Dear Reptilian Neighbors,
I am a lifelong Floridian, so I am accustomed to sharing my world with you. We go back a long way. As a toddler, I tried to teach a green anole lizard to swim. It didn’t end well, and I apologize.
When I was five we found a corn snake in the back yard. We kept him in a large coffee can and played with him everyday—until Mom found the empty can in the living room. We searched all day for “Corny” and finally found him when we couldn’t open the sliding glass door. He was stretched out in the track. Mom insisted “Corny” be released, so we bid him farewell and set him free.
I do regret that incident with the rattlesnake. But you have to concede that it was a dangerous situation. My friend and I wandered down to the creek, and he was coiled up where all the kids liked to play. He struck out at us, and we raced home. Worried about the neighborhood children, Mom called for help and the police removed the threat. I’m sorry it had to end that way.
But for the most part we have peacefully coexisted. As a kid I remember alligators roaming the streets during mating season. I’ve admired rough green snakes, gracefully draped in the mangrove trees as I’ve paddled a canoe underneath them. Box turtles are adorable, and I’ve helped many gopher tortoises safely cross a busy road. You lizards have overrun my patio while puffing out your red dewlaps to challenge me to “your” territory. And I don’t complain when ringneck and brown water snakes insist on swimming in the pool. I’m not thrilled when I surface and find you in my face, but you have to admit I rescue you and return you to the safety of the backyard.
Recently, however, I’ve noticed some changes around here. Some odd relatives of yours have arrived, and our encounters are more frequent. A couple years ago I was shocked to see a large black and orange African Agama lizard at the CVS pharmacy. I thought some joker had painted an iguana until I looked up your species and learned how colorful you can be. Now I see your kind all over town. Then last year I found an invasive neon-green iguana in my White Bird-of-Paradise plant. But this week you have gone too far.
I was carrying an armful of recycling into my closed garage, and I almost stepped on a large red rat snake. Now I am not afraid of you, but you startled me. I don’t expect you inside the house. And did you really have to leave that disgusting pile of scat at the entrance? Later that day I saw the beautiful hawk in the backyard. Racing out with my camera, I barely avoided tripping over “Licorice,” the southern black racer snake who resides in our privet hedge, peering up like a periscope to spy on us. And yesterday as I was watering plants, something large leaped from the Petrea Vine into the neighbor’s hickory tree—and it wasn’t fluffy with a bushy tail. Almost invisible, it crept through the branches. The military should study its camouflage pattern. After twenty minutes and thirty mosquito bites, I had enough photos for my zookeeper daughter to identify it. We now have a Cuban Knight Anole, another invasive species, in the yard.
So let’s call a truce. I will watch my steps more carefully and make a lot of noise so you can slither away quickly. And you will stay outside and not leave poop on the door step. We have a long history together. I know we can work this out.