Last month, the popular National Public Radio quiz show called Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! taped a broadcast in Tampa. It was a natural choice, explained the host, Peter Sagal: "For years now, Florida has been the primary source of our weird news items — the dumb criminals, the bizarre animal stories, the felon governors."
Animal stories. You know the ones: Alligator battles python! Bear steals birthday cake! Giant snails invade subdivision!
The next time you see one of these stories, after you chuckle about how wacky life in Florida is, remember this: Usually those stories don't end well for the animals, either because they have interfered with the humans encroaching on their habitat, or because they're caught up in what one Disney movie euphemistically called "the circle of life."
The gator and python? They killed each other. The bear that stole the birthday cake? Tracked down by a pack of hunting dogs and shot in the head. The giant snails? They're not even supposed to be here. State officials are now figuring out how to wipe them out before they can spread any further.
Only rarely do you see a bizarre Florida animal story in which no animals were harmed — for instance, the one about the trio of Volusia County hunters who, according to state wildlife officials, made a few mistakes in their search for a trophy:
1. They went out at midnight.
2. They decided to hunt at Blue Spring State Park, where no hunting is allowed.
3. They decided to hunt for alligators, even though gators were out of season.
4. They fired at the only gator they saw, but missed.
5. Blundering around in the dark, two of the hunters bumped into each other and one of them shot the other one in the foot.
The only question left unanswered by this story: Can alligators laugh?