Learn to live with new critters

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

At the end of January this year, we were in the area of Orange City, Fla. (east of Orlando), and attended the annual manatee festival.

Because of a recent cold snap, hundreds of sea cows had moved into the area of warm springs where the festival was occurring, and they were in every branch of every creek in the state park where it was held. Huge ones, babies, nursing moms — some cruising, some munching, some just lying still and meditating on life. There were dozens of animals within reaching/petting distance.


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It was a lovely day in a lovely place with placid animals that seem so much wiser than we (especially in this election year).

Fast forward to Tidewater in July, with reports of manatees in Rudee Inlet (and elsewhere in Tidewater) for the second or third consecutive year. There were descriptions of them near the fish-cleaning docks, crowding around fresh water runoff sources and so on.

And thankfully, due to wake restrictions, there were no boat strikes in the area.

In the past week, we have been in the Charleston area — near Sullivan’s Island and Mt. Pleasant. Last week, two manatees were killed, one washing up on Sullivan’s Island, one found dead in Shem Creek (like our Rudee Inlet).

Both were killed by boat strikes, most likely just outside the no-wake area. Both were very healthy before the strike. One had been nibbled on by sharks after the fact. Not pretty.

So what?

We have written in this space before how — due to climate change — alligators have been inching northward. There is a resident population just south of the North Carolina border at Merchant’s Mill State Park, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re in the Dismal Swamp.

Get ready for it.

Now, the manatees.

We have had manatees in the area for the last few years, and if the current trend holds, we’re going to have a bunch more soon. Charleston, which, like Tidewater, is not normally home to manatees, is now averaging 50 visitors per summer.

It’s rare to have boat-strike deaths, but this year the numbers already have resulted in two.

Are we crying “Wolf!” or screaming that the sky is falling? No. But we are emphasizing that the climate is, in fact, changing. (Sorry, North Carolina legislature).

Not only is climate change affecting sea levels, it is affecting the flora and fauna that share our planet. Sorry, climate-change deniers. Get ready to deal with sea cows and gators — and perhaps anacondas or boa constrictors (they have organized hunts for those now in Florida).

And then there’s Zika and a host of other harmful immigrants. It’s in Florida, but an article in today’s paper states that Louisiana and Mississippi are prime targets for those mosquitoes.

The fires out west and the floods in the south are not isolated occurrences. They will worsen as the average temperatures rise. Every month for the last 16, there are have been record high temperatures in both the USA and worldwide.

Deny it if you will, but you’d better learn to live with alligators and manatees — at least until the snakes and skeeters get here.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.