One Snake, Two Snakes, Three Snakes Too Many in Everglades National Park
Just another flashback post to my days living in the national parks.
Mosquitoes, geckos and palmetto bugs (the glamorous name given to cockroaches) commonly shared living space in our second-floor apartment at the Flamingo Lodge, Marina & Resort in Everglades National Park, located about 50 miles from civilization. Guests of the Lodge also had the pleasure of sharing their accommodations with critters of the Everglades.
During the summer, some guests opened their doors wide open inviting swarms of salt marsh mosquitoes into their room. The solution? Turn the air conditioning on full blast to freeze the little aggressive buggers. Geckos racing across walls of hotel rooms were harmless, especially since they ate mosquitoes. If some of the 43 species of mosquitoes that call the Everglades home found their way into a car, the “Flamingo flush” was recommended, the simple act of opening the car doors while moving to suck out the bugs.
Living in Paradise in Everglades National Park
My then husband, Peter, was General Manager of the resort which meant we had prime housing above the lodging registration desk with a stunning view of Florida Bay. We watched fishing boats race out of the marina and sail boats lazily drift along catching Everglades breezes.
Occasionally, majestic roseate spoonbills gracefully flew past, which many visitors mistook for flamingos. If I listened hard enough I could almost hear wind rustling through the pale pink feathers with every wing flap. Every so often, I spotted an alligator slipping between the mangroves into the bay for a salty swim.
Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., and a frequent visitor of my grandparent’s Southwest Florida home, I was petrified of cockroaches. They were small, dark and seemed to only make themselves visible in the darkness of the night. As an adult living in the Everglades I eventually grew accustom to them and the other creatures that scurried along the walls and darted across the floor of my tropical home. I reasoned I was living in Mother Nature’s world now and needed to be respectful of all creatures.
Let me clarify, I tolerated most of the critters and basically freaked out when we briefly shared our domicile with pigmy rattlesnakes. Not one, not two, but three of these grey and black venomous snakes. My skin crawls recounting this creepy tale, because to this day, I don’t understand how they ended up in our second-floor apartment.
Rub a Dub in the Tub
The last thing on anyone’s mind at o’dark-thirty in the morning is sharing a shower with a venomous snake but that’s what happened to Peter. Like any other work day, he began it with a hot shower that included the sensation of a leather belt sliding between his feet. He looked down to see what was causing the tickling feeling and discovered it wasn’t from the soapy lather but from a slithering foot-long snake.
He used cat-like reflexes to hop to safety out of the shower and dripping with soap suds, he reached back in to shut off the water and as he did, the little snake swirled down the drain with the water.
Down the drain and gone for good. Right? Maybe.
Beware, Killer Cats
Later that afternoon, Peter returned to the apartment for lunch only to find Truman, our feisty blue-tick beagle; Mickey, a pure black cat we picked up in Las Vegas during our years in Death Valley National Park; and Baxter, a black and white tuxedo kitty adopted from a Miami-area cat rescue; sitting on the living room’s cream-colored carpeting in a perfect triangle, starring down their own meal.
The menu? Pigmy rattlesnake! From what we guessed, the three pets played with the living toy by battering and mauling it until the small reptile could no longer fight back. Peter used a broom to pick up the half-dead snake and tossed it to the grass below.
Another day passed and the shower was snake-free. At lunchtime, the pets settled for their typical kibble. A gourmet treat waited for dinner. We’re not quite sure if this was a group effort of all three pets but sitting on the kitchen counter, dangling from the grips of his jaws, Baxter proudly showed off a very dead pigmy rattlesnake.
A part of me was proud of my little fighter and although terrified there was a pigmy rattlesnake nest somewhere in the apartment, I knew we humans would be protected by our fearless pets. Geckos, mosquitoes and cockroaches still scurried about but thankfully after the rattler trifecta in a 36-hour period, our tropical home remained snake-free.