crumbs and interacting with my neighbors I knew their chances of survival were limited. Wild animals who become comfortable interacting with humans are easy prey for alligators, bobcats and other predators. When we feed them we destroy the natural instincts that give them a fighting chance.
I haven’t seen the sand hill cranes in weeks. I think I know what happened to them.
Whether you are a visitor to Florida, a resident transplant or a native Floridian, please learn to treasure our unique and diverse wildlife. Watch them, enjoy them and preserve their habitat. Be kind to the animals. Don’t play with them, don’t torture them and don’t feed them.