Associated Press photo
This is a look at a juvenile Nile crocodile captured in Florida’s wilds.
Illegal drugs? Obviously, they’re around. Stolen firearms? Often you find them in the same places. Expired candy bars from a dumpster? If you’re desperate enough.
But baby squirrels?
That’s the wildlife connection to an alleged drug case in Michigan. There recently, according to media reports, law enforcement officers questioned a man, a convicted felon, after he was seen rummaging around in a dumpster outside a pharmacy. That’s where he got the candy bars store employees had thrown out.
A subsequent search of his pickup truck turned up the stolen gun, marijuana and … wait for it … a cardboard box full of baby squirrels. Apparently the man had found them while going through other garbage, taken them in as pets and was caring for them in his vehicle.
He was arrested on various charges, while the squirrels were turned over to animal control with hopes of them being released.
That’s just some of the wacky news from the outdoors recently.
In Florida — where the tropical habitat supports all kinds of invasive wildlife, including pythons — wildlife officials now have to worry about Nile crocodiles, apparently.
According to a research paper written by University of Florida researchers, they used DNA to confirm the presence of multiple Nile crocodiles in the wild. Three juveniles turned up between 200 and 2014 in the Everglades and even on a house porch in Miami.
Native to South Africa, the Nile crocodiles are believed to be pets that were released, perhaps by one owner. None were fully grown.
Nile crocodiles can get huge, though – up to 20 feet and 1,100 pounds. That’s as much as 25 percent larger than native American alligators.
Why is their presence potentially so bad?
They eat all kinds of prey, up to and including hippos. And sometimes, they eat people, too. CrocBITE, a worldwide database, said that American alligators and crocodiles have killed 33 people since 2000. By comparison, Nile crocodiles have killed 268.
University researchers said it’s “unlikely” the three Nile crocodiles captured are the only ones in the wild in Florida, so there may be more roaming.
Here’s another tale from Florida.
According to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a 62-year-old man competing in a fishing tournament was knocked unconscious when a 4- to 5-foot sturgeon jumped out of the water and into his boat, striking him. He had to be treated at a hospital before being released.
The man and his son were traveling from one fishing spot to another, at about 30 miles an hour, when the fish hit them.
A fluke occurrence, you say?
According to the commission, there were eight injuries and a fatality resulting from sturgeon strikes last year.
The size of the fish makes them serious. They average 40 pounds, but can reach 170.
The commission advises boaters to travel slowly, wear a life jacket and keep passengers off the bow of the boat to minimize the damage from getting hit by a leaping fish.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, a fish once known as the “Frankenfish” – and illegal to possess in Pennsylvania – is developing a following.
There’s apparently a growing fan base of anglers who enjoy pursuing snakeheads.
Native to China, the fish are noteworthy for their ability to survive out of water for surprisingly long periods of time. They’ve been known to walk from one waterway to another.
A few years ago, when one was confiscated by Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials, it was placed in a fish tank in the lobby of the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters. It was there when everyone left for the weekend on a Friday afternoon.
On Monday morning, it was found at the entryway doors, 30 feet away. The trail of slime it left behind showed it had jumped out of the tank and “walked” around the lobby looking for a way out before expiring.
They’re been known to exist in waters around Philadelphia since 2004.
Wildlife officials everywhere consider them an invasive species, one that can potentially outcompete natives like largemouth bass and spread parasites and disease. Many states advise anglers who catch them to kill rather than release them.
Maryland’s Department if Natural Resources even holds an annual “stop the snakehead” fishing derby to get anglers to target them.
But, according to a story in the Bay Journal, anglers on the Potomac River in particular actually seek them out as a game fish for the fight they put up and their quality as table fare. In fact, the story states, wildlife officials suspect fans of the fish are spreading them around to new waters.