This week, the Florida Keys were in the news for a great white shark patrolling the waters off of the islands. However, these rare visitors to the islands are not the only wild dangers in the Florida Keys. It turns out, the islands are full of plants and animals that can seriously injure or kill you!
The Florida Keys are home to four types of venomous snakes – cottonmouths, coral snakes, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, and pygmy rattlesnakes. Ramrod Key is famous for its snakes. During the
1960s, snakes were so abundant on the island that residents burned off undeveloped lots and shot the snakes as they fled the flames in an effort to reduce their numbers.
Although there is a small alligator population in the Florida Keys, there are crocodiles in the islands, particularly those closer to the mainland. Although none have killed anyone in the Keys, they are more prone to attack than their slower, alligator cousins. The only known crocodile attack in Florida happened in the Florida Keys, when a crocodile bit two people who had flipped a kayak in the middle of the night.
It isn’t just the animals in the Florida Keys that can kill you – the plants can as well. While most poisonous trees require you to eat part of them for the poison to take effect, the manchineel tree is different. Every part of the manchineel tree is poisonous. Its poison is so potent that if you stand beneath a manchineel during a rainstorm, your exposed skin will blister as raindrops collect the poison from the leaves above and fall on you. While no one is known to have died from this method of exposure to its poison, prolonged exposure to the tree can be deadly. Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of Florida, died after being shot in the thigh by an arrow tipped with poison from the manchineel.
One of the deadlier creatures in the Florida Keys packs a lot of punch for its small size: the mosquito. Because of the southern location of the islands, the mosquitos in the Keys carry many tropical diseases
you won’t find in many other U.S. locations, such as dengue fever. Their presence is such a potential problem that there is an official Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, with approximately 100 employees. These men and women work to keep the mosquito population under control throughout the islands. They go so far as to visit every home on the islands every three months to check for potential mosquito breeding areas.
If you’re still interested in visiting the Florida Keys now that you’ve read this (and you should definitely still be interested), check out 101 Travel Bits: The Florida Keys & Overseas Highway, available now at Amazon.